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.
If you need to be away from your slow cooker for longer than 4 hours, then go ahead and cook it for longer, but don't add the pineapple until the last hour of cooking. It's an enzyme in the pineapple that breaks down the ham, making it too mushy. Science!
-Yes, yes, I know there's a huge amount of sweet ingredients going on here. But the ham is quite salty, so the sweet glaze goes nicely with it. To further balance all of that sugar, choose side dishes that are not sweet. For example, 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 400ยบ 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!