Monday, June 26, 2017

Joey's Mexicorn Dip

 Here's a quick and easy party dip that you can throw together in a snap. I made it for my brother-in-law, Gregg's, retirement party and it was a huge hit! It was a Taco Tuesday theme, so I figured an easy corn dip would fit the bill. Everyone loved it!
 This is actually not my own recipe but rather my tweaked version of a recipe I found on a blog called If you know me, you know I can't leave well enough alone, and I usually wind up switching things up a bit, especially when it comes to dip recipes. Since there's no baking science involved, it's easy to just add or subtract things to your own liking. And this one is so simple, you just dump everything into a big bowl and stir. That's all there is to it! Also it's great to do ahead because it's best when you let it chill in the fridge for a while (or even better overnight) before you serve it.
 So, thank you, Jillee, for inspiring this one good thing! And congratulations, Gregg, on your retirement!

2 cans whole corn, drained
2 cans (4oz) chopped green chiles
1 whole red bell pepper, chopped
5 whole scallions, chopped
2 whole jalapenos, finely chopped 
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbs cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Chill before serving with Fritos!

-Be sure to chop the peppers and scallions extremely finely. Everything should be as small or smaller than a single kernel of corn.
-On Jillee's blog, she mentioned that her dipper of choice would be the SCOOPS kind "for maximum dip retrieval" LOL and I absolutely couldn't agree more! But if Fritos are your thing, go for it! Or else do what I did... serve it with both!
-If you'd like to add a little more heat, don't scrape out the insides and seeds of the jalapenos. Leave some or all of it in. That's where the heat is!
-If you're not a fan of cilantro, just use chopped fresh parsley instead!
-Oh, and one other thing....  You don't need to purchase the brand name Mexicorn. You can just buy regular cans of whole corn. I mean, you can if you want, but it's not necessary. Mexicorn is just corn and diced bell peppers, which are already included in the recipe!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Easy Pizza Casserole

 Here's a really simple recipe that's quick to throw together for a weeknight meal. It's perfect for the cooking novice because you really don't even need any experience. You just layer your ingredients, and then bake it! See? Easy!
 TBH, I have no idea where I found this recipe. Hmm... come to think of it, I've said that a lot lately, haven't I? Well, what can I say? I'm always seeing recipes and then setting them aside for another time until I finally get around to trying them. I guess, with this one, I saved the recipe, but forgot to note where I got it. Oh, well, I'm sure whoever came up with it won't mind that I'm sharing it. It's absolutely a "how can this not be good?" recipe. Delicious and hearty and always hits the spot! Serious yum.

1 can biscuit dough, cut into pieces
1 jar (15 ounce) of your favorite pizza sauce
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
1 package (8 ounces or 226 gr) of sliced pepperoni
2 cups (180 gr) shredded mozzarella cheese
12 large basil leaves, whole or roughly chopped
1/2 cup (45 gr) Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat your oven to 375 °F. 
Lightly grease a 8" x 8" casserole pan. Add the biscuits dough pieces to the casserole.
Add the tomato sauce, spreading it evenly over the biscuits pieces and saving 1/2 cup for later. Place the tomato slices and 1/2 the pepperoni evenly on top and sprinkle the leftover tomato sauce. Add the basil leaves. Add the mozzarella cheese and top with the Parmesan cheese and remaining pepperoni. Bake your casserole for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. 

Switch up the ingredients! Sauteed onions, mushrooms, peppers, sausage, even ham and pineapple! Add whatever pizza toppings you like!
Feeding a crowd? Double everything and bake it in a 9x13 pan! 
To turn regular marinara sauce into pizza sauce, just add a few shakes of dried oregano. Boom! Pizza sauce!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Easiest Pineapple Cake

 OK here's a quick recipe that TOTALLY lives up to its name. You literally just mix everything up and dump it into your baking pan. It SERIOUSLY doesn't get any easier than that, right? I bet you probably have most (if not all) of the ingredients already in your pantry! And it's absolutely delicious!
 Tbh, I have no idea where I got this recipe. I think it was probably in a video that was bouncing around social media. Basically, I saw and saved the recipe somewhere and then baked it for friends, all the while forgetting where I got it in the first place. Ah well. I guess it really doesn't matter. What matters is how it tastes, and I promise you it'll definitely be a hit! The cream cheese frosting just makes it all the better. If you're a fan of pineapple, then you simply MUST try this cake, and that settles that. MMM... come to think of it, I think maybe I should make it again! Enjoy!

2 cups all purpose flour 
2 cups sugar 
2 eggs 
1 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp vanilla 
pinch salt 
1 - 20 oz can of crushed pineapple in it's own juice (not syrup), undrained 
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

1/2 c butter or 1 stick 
1 8oz cream cheese softened 
1 tsp vanilla 
1 1/2 c confectioners' sugar

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350º F. 
Mix all of the cake ingredients together in a bowl. 
Pour into a greased 9X13 inch pan. 
Bake 35 - 40 minutes (until top is golden brown).

For the frosting: 
Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla together until creamy. 
Gradually mix in powdered sugar. 
Frost cake with cream cheese frosting while still warm. 
Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.

If you'd rather use fresh pineapple, go for it! Just blitz it a few pulses in the food processor before you add it to the other ingredients.
For an extra tropical variation, add a little coconut on top. You could even add a little Malibu Rum to the icing, or a little coconut extract to the cake batter. Because who doesn't love coconut with pineapple???

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

  If you've ever done a show with me, you know that I like to bake for the cast. Whether it's for a long rehearsal or for a double performance day, I like to bring some oven lovin', just because those kinds of days can be tedious and exhausting, and a little treat can help everybody get through it. Not only that, it really helps to unite a new cast.
  Since I mainly audition at only a few local theaters, (and have been doing so for many years), it's not uncommon for me to be in a show where I go into it already knowing most, (if not all), of the cast members. A few months ago, though, I found myself in the lovely situation of not knowing many of the people in my new cast at all. How exciting! This was my golden opportunity to not only work with an entirely new group of gifted individuals, but also to laugh and bond and artistically grow as we all worked toward our shared common goal.
 When I asked my friend Anthony what his favorite dessert is, he said that he loves cinnamon rolls. Alrighty then! Lets run with it! And btw, honestly, who doesn't love cinnamon rolls? They're warm and gooey with a fabulous cream cheese glaze pored over the top. So I thought, "ok, what can I make for my fabulous new friends that involves cinnamon rolls?" I wanted a small two-bite picky uppy something that one could just grab while getting ready for a performance or during the show when one has down time between scenes. Then I found this recipe on a blog called Lady Behind the Curtain. How perfect! This was CLEARLY the right recipe. So I made them for the cast and crew, and everyone LOVED them! They were easy to do, plus they were everything I was looking for in a small picky-uppy treat.
 Over the course of the show's run, I baked several times for the cast, and I'm happy to say that the show was a huge success! I think, for me, the bigger success was that my life was made richer just for having worked with this wonderful wacky hilarious group of artists who are now my very close FRIENDS. It's pretty amazing to think that something as simple as a tray of cupcakes can help to turn a newly assembled cast into a family of friends. Pretty cool, huh?
 So whether you're making these cupcakes for a party or a new cast or for friends or family, I'm absolutely certain they'll also be a huge success! Oh, and don't forget to take a bow because you will most definitely deserve a round of applause!

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 tsp ground cinnamon

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk

1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5 cups confectioners' sugar

For the filling:
In a small bowl stir together brown sugar, pecans, and cinnamon. Set aside.

For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Spoon a heaping 1 tablespoon of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon brown sugar mixture over batter in cups. Spoon another heaping tablespoon of batter evenly over brown sugar mixture in cups; add another heaping teaspoon of brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar mixture over batter in cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool completely in muffin tin then remove to be frosted.

For the frosting:
Mix together butter, cream cheese, cinnamon, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. If the frosting is too thick add milk 1 tablespoon at a time to reach spreading consistency.

I made them as mini cupcakes instead of regular cupcakes. If you do this, just be sure to adjust your baking time! Since all ovens are different, I like to test for doneness with an inserted toothpick.
As much as I love pecans, I decided to omit them because I was making them for a new group of friends and I was concerned that someone might have a nut allergy. I try to keep this sort of thing in mind when I'm baking for a crowd. Just sayin!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Joey's Mashed Potato Salad

  This is a super easy feed-a-crowd dish that is so delicious, I feel like I should be asking.. Why didn't we invent this sooner? Basically, if mashed potatoes and potato salad had a baby, it would be this dish. Cool, huh? It has a lot of the usual potato salad ingredients, only you stir them into mashed potatoes instead of tossing them with diced. You get the fluffiness of the mash with the flavors of the salad. Brilliant! Also, I think it's a little lighter than regular potato salad because you use half sour cream and half mayonnaise, instead of using all mayonnaise. It's absolutely a much better trade, and it makes it nice and creamy too. You could even do Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, if you like.
 As I was searching for the right variation of this recipe, I discovered many that are all pretty similar, much like a regular potato salad recipe. This is my version, but definitely tweak it as much as you like. I promise it'll be a new favorite! Again, I ask you.. why didn't we invent this sooner?!?

5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
6 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup sweet pickles, (can also use dill), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 tbs brown mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

 Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Rinse well with cold water and drain well. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Add a handful of salt. Boil them in the salted water until they are fork tender but not mushy. Drain the potatoes and let them cool completely.  Mash or rice the potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add chopped eggs, celery, scallions, and pickles. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, and mustard. Season to taste. Stir to combine. Chill until ready to serve.

You can absolutely go in any direction with this. Add diced red and/or green bell pepper. Add crisped and crumbled bacon. You could even add a little splash of vinegar, any kind you like, just to brighten everything up a bit.
The amounts are just guidelines. Add as much or as little of each thing as you like. Add more scallions. Add less celery. To be honest, I was tempted to add more chopped pickles. Maybe I'l do that next time. You do you!
You can use a different kind of potato, but I find that the Yukon Golds are the best ones for mashing!
Oh, and just one other note, I always use a potato ricer instead of using a hand masher to mash them. They tend to be a little fluffier that way, otherwise they may turn out a little like spackle. Rinsing and draining them also helps you to that end because it gets rid of a lot of the extra starch in the potatoes. Just sayin!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Orange Chicken

 Let me just start by saying that I have no idea where I got this recipe. I've seen it on several sites, and I honestly have no idea who should get the credit for it. At first, I saw it labeled as 3-ingredient orange chicken. But the thing is, there are more than three ingredients! So I decided to just call it orange chicken. Fair enough?
 And OMG wait'll you taste it. It's REALLY delicious. You know how take-out sesame chicken has that sort of sweet and sticky thing going on? This has pretty much the same kinda vibe, only it's more tangy, and has that yummy hit of orange. Also the soy sauce and chopped scallions help to balance all of the sweet. The first time I made it, I couldn't stop eating it. And when my friend AJ helped me test it, he had that MMMMM expression on his face from the very first bite. You could even just make the sauce and use it as you would regular BBQ sauce when cooking different kinds of meat on the grill. It's just that good. Definitely give this one a try! So thank you, mystery person, for coming up with it in the first place! It's now one of my new favorites recipes!

1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s or other favorite BBQ sauce
1 cup sweet orange marmalade
2 tbs soy sauce
3 to 4 chicken breasts
1 cup flour or cornstarch, (can use both or either/or)
2 eggs
Oil for frying
1/4 cup chopped scallions
cooked rice

 In a small bowl, mix the BBQ sauce, marmalade, and soy sauce. Set aside.
Cut up the chicken breasts into cubes and place in a large bowl. Add beaten eggs to coat chicken pieces. Place flour and/or cornstarch in another bowl. Dip pieces of egg-coated chicken in flour/cornstarch, tossing to completely coat.
In a large saute pan, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Over medium high heat, cook the chicken in batches, just until slightly browned on the outside, but not all the way cooked through. After you remove your last batch of chicken from the pan, pour the sauce in, being sure to scrape up any browned bits. Add the chicken back to the pan and toss to coat. Reduce heat and then simmer for 5 minutes, just until the chicken is finished cooking through. Top with chopped scallions. Serve over rice.

Usually, if I'm using purchased orange marmalade, it comes in a 12oz jar. So I usually just increase the whole sauce recipe by half, which uses the entire jar. (1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce, 1 1/2 cups marmalade, 3 tbs soy sauce).
Be sure to serve with the chopped scallions on top. They're more than just a garnish! That little hit of mild onion flavor is key!
If you'd like to use the sauce on its own, (it's great on pulled pork or grilled chicken!) place the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and then simmer over low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes, just to blend the flavors and mellow out the sharp bite of the orange peel.
For extra delicious rice, saute a small chopped onion in a little oil, then add dry rice. Toss to coat. Add twice as much chicken broth as rice (instead of plain water). Reduce heat, and cook until broth is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
For an extra spicy hit, add a few crushed red pepper flakes to your sauce!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Slow Cooker Chicken and Biscuits

 This is a tweaked version of a recipe I saw in a Tasty Video. I've always felt that recipes are often just guidelines and you should adjust your cooking to suit your own taste. It's basically the same thing I always say about the way my Mom always cooked. If you like a lot of something, add a lot! If you like a lot of carrots, then add a lot of carrots! This rule is especially true when you're cooking soups and stews. It's not like baking, where you have a bit of science involved. So that's what I did with this recipe. Perhaps when YOU make this recipe, you'll swap out different veggies, or use a different kind of cream soup, or you'll leave out the biscuits and serve the whole stew over a big pile of mashed potatoes or even rice. Make how YOU like and you'll come back to the recipe again and again. That's how recipes stand the test of time!! Oh, and don't forget to let me know if you make any changes.
I'd love to hear about it!

4 boneless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups carrots, diced (or a 1lb bag of baby carrots)
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 10oz pkg frozen peas
1 can refrigerated biscuits

Cut the chicken into small pieces. Place the chicken in a 7-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle on salt and pepper. Add the veggies, condensed soup, and poultry seasoning, and mix thoroughly. Cook on high for 3 hours. Cut each biscuit into quarters, and drop evenly over chicken. Cook an additional hour.

Be sure you use boneless thighs instead of breasts. Tbh, I don't often do slow cooker recipes involving chicken (especially boneless breasts) because they just don't need that much time to cook and they wind up coming out dry and over cooked. Boneless thighs, however, are a much better choice because they stay juicier longer.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Indian Kidney Bean Stew

 A while back, I saw Bal Arneson making this recipe on her show "Spice Goddess", and I thought "ooooo I need to try that." And then I promptly forgot all about it. Cut to several months later, I happened to turn her show on again, and I saw the same episode. I thought "OH! There's that recipe I never tried!" And now that I've built up my collection of Indian spices, I finally have all the ingredients on hand to make it! Perfect!
 It's spicy and warm, it has a couple sweet elements, it's comforting and aromatic and flavorful, and it all blends PERFECTLY! It's really easy too! If you like Indian flavors, you MUST try this. Serve it up in big bowls as is, or serve it over rice as I did. (Yes, yes, I know this stew already has potatoes in it so it should be served in a bowl, but I served it over rice anyway!) Either way, it's absolutely delicious. I'm so glad I finally gave it a try. You should too!

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp*
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups diced sweet potato
1 cup water
1 (14-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 small seedless oranges, peeled and cubed

 *Can be found at specialty Asian and Indian markets!

 Place the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, cumin seeds, garam masala, fenugreek seeds, oregano, rosemary, and turmeric, and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the tamarind pulp, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the kidney beans and oranges and cook for 2 minutes to heat through. Turn the heat off, cover with a lid and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve.

Before you start  cooking, make sure you have all of your spices measured into a small bowl and ready to go. You don't want one spice to burn in the pan while you're searching your spice rack for the next one! 
There are A LOT of very strong flavors here. The spices bring quite a lot of flavor to the party. So it's nice to have the sweet potatoes and oranges to help balance everything out. Definitely be sure to include them!
 When I bought the tamarind, it was a solid block. So I soaked it in some warm water for a while, just to soften it, used my fingers to separate it and smash it up a bit, then strained it and pushed the pulp through a sieve. If you can't find tamarind, just use mango or peach puree.
 Instead of cooking the sweet potatoes in the stew, I roasted them on a sheet pan in the oven until they were just about cooked through, and then added them to the stew at the last minute. I think it helps to keep the them from becoming too mushy. Then you can just simmer them in the stew until they're done. Oh, and be sure to be gentle when you stir everything together!
 If you don't like kidney beans, you can substitute chickpeas or any other kind of bean. Just be sure to drain and rinse them, just as with the kidney beans. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Cream Cheese Brownies

 One of my favorite people on the planet is my friend, Anthony. I'm thoroughly convinced that he is the most positive person in the history of the world. If you ask "How are you?" He'll say "Never had a bad day in my life!" If you ask "Can you do that? He'll say "I can do anything!" I'm not even kidding. He's always challenging himself, and his glass is ALWAYS half full, if you know what I mean. Fun fact, in my phone, I have a note labeled "Anthony Quotes", and if ever I'm feeling a little down, I read them. (hmm... come to think of it, I can't remember if I've ever told him this. Well, I guess he knows now lol) He truly inspires me on a daily basis.
 So, of course, since he does so much for me, I decided to do something for him, for a change. His birthday was approaching, so I asked him what his favorite kind of cake is. He said he's not much of a cake guy. (I seriously don't understand this. But he's Superman, so I guess I'm not surprised that he eats healthy too) So I said "well, EVERYONE needs to have a treat on his birthday, so what is your favorite treat?" He said "How about cream cheese brownies?" Perfect! (especially, since I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.) Side note... he was surprised that I happened to have everything on hand, even the cream cheese. Is that an odd ingredient to just happen to have?? So I whipped up a batch, and they were a big hit! I'm so glad he liked them. They're very rich and chocolatey, and they're the perfect thing for a birthday treat for the world's most positive person.
So, Happy Birthday, Mr Man. Thank you for all that you do, and for always inspiring me. Hope you enjoyed your birthday treat!!

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, room-temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch square baking pan with butter. Line bottom and two sides with a strip of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two sides. Butter paper, and set pan aside.
In a small bowl, whisk 1 cup flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
Place 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter and chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; remove bowl from pan. Add 1 1/4 cups sugar; mix to combine. Add 3 eggs, and mix to combine. Add flour and cocoa mixture; mix just until moistened (do not overmix).
Prepare cream-cheese mixture: Whisk cream cheese with 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Alternately spoon chocolate batter and cream-cheese mixture into pan; with the tip of a paring knife, swirl to marble.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes. Using paper overhang, lift brownies out of pan; transfer to a rack to cool completely (still on paper). On a cutting board, using a dampened serrated knife, cut into 16 squares.

I know the recipe says to bake for 50-60 minutes, but that just seemed too long to me. I decided to check it at 40 minutes, and they were already quite done. This is a Martha Stewart recipe, so you'd think it would be spot on, but that's not how it went for me. Honestly, I don't like the cream cheese part to be so brown, so I think next time I'll check it at 35!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Slow Cooker Thai Coconut Beef

 I was looking for different recipe ideas for my slow cooker. Ever since I got my new Pixar slow cooker, I've been using it ALL the time!!  So it was definitely time for some new slow cooker recipes. I mean, yes, you have your pulled pork, and your chili, but I wanted something new.
 Lately I've been in the mood for more spicy flavors. Not necessarily HOT and spicy, but just flavorful and spicy. So I decided to search for flavors from other cultures, which is RIGHT in my wheelhouse. Side note... Fun fact: Every year, I choose a different international restaurant at which to celebrate my birthday. Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Japanese. True story! Anyway, when I found this Thai inspired recipe, I figured ok this one covers all bases. It's perfect! Lots of different ingredients, extremely full of flavor, and it's SO easy, you won't even believe it. Also, you don't even have to go to a specialty store to get the ingredients. Everything is readily available at your local supermarket! Now, I know it may seem a little odd to add peanut butter and coconut to a beef recipe, but seriously, it all works REALLY well. Just go with it! You'll be glad you did!

1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 pounds), halved
 1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon pepper 
1 large sweet red pepper, sliced 
1 can (13oz)) coconut milk 
3/4 cup beef stock 
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 
1/4 cup red curry paste 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
2 tablespoons honey 
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root 
1/2 pound fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed 
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro 
Cooked brown or white rice 
Toppings, if desired:
thinly sliced green onions, chopped peanuts, hot sauce, and/or lime wedges

 Place beef and pepper slices in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a bowl, whisk coconut milk, beef stock, peanut butter, curry paste, soy sauce, honey and ginger; pour over meat. Cook, covered, on low 7-8 hours or until meat is tender. Remove beef; cool slightly. Skim fat from reserved juices. Shred beef with two forks. Return beef to slow cooker; stir in snap peas. Cook, covered, on low 45-60 minutes longer or until peas are crisp-tender. Stir in cilantro. Serve with rice and, if desired, toppings of your choice. 

Instead of shredding the beef, I just cut it into cubes before placing it in the slow cooker, just as one would do for a regular beef stew. You could also just buy beef cubes. I very much prefer large chunks of beef rather than shreds, in this particular instance. But you do you!
For extra added flavor, use beef stock to cook your rice instead of water. Makes the best rice ever!
If you are not a fan of cilantro, just use fresh parsley instead!
Wanna add a little heat? Add some chopped chilis or a little crushed red pepper flakes! 
Btw, I really like the sliced green onions on top. They're definitely more than just a garnish. That little hit of onion flavor is amazing!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

 Are you celebrating something today? A birthday? A promotion? Or perhaps you're celebrating the 11th anniversary or your FAVORITE food blog ?!?!?  (hehehe wink wink) Then here is the perfect dessert! It's a big chocolate chip cookie baked as a cake! Fun, huh??  I made it a while back for a friend's birthday. Normally, I would've baked this someone a CAKE for his birthday, but he described himself as "not much of a cake guy" (I know I know, it makes no sense to me either) so I decided that this was a happy compromise! It's a really easy recipe that I found on a blog called Garnish & Glaze, and it's FABULOUS. My decorations were inspired by them too, only I used chocolate ganache instead of chocolate buttercream. You do you! So the next time you're in the mood to celebrate something, keep this one in mind. Delicious rich chocolate chip cookie with swirls of chocolate ganache... What's not to love???? Come to think of it, you could really make this anytime at all. Why wait for a reason to celebrate! You made it through the day so far, right?
That's reason enough for me!

10 tbs butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugars together for 2 minutes and then mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Use a wooden spoon to mix in all but 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips and then press the cookie dough into the cake pan. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips on top and press them down slightly. Bake for 22-25 minutes. Let the cookie cool completely and then run a sharp knife along the edge to loosen, then turn it out onto a serving plate. Pipe the frosting along the edges and add multicolored sprinkles, if desired.

Be sure not to over bake it. You don't want it to be too dry!
Looking for variations? Try adding chopped pecans or walnuts. Try peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips, or a mixture of the two. Use literally any kind of chips you like! Butterscotch, white chocolate, I've even seen cinnamon or salted caramel chips. You can also do M&Ms for a colorful twist. Basically you can vary this in as many different ways as you can with regular chocolate chip cookies!

Chocolate Ganache

 Have you ever made ganache? It's really just the simplest thing in the world and you can use it so many ways. It's basically just chocolate chips and heavy cream, but it's what you do with them that makes all the difference. Use it as a fabulous perfect glaze. Let it cool completely and it thickens into a rich filling. You can also whip it up into the perfect frosting. I found this recipe on a blog called Add a Pinch, and it's perfect. Whichever way you decide to use it, yours will be perfect too!

Ganache Glaze:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 cups chocolate chips, milk, semi-sweet, or dark2 tablespoons brewed coffee
pinch of salt

Ganache Filling:
 1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups chocolate chips, milk, semi-sweet, or dark
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
pinch of salt

Ganache Frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups chocolate chips, milk, semi-sweet, or dark
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
pinch of salt

 Add heavy cream and butter to a small saucepan and heat on low heat until the butter has melted and the cream is warmed throughout. Add chocolate chips to a large glass or nonreactive bowl. Pour the warmed cream and butter mixture over the chocolate chips. Add in the brewed coffee and a pinch of salt. Allow to stand for about 3-5 minutes to soften the chocolate chips completely. Stir briskly to combine and until smooth.

Ganache Glaze:
Allow to cool slightly. Ganache will easily pour over cake or other item.

Ganache Filling:
 Once cooled, ganache filling can be spread between layers of cakes, piped as filling into pastries, or sandwiched between cookies, etc.

Ganache Frosting:
Once cooled, use an electric mixer or a wire whisk, whip ganache to incorporate air and increase the volume of the ganache. Spread on cakes or other pastries as you would frosting.

Notes from Add A Pinch:
The brewed coffee and pinch of salt are optional. I use the coffee to enhance the flavor of the chocolate, but it is not required. The salt, in my opinion, helps to balance the chocolate as well, but is not required either.

Tips from Joey:
You can make it earlier in the day and then leave it at room temperature until you use it. Otherwise you can store it in the fridge. For a variation, use any other kinds of chips and omit the coffee, but still include the pinch of salt. If you're doing peanut butter chips, add an extra pinch of salt!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Crock Pot Brown Sugar Pineapple Ham

 Ok, so what if you want to prepare a nice holiday dinner for your family, but you have limited cooking experience. What do you do? You make THIS recipe, that's what you do! This is so easy, anyone can do it! You just throw everything into the crock pot and turn it on. If you can open a can of pineapple, you can do this. And your family will be SO impressed by the delicious holiday ham that YOU made for them!
 I saw this in a video from Incredible Recipes that my friend Joshua posted on FB, and immediately decided that this would be the dinner I make for the next group hang at my place. Since this was gonna be a holiday hang anyway, I knew it would be perfect! And the fact that it's in a crock just makes it all the more easy. It frees up your oven for other things!
 So, thank you Incredible Recipes for living up to your name, and thank you Joshua for posting it! I think now this just might be my go-to ham recipe. It's pretty tough to beat!

1 ham, pre-cooked, spiral cut - bone-in or boneless, either will work
3 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 20 oz can pineapple tidbits or chunks - do not drain

 In a large crock pot, (over 6-quarts or larger) cover the bottom with 2 cups of the brown sugar. Place ham on top of the brown sugar, open the slices slightly with your hands. Pour the honey evenly over the ham. Add the pineapple around the sides (with the juice) and some on top. Top with the remaining 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar, making sure it is evenly distributed over the entire top of the ham.
Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

-The original recipe said to cook it for 4 1/2 -6 hours. I've made this recipe a few times, and I find that I don't like to cook it for that long. The ham is already cooked, so leaving it in the slow cooker for that long really over tenderizes the meat, at least for my liking. The longer you cook it, the more it will fall apart. I like ham to still maintain its integrity (no one likes mushy ham!) so I only cook it for 3 or 4 hours.
-Yes, yes, I know there's a huge amount of sweet ingredients going on here. But the ham is quite salty, so the sweet syrupy sauce goes nicely with it. To further balance all of that sugar, choose side dishes that are not sweet. Like, in this case, I would not serve applesauce, cranberry sauce, or pineapple stuffing as I might usually do with a regular ham. Instead, choose a savory vegetable such as green beans or broccoli and a starch such as mashed potatoes or mac and cheese.
-I used fresh pineapple instead of canned, just because I like it better. I didn't even measure. Just pulsed of bunch of fresh pineapple chunks in the food processor to chop 'em up a bit, then went ahead with the recipe as directed. If you like a lot of pineapple, add a lot!!
-I've never tried it, but I bet you could substitute maple syrup instead of honey, just for a little maple hit. I'm sure that would be heavenly!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

 Lately I've been in the mood for something banana. In cakes, breads, cupcakes, or even ice cream, I've always loved bananas, especially when they get to that perfectly delicious sweet spot where their peels are covered with little brown freckles. Before that, they're not as sweet, and after that, they go south rather quickly.
  I recently had a bunch of bananas that were just on the verge of going south, and I happened to find this recipe on a blog called  I figured, "ok, looks pretty simple, lets go for it!" They took no time at all, and boom, here I am with some deliciously moist banana muffins! Perfect! You just blitz everything together in a blender, pour it into your muffin tins, and then pop 'em in the oven. SO EASY! And they're pretty darn healthy too! (If you're one who has gluten restrictions in his diet, then this one is for you!) And the honey adds just the perfect amount of sweetness. I added mini chocolate chips, but add whatever mix-ins you like. Dried fruit, chopped nuts, it will all work!
 Better keep this one handy. I'm sure you'll be coming back to it again and again!

2 cups oats (quick cooking or old fashioned)
2 large very ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 to 3 tbs honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Up to 1/2 cup mix-ins: chocolate chips (mini or regular), chopped dark chocolate, nuts, dried cranberries, or blueberries (fresh or frozen and rinsed)

 Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Lightly grease a 12-cup standard muffin tin or line with paper liners. If using liners, lightly grease them as well. Set aside.
 Place the all ingredients but the mix-ins in a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade: oats, bananas, eggs, Greek yogurt, honey, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, and salt. Blend or process on high, stopping to scrape down and stir the ingredients once or twice as needed, until the batter is smooth and the oats have broken down almost completely, about 3 minutes. By hand, stir in the mix-ins. If the batter is warm from the appliance’s motor, the chocolate chips may melt and swirl as they are stirred. If this bothers you, let the batter cool for 10 minutes before adding them.
 Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling each no more than three-quarters of the way to the top. Sprinkle with additional chocolate chips or nuts as desired. Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes. They will deflate but still taste delicious. 

Next time I make this, instead of throwing everything in at once, I think I'll blend the bananas, eggs, honey, yogurt, and vanilla first,  and then I'll add everything else. It might make the blending process a little easier for the blender!
This recipe says that it makes 12 muffins, but for some reason, my batch made 18, leaving me with 6 empty muffin wells in a second muffin tin. (I suppose I'll fill them a little more next time!) If it should ever happen that you're baking an incomplete muffin tin, always be sure to fill the rest of the muffin wells with water. This keeps the pan at an even heat so that everything bakes evenly, plus it keeps your pan from burning. Clever, huh?
 Wrap any leftovers tightly in plastic and freeze for up to 2 months!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Beth's Hash Brown Potato Casserole

 I decided to do another search for a hash brown potato casserole recipe. Yes, yes, I know I already have my OMG Good Hash Brown Casserole recipe (which really is OMG GOOD), but one can never have too many versions of a recipe, can one?? I think not! So, in this case, I was looking for something closer to the famous Cracker Barrel recipe. I've seen many recipes that claim to be THE Cracker Barrel recipe, but oddly, they're not all the same. Crazy, huh? With this sort of a dish, I think the recipe is more of a guideline. There's definitely some wiggle room here. So I began to do what I always do when looking for a recipe, just like I did with my other hash brown casserole recipe. Basically, I just looked at several different versions of it, and then took what I liked from each one. In many of the versions I've seen, most of the ingredients are the same, but the amounts are slightly different. Some versions add paprika, some add A LOT more butter and/or sour cream. Basically I was looking for the Goldilocks version of the recipe, which is not too much anything. It's JUST RIGHT.
 Then I happened upon Trisha Yearwood's recipe, or rather, I suppose, her sister Beth's. It uses basically the same ingredients that I had seen in other versions, but it also includes butter crackers for the top. I thought, oooo I think this is the one!  Originally, I had figured on using a buttered bread crumb topping, but the cracker topping just sounded so good, I decided that this was the one to try.
 So here it is! It's absolutely as warm and comforting as you think it would be. Potatoes and cheese...two of my favorites things! How can this not be the definition of comfort food? Yes yes, I know she pours a ton of extra butter over the top, but you weren't really planning on eating this every day, were you? It's all about moderation, people! Have a salad tomorrow, and you'll be fine! Serve it as an easy side dish with a roast beast and a green veggie, or assemble it on a Saturday night, then bake it first thing in the morning for Sunday brunch. It would be perfect with some fried eggs and a few strip of bacon. Now THAT's my idea of a fabulous Sunday brunch!

2-3 lbs large red potatoes, peeled

1 10oz can cream of mushroom soup

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9- by 13- by 2-inch casserole dish.
Use the large holes on a box grater or the grating blade of a food processor to shred the potatoes into a large bowl. Add the sour cream, Cheddar cheese, soup, onions, salt, and pepper. Turn the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the crushed crackers. Pour the melted butter over the top of the casserole. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake until lightly browned on top, about 20 minutes more.

-Definitely bake this for as long as it says. It will take that long for the potatoes to be tender!
-When I made this, some of the onions were not as soft as I would have liked. I think, next time, maybe I'll saute the onions for a bit before I add them to the casserole. That would certainly take care of that! I think I might also choose a cheese that isn't quite as sharp. You definitely get a sharp tang from the sour cream and the mustard. So maybe I'll choose a creamier milder cheese. Any kind will work!
-If you would like it to be less saucey, cut back a little on sour cream. It'll still turn out fine!
-Not a fan of cream of mushroom soup? Use any kind of cream soup you like!
-If you choose to use frozen potatoes instead of fresh, there's no need to defrost them. Just toss 'em in, right from the freezer!
-Wanna make it more of a substantial meal by itself? Add some diced ham and/or crumbled sausage or bacon. Add some blanched asparagus or broccoli. How about some diced or pulled chicken? Add whatever you like!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Orange Vanilla Monkey Bread

 Every year, my family has a huge brunch on Easter morning, so I'm always searching for fun and different brunch recipes during the weeks leading up to it. Most of the time, I'll find savory recipes likes casseroles or quiches. But everyone knows that brunch also has its SWEET side, such as French Toast Casserole, and Cinnamon Buns. So this time, I opted to go for something sweet!
 This is Ree Drummond's recipe and it's really delicious. It's a simple twist on your regular Monkey Bread. Basically, instead of tossing biscuits with sugar and cinnamon, you toss them with sugar and fresh orange zest. Doesn't that sound bright and fresh and brunchy? (yes brunchy is a word. I've just decided.) It's pretty brilliant, as far as I'm concerned. The fresh orange flavor is SO bright, and the vanilla sort of smooths it all out. It's a definite keeper! And it's easy too! It makes me think "what other Monkey Bread variations can we do?" I'll be sure to let you know if I come up with any! In the meantime, make this the next time you have friends over for brunch. I promise it'll be a hit!

3 cans (7.5 oz each) buttermilk biscuits, cold 
1 cup sugar 
2 whole oranges, zested 
1 dash Salt 
2 sticks salted butter 
3/4 cups brown sugar 
1 tbs vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
First, make sure all the biscuit cans are very cold. Open all the cans of biscuits and cut the biscuits into quarters. Fill a large ziploc bag with the granulated sugar, the orange zest, and the dash of salt. Seal the bag and shake it around until the zest and the sugar are totally combined. Add the biscuit pieces to the bag, seal it and shake/toss it around until all the biscuit pieces are coated in the orange sugar. Pour the pieces and sugar into a bundt or tube pan and set it aside. 
 In a medium pan over medium heat, melt the butter then stir in the brown sugar and vanilla until just barely combined. Pour the mixture all over the biscuit pieces, scraping the pan to get all the butter/brown sugar out of there. Let it settle for a second, then place the pan in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top of the biscuits are golden brown. Then remove the pan from the oven and set it on a rack. Let the pan sit for at least 10 minutes (but no more than 15), then turn the cake out of the pan onto a cake plate. 
Note: When it first comes out of the pan, the melted sugar/caramel will be a little on the hot side. Wait a few minutes after turning it out before serving.
Yes, I know there's quite a bit of sugar. Even with my insatiable sweet tooth, it was close to pushing my sweetness limits. I think, perhaps, next time I'll reduce the amount of white sugar to a half cup. But be sure to still toss the sugar with the orange zest. It's turns it into orange sugar, which will flavor the whole thing. You can add a bit of orange extract, if you like, but the fresh orange zest is MUCH better. For a stronger vanilla flavor, you can also scrape the insides of a vanilla bean into the brown sugar/butter mixture.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Classic Homemade Waffles

  Have you ever made your own waffles from scratch? They're really super easy to throw together, and they're SO much better than any waffles you'll find in your grocer's freezer. They only take a few minutes too! So, you may wonder, what's the difference between classic waffles and Belgian waffles? Well, Belgian waffles (in most cases) use a batter that contains yeast, and they're also cooked on very large waffle irons with deep pockets in them. Sometimes they'll have whipped egg whites folded into the batter for a lighter fluffier texture inside, and a crispier texture outside.
 This is a classic waffle recipe is from, but there are many classic versions out there. They're all pretty similar and use mostly the same ingredients. Some use a little more flour or a little less milk. Some add melted butter and/or shortening which makes a crispier crust. But basically, they're all pretty much the same idea.
 Either way, classic or Belgian, I've never met a waffle I didn't like, especially with the endless combinations of toppings you can put on them. Usually, with classic waffles, I'm a butter and syrup kinda guy. Yes, syrup. Lots and lots of syrup! Then again, if we're talking dessert waffles, I love a yummy fruit pie filling with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Strawberry, blueberry, or APPLE. OMG yes, apple!) You could also do peanut butter and marshmallow creme for a Fluffenutter waffle. Maybe some chocolate chips in the batter for the chocoholics in your life. And you definitely can't go wrong with fresh fruit, whipped cream, and a dusting of powdered sugar. Or simply just your favorite home made jam! It all works, and it's all delicious! Or you can even do SAVORY waffles! Just omit the sugar, and top your waffles with fresh herbs like basil or chopped chives, and some shredded cheese. How about some smoked salmon and some herbed cream cheese? You could also add some crumbled bacon to your batter. Or how about adding some Cajun spices to the batter, and serving them with fried chicken and a drizzle of honey! OOO that sounds pretty amazing to me!
 Clearly, homemade waffles are SO much more versatile than your basic store bought frozen ones. So, have fun! Experiment with flavors! And if you don't have a waffle iron, I've just given you an excuse to buy one! You're welcome.

3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. canola oil
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
kosher salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Cooking spray, for waffle iron

 Preheat your waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, apple cider vinegar, and canola oil until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Pour dry ingredients into wet and stir until just combined. Spray heated waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour a generous amount of batter into the middle of the iron until it's completely covered. Cook until golden brown, 3 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter and serve immediately with butter and maple syrup.

If you're making them for a crowd, place cooked waffles on a baking tray fitted with a wire rack. Place them in a 250ºF oven. This will keep them warm and will even make them a little bit crispier, which is definitely not a bad thing, in my book.
Melting your butter and then drizzling it over the top is easier than trying to spread butter over your waffles. Just sayin!
Be sure your waffle iron is hot before you load it with batter. Also be sure you don't over fill your waffle iron, otherwise you'll spill over and create a big mess. Not that I've ever done that before...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ham and Cheese Brunch Bake

 Here's an easy do-ahead dish that is perfect for any brunch or holiday breakfast. You just throw it together the night before, leave it in the fridge overnight, and then pop it in the oven in the morning. And boom, brunch is served! Of course, you can go in any number of directions with it. The variations are seemingly endless! Any combination of proteins or cheeses or veggies would work perfectly! But I decided to keep things plain and simple, just as it's written. You might think that plain and simple = boring and bland, but I promise you this is absolutely not the case! It's surprisingly flavorful! The fresh thyme and the garlic are key. They bring so much to the party!
 Now, don't ask me how this recipe and I seemed to find each other. I mean, I know it's from, but I can't remember how I found it. Maybe someone posted it on Facebook, maybe I found it while browsing, who knows? But I guess it really doesn't matter. It's easy and delicious, so that's all we need to know! Definitely give this one a try!!!!

10 large eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
1 tsp. garlic powder
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 c. cubed French bread or baguette
1/2 lb. ham, chopped
1 1/2 c. shredded white Cheddar

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, dijon, thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Butter or spray a large baking dish. Add bread and top with ham and cheddar. Pour over egg mixture. Allow the egg mixture to soak into the bread cubes. Bake until eggs are cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes.

 (To make ahead, cover baking dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate, up to overnight, then bake as directed.)

Add cooked sausage or bacon, add steamed or sauteed broccoli or asparagus, add any favorite cheese, add sauteed onions. Do whatever you like!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Joey's Corned Beef and Cabbage Casserole

 One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is a casserole. It's always warm and comforting, and it always hits the spot. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you can pretty much throw anything into a casserole and it'll be fabulous! Usually, I like to include something creamy, something cheesy, and some sort of starch, protein, and vegetable. In this case, I decided to make a St Patrick's Day inspired casserole! Lots of corned beef and cabbage in a creamy cheesy sauce, tossed with wide noodles and baked until bubbly and golden on top. Doesn't that sound awesome? It's heaven in a dish! Plus, it's a great way to use up your leftover corned beef and cabbage, giving you a great round two dish that feeds a crowd. And it's a total do-ahead, so you can assemble it ahead of time and then bake it when you're ready to serve. When I told my Jeanie and Daniel what I was making, Daniel said "Theres's no way that's bad" and Jeanie had made a similar casserole too, only she used rye bread crumbs. Great minds, huh? I'm fairly certain my Mom was talking to us. I think she'd have liked this one. You will too!

1 lb egg noodles
1 onion, chopped
1/2 of a green cabbage, chopped
8 oz corned beef (or ham), diced
8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 soup can of milk (roughly 1 1/2 cups)
 pinch or two caraway seeds, optional (fennel seeds would also work!)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbs melted butter

Heat oven to 350F.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente. Drain well.
While the noodles are cooking, saute the cabbage  and onions in a large skillet until tender. In a large bowl, stir together the corned beef, shredded cheese, soup, milk, and salt and pepper. Add cooked onions and cabbage along with the drained noodles to the bowl. Add caraway seeds, if using. Gently toss everything until well combined. Place in a 9x13 baking dish. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of your casserole. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until slightly browned on top. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

When you boil your noodles, make sure to cook them only until al dente. They will continue to cook in the casserole so you're really only partially cooking them at this step. Oh, and be sure the water is well salted!
If you're using leftover boiled cabbage, don't saute it for as long. Just chop it up and add it to the pan with the sauteed onions. You really don't have to saute it at all, but doing this will help evaporate some of the water in the cabbage.
 For a little extra something, add crisped bacon!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Joey's Pineapple Cream Cheese Pie

OK, so this recipe sort of happened by accident. I realized at the last minute that March 14th is PIE DAY, (3.14 = Pi!), but I didn't have any pie recipes ready to share. So I did a quick pantry inventory and came up with a new recipe idea! I was gonna do a regular pie crust, but then decided I wanted a shortbread crust instead. And I always have home made jams and jellies on hand, so I figured a pineapple cream cheese pie would be pretty amazing. And guess what! It TOTALLY is! It was seriously easy to throw together, and it's so light and fluffy, it's just the thing to hit the spot.
A perfect pie for pie day! Hope you like it!

2 cups flour
2 sticks butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt

8oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup pineapple jam, homemade or store bought
1-2 tbs sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Heat oven to 425ºF.
For the crust:
Place all crust ingredients into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse for several seconds until the dough just begins to pull together into a ball. Do not over process. Press dough into a 9" deep dish or pyrex pie plate. Press the dough up the sides and slightly higher than the edge of the plate. Pinch the dough between your fingers all the way around the plate to make a decorative edge. Place a sheet of parchment paper or foil into the plate over the crust, then fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment, then place back into the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.

For the filling:
Mix cream cheese, pineapple jam, and sugar with a mixer. Fold in whipped cream. Pour cream mixture into cooled crust, smoothing over the top. Chill at least a few hours or until set. Pipe additional sweetened whipped cream on top, if desired.

I like a really thick shortbread cookie crust, but if you prefer a thinner crust (or if you're using a regular pie plate instead of a deep dish pie plate, go ahead and cut the crust recipe in half).
For an easy shortcut, just use a ready made store bought graham cracker crust. Bake according to package instructions, then fill as directed.
For an easy variation, use any other kind of jam. Strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, peach, apricot, even orange marmalade would work!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Chocolate Guinness Cake

A few weeks ago, I got a text from my friend, Greg. He was browsing my website, wondering if I had ever made a Chocolate Guinness Cake. I hadn't, but quickly did a little search to see which one I would recommend. I quickly found this recipe from Nigella Lawson (LOVE her, btw). It looked pretty simple and straight forward, so I sent him the recipe. Then I thought, well, I guess I might as well try it!
 All I have to say it OH. MY. GOD. This cake is HEAVENLY. It has a rich deep chocolate flavor with just the tiniest hint of a bitter note from the stout. And the cream cheese topping is just a pillow of lusciousness covering everything. Actually, it's so moist, you don't even need the topping, but it's CRAZY good, so you'll want to include it. It's SO easy to make too. Just follow the recipe as written, straight through, and you'll be good to go!
 So, thanx to Greg for the suggestion, and thanx to Nigella for the lovely recipe. This one is definitely a new favorite!

1 cup Guinness stout 
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter 
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa 
2 cups superfine sugar 
3/4 cup sour cream 
2 large eggs 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature 
1/2  cup heavy cream

For the cake:
Heat oven to 350F.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.

For the topping:
Using a food processor or by hand, mix confectioners' sugar to break up lumps. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable. Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.

Instead of lining the pan with parchment, I just sprayed it with baking spray (the kind that has flour in it) and it worked perfectly!
Also I didn't use superfine sugar. I just used regular granulated sugar. I'm guessing the superfine might give you a slightly different texture, but the regular granulated worked well enough for me. You could always blitz your regular sugar in the food processor for a while if you want superfine sugar.
Next time, I think I'm gonna try making it in a bundt pan, just to see how it turns out. I kind of like the idea of the rich creamy topping cascading down the sides!
Btw, if you want to add a different kind of stout, go for it! How about a chocolate stout? Makes sense to me!
I like using heavy cream in the topping, just as it's written, just so it stays white to resemble the frothy pint of Guiness, but if you want a little extra something, try using Bailey's instead of cream. Delish!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Roasted Cabbage with Bacon

 Everyone loves boiled cabbage with ham or corned beef for St Patrick's Day, but have you ever considered roasting your cabbage instead? I must say that roasting is my preferred method for cooking vegetables because it really intensifies the flavor while bringing a toasty element to the party. So why not roast your cabbage instead of boiling it??? Now, add some bacon and you've made it FANTASTIC! I mean, lets face it, everything is better with bacon, am I right? It's the same sort of vibe you get when you do roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon. FABULOUS.
 The secret to the success of this dish is roasting the bacon ON TOP of the cabbage wedges. Who knew doing something so simple would be such a game changer? It makes ALL the difference! As the bacon cooks, the fat renders and drips down onto the cabbage, flavoring it with all of that delicious bacon-ness. How awesome is that? Serve it as a main dish or just as a simple side with your ham or corned beef. Oh, and just fyi, if you're choosing to restrict carbs from your diet, this one is now WAY high on your must-list because it's WAY low on carbs! BONUS! I think this is now my new favorite way to cook cabbage. And if you think you don't like cabbage, I urge you to give it a try! You just might surprise yourself!! It's REALLY delicious!

1 head green or Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed
Olive oil
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Thick cut bacon, as many slices as it takes to cover your cabbage wedges

Heat the oven to 450°F. Cut the cabbage into quarters and slice the bottom of each quarter at an angle to partially remove the stem core. Cut each quarter in half again so you have eight wedges. Lay these down on a baking sheet and drizzle very lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cut each slice of bacon in half and lay on top of the cabbage. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the cabbage wedges once halfway through. If the edges aren't browned enough for your taste after 30 minutes, put them back in for five-minute increments until they are. Serve immediately; the wedges cool down fast.

To make it easier to flip the cabbage wedges, leave the bacon in larger strips and drape them across each wedge. Remove them to flip the wedges, then place them back on top again. When everything is cooked, you can cut the bacon into smaller pieces for serving, just as I've done in the photo. Easy!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Spinach Dip Bites

 Here's an easy appy that I found on a blog called Lil Luna. I was having a few friends over, and I was looking for ideas. At first, I thought of doing the usual spinach dip, but of course I wanted to find some sort of twist. Maybe a picky-uppy kind of something?? Then I saw this and thought BINGO! This is exactly what I had in mind! It was the perfect recipe to assemble in advance and then bake just before my friends arrived. Easy!
 ok, now, I know the recipe calls for shredded mozzarella cheese for the top, but I happened to have shredded cheddar on hand, so I went with it. Use whatever kind you like! Oh, btw, they won't last long. Spinach dip is always a hit at parties, and this is no different!! I promise you,  if you make this, you'll be a hit too!

2 cups frozen spinach, chopped and thawed
1 6 ounce jar Artichoke Hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 tsp garlic salt
pepper to taste
1 can seamless crescent dough

Preheat oven to 375.
In a bowl, combine spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Blend in cream cheese and half of your mozzarella cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Using a rolling pin, lay out dough on a cutting board and lightly stretch to a 8 x 12 rectangle. Cut dough into 2 inch squares, so you have 24 squared total.
Lightly grease a mini muffin tin and place a square in each slot, gently pushing down to create an indent. (you don't need to mold to the cup.)
Scoop one teaspoon of your spinach mixture on top of each crescent square and gently push in, (bites will mold to your tin while baking). Spread the remaining mozzarella cheese over the tops of each cup. Bake for 15 - 17 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before moving from tray.

If you have any extra filling leftover (or even if you just don't feel like doing the cups) just pop the filling into a small baking dish with a little cheese sprinkled over the top and bake as directed. Serve with scoop chips. Boom.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Triple Chocolate Pretzel Brownies

ok, I know I already have TONS of brownie recipes, but seriously, can one ever have too many?? This one is for the serious chocoholic. It's also for those who love a little salty with their sweet. I was in the mood for something CRAZY chocolate when I happened upon these little beauties on a blog called Sally's Baking Addiction. (if you've never seen it, you should definitely check it out!)
 I figured anything called "triple chocolate" deserved a browse, and after reading it, I knew I had found my crazy chocolate something! And let me just tell you, they absolutely live up to their name. SO rich and indulgent and extremely chocolatey. Oh, and btw, they're super easy to make too! You don't even need a mixer!
So, thanx SBA, for another great recipe! Add this one to your brownie repertoire and make this for the chocoholics in your life. You're gonna need a talk glass of milk for this one! Serious yum.

10 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups chopped chocolate covered pretzels
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
sea salt

 Preheat oven to 325F degrees.
Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished brownies out.
 Melt the butter, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl in the microwave. Melt in 30 second increments and stir after each time until the butter is completely melted. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition. Add the flour, beating with a whisk until fully combined. Gently fold the chocolate covered pretzels into the batter, leaving a few to sprinkle on top. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan and spread evenly. Scatter the chocolate chips and reserved chocolate covered pretzel pieces on top. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake for 25 minutes and check the brownies for doneness. Insert a toothpick inserted in the center. If it comes out with only a few crumbs, the brownies are done. Do not bake over 30 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares.

I used a 9" square pan. If you use an 8" pan, your brownies will be slightly thicker.
Also be sure to line your pan with parchment with enough hanging over to be able to lift them out of the pan. That's always a great tip for making easier cuts that won't damage your pan.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake

 Usually, when I want to post a decadent dessert for Valentine's Day, I immediately go for something chocolatey and gooey. But today I decided to go in a different direction. How about something that is still rich and decadent, but instead of chocolate, lets go for rich and creamy and laden with luscious swirls of cinnamon? Sounds like heaven, right? Well, let me just tell you it ABSOLUTELY is! Its beauty is in its simplicity, really. I feel like saying "why have we never done this?" It's genius! The cinnamon rolls are the perfect crust, the cheesecake is sinful, and the cinnamon swirl is the thing that takes it from good to GREAT. I got the recipe from a Tasty video, and this one is definitely a keeper. Yes, yes, I know it's a lot of cake for a romantic dinner for two, but just freeze the rest of it in slices! You'll definitely want to go back for more!

16 ounces cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup sugar 
1/2 cup sour cream 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 eggs 
1/3 cup melted butter 
1/2 cup light brown sugar 
2 tablespoon. cinnamon 
1 (8 count) packages refrigerated cinnamon rolls with frosting

Preheat oven to 325°F.
 In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla, and beat until there are no lumps. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each one. Set aside. In another bowl, mix the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon until fully combined. Set aside. In a greased springform pan, press all of the cinnamon rolls flat, until they completely cover the bottom of the pan. Evenly spread the cheesecake batter, then drop spoonfuls of the butter mixture onto the cheesecake batter. Swirl the butter mixture into the cheesecake using a knife (try to keep it away from the edges!). Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cheesecake is firm around the edges but still slightly jiggly in the middle. Remove from oven and cool completely. Top with frosting from the cinnamon rolls. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Usually this is where I'd put recipe variations, or talk about what I'd do differently, but this cake is perfect as is! Just follow the recipe and you'll be a hit!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cherry Cheesecake Chocolate Bundt Cake

 Ok here's a showstopper of a recipe that was brought to my attention by my niece, Kristin. It was a Tip Hero video that she posted on my FB page with a comment that said "This needs to happen!" She was absolutely right! This seriously needed to happen, and it will definitely need to happen again! There's a whole lot of "how can this not be good?" about this cake. Besides the whole wow factor, it's rich and creamy and delicious! Add the fact that I already had just about all of the ingredients on hand and this became a no-brainer for what to make for my family at a recent get-together. RAVE reviews from everyone! If you have a special occasion coming up, or maybe you'd like to make this for your special someone, THIS is just the thing! Yes, I know it looks like there are lots of steps and ingredients, but really, there's nothing difficult going on here. (I'm looking at YOU, Terri). Just follow the directions and you'll be good to go! I PROMISE you it'll be worth the extra effort!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup water
6 oz unsalted butter 

1/3 cup cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
1 heaping tbsp. espresso powder
6 oz bittersweet chocolate chips 

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp. brown sugar
16 jumbo maraschino cherries, drained 

3/4 cup cherry pie filling

Cheesecake filling:
2 – 8 oz. packages cream cheese 

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 egg

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1-2 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 350℉. 
Spray a 10-12 cup Bundt pan generously with baking spray with flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, granulated sugar, salt, and baking soda. Whisk until fully blended.
In a small saucepan, combine the water and 6 oz. butter. Place over medium heat and cook until the butter has melted. Add cocoa and espresso powders and whisk until no lumps remain. Add the chocolate chips and continue stirring until completely melted and the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat. Add chocolate sauce to the dry ingredients, then whisk until just combined. Blend in sour cream. Add eggs and vanilla, then mix until fully combined, making sure not to over-mix the batter.

Cheesecake filling:
In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat cream cheese, granulated sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add flour and egg and beat until smooth.

Evenly, pour 1 1/2 tbsp. melted butter into the bottom of the prepared Bundt pan. Evenly sprinkle 2 tbsp. brown sugar on top of the melted butter. Place 2 maraschino cherries each into the larger grooves of the Bundt pan.

Pour 3/4 of the prepared cake batter on top of the cherries. With a large spoon, evenly spoon the cheesecake filling into the center of the batter, not allowing it to touch the sides of the pan. Spoon cherry pie filling on top of the cheesecake filling, again not allowing it to touch the sides of the pan. Pour remaining cake batter over the filling. Bake 50 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes, then flip cake out of pan and cool completely.

​Once cake has cooled, prepare the glaze. In a large bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and milk, whisk until smooth. Drizzle cake with glaze. Allow glaze to set and serve.

Not a fan of cherries? Try a different kind of pie filling! How about raspberry or strawberry or even peach? It would all work!
For a little extra cherry kick, you could also add a little of the maraschino cherry juice to the glaze. It'll give it a lovely pink tint too! Another glaze option would be to add a little cherry liqueur instead of the milk. Works for me!
Another option would be to make a ganache to pour over the cake instead of the glaze. Just heat some heavy cream and then pour it over an equal amount of chocolate or white chocolate chips. Lets it sit so the chips melt, then whisk until smooth. Easy!
Btw, if you're out of sour cream, just use buttermilk instead! It's not the best substitute when you're topping a baked potato or nachos, but in baking it works perfectly well!