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Summer Reading

Look at what I just picked up from our library!

In line with my “try before you buy” philosophy, I reserved a copy of “The Best Mexican Recipes” from America’s Test Kitchen a few weeks ago. As with most of their cookbooks, there was a waiting list, and I finally got the email saying it was my turn. I’ll have it for four weeks (unless I luck out and get to renew it), so I need to come up with a must try list ASAP. Andy has already requested drunken beans, which appear to be the Mexican version of baked beans, so we will be trying that soon. If I’m organized enough to get some pictures, I will be sharing them here!

In other food-related reading, I also picked up “Never Out of Season” by Rob Dunn. The tagline on the cover says, “How having the food we want when we want it threatens our food supply and our future.” It sounded interesting and timely to me, as our CSA should be starting up soon, and that’s all about seasonal eating! 

Speaking of seasonal eating, our garden is all planted (minus the dill seed, which will wind up in the flower bed since we ran out of room in the garden again), and I have been harvesting rhubarb for a couple of weeks. Yay for seasonal desserts! I  planted two new-to-me types of basil this year, lemon and Thai, along with the regular Italian basil. I cannot wait for the plants to grow a little more so I can start picking leaves. Our garlic is going strong, and I am ready for scapes to appear. Edible plants are the best. 🙂 Happy almost-June, everyone!

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Easy Dessert

Some desserts have a reputation for being difficult to make. No one bats an eye if you show up with a plate of chocolate chip cookies, but if you bring cheesecake to the office, people are wowed.

“I could never make cheesecake,” they say. “It’s so hard!”

I’m here to bust that myth. Cheesecake is waaaay easier than you may think. Cream the cream cheese with some sugar, beat in a few eggs and pour it over a graham cracker crust. Bake for an hour or so, and let it cool. So much less involved than scooping individual individual cookies onto tray after tray.

And that’s why I whipped up a pan of these Oreo cheesecake bars for dessert with friends a few weeks ago. They’re easy to put together, and cheesecake is always a hit with everyone in our social circle. Plus, I almost always have cream cheese in the fridge.

The recipe calls for Oreos, but I can confirm that they work just as well with the off-brand / Aldi version of everyone’s favorite sandwich cookie. And since the off-brand package apparently has fewer cookies, I can also confirm that the filling is just as good with 10 Oreos instead of 12.

The four of us managed to not eat the entire pan that night, so I told Andy to leave the leftovers alone until I could photograph them. And he did, mostly. I mean, there are still three squares on that plate. 🙂

OreoCheesecakeSquares

Oreo Cheesecake Squares 

For the crust: 
23 Oreo cookies, crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling: 
12 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
12 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 325° and line a 8″ x 8″ baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on each end of the pan to use as a sling.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and the melted butter. Stir until the mixture is evenly combined. Spread the cookie crumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and maintain the oven temperature.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until it is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar to the cream cheese and beat until well-combined. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Beat in the egg and egg yolk until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chopped Oreo cookies. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake until the cheesecake is set around the edges but slightly jiggly in the center, about 40 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover the pan and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least three hours. (I left mine in the fridge overnight.) 

To cut the bars, use the foil as a sling and remove them from the pan. Place the bars on a cutting board and remove the foil. Use a large chef’s knife to slice the bars into equal-sized squares. Refrigerate cut bars until serving.

From Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from The Recipe Girl, originally from You Made That Dessert? by Beth Lipton

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Cheesecake, Dessert

 

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What We’re Eating: 5/1 – 5/6

Look at this! A meal plan two weeks in a row. We’re making progress, people. 😉 I’m including Saturday again since Andy’s parents will be in town, which means we’ll probably be home for dinner.

Monday 5/1 – Chickpea tomato pasta – starting the week off with Meatless Monday!
Tuesday 5/2 – Carnitas bowls, made possible by this weekend’s instant pot experiment with my friend Kelsey. She sent us some with some of the leftovers, so I’ll make some rice and saute some onions and peppers to go with the pork. (A couple thoughts on the whole instant pot experience: The flavor was incredible, but it took MUCH longer to prep than the recipe said. I bet I could have the same results with my crockpot. I’d just have to put the meat and marinade in before work, rather than after.)
Wednesday 5/3 – Roasted broccoli, squash orzotto and steak – the weather looks decent, so we’ll probably throw them on the grill.
Thursday 5/4 – Breakfast for dinner! We didn’t have the egg sandwiches last Friday, so I’m moving them to this week’s menu. I made a loaf of onion-bacon sourdough bread over the weekend, so we’ll use that for the sandwiches.  (And yes, the bread is about as wonderful as you’d imagine something with three-quarters of a pound of bacon would be.) 
Friday 5/5 – Salmon, corn and carrots.
Saturday 5/6 – Roast chicken, vegetables and bread / biscuits. This is the current front-runner for the bread, and I may try spatchcocking the chicken. I have a few days to make up my mind on that.

Have a great week, everyone!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Flamingo Fun

Last week, we celebrated a very special birthday. My awesome friend Karen turned 30, and we took it upon ourselves to surprise her with a “flamingle” get-together. We kept things fairly low-key (although we did get party hats and a giant flamingo balloon), but as we started planning the party, I knew one thing had to happen: an awesome cake.

FlamingoCake2

As you can see, we also had an inflatable flamingo because why not? 🙂

Making the cake without talking to Karen about it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my kitchen. She’s number one on my speed dial whenever I’m baking a cake, and we talk about cake designs whenever one of us is baking. But I knew that she’d get suspicious if I told her about a giant cake covered in flamingos. (Plus, Karen kept the birthday cake AND party a secret when I turned 30, so she deserved it.) 😉

I think three-layer cakes look more festive, so I made a batch and a half of the chocolate cake that I tested last April. Karen told me that she’s been really into all things cookie dough lately, so when this recipe for cookie dough frosting came through my Facebook feed, I knew that would be the perfect filling for the flamingo cake. I covered the rest of the cake with my regular go-to buttercream and decked it out with hot pink sprinkles and plastic flamingos.

Happy birthday, Karen! I’m so glad you’re part of my life!

FlamingoCake

Cookie Dough Frosting

1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (1 cup) milk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, flour and salt, and mix until well-combined.

Slowly add the milk to the mixture until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. (I am Baker suggests adding it a tablespoon at a time.) 

Add the chocolate chips to the frosting and stir until well combined. Spread between cake layers or on top of cupcakes.

From I am Baker, who adapted it from AllRecipes.com

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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What We’re Eating: 4/24 – 4/29

A few weeks ago, we cleaned all of the clutter off the front of our refrigerator. It’s amazing how big of a difference that makes in our small kitchen! The only downside is that I ditched the dry-erase board that I used to write down our weekly menu, and not having a menu board seems to be derailing my dinner plans. So, in an attempt to get organized again, I figured it was time for me to put a menu together.

Monday 4/24 – Italian Pot Pies and salad
Tuesday 4/25 – Mexican Quinoa (I was going to make this on Monday, but when I checked the pantry shelves this morning, we were all out of black beans. How does that even happen? Guess it’s time for a run to Aldi.)
Wednesday 4/26 – Pork chops and roasted beets
Thursday 4/27 – Chicken bruschetta bake (I’m making this to share with a friend who just had a baby, so I plan to make enough for us to enjoy as well.)
Friday 4/28 – Egg & Bacon Sandwiches on English Muffins
Saturday 4/29 – Carnitas! I typically don’t plan meals for the weekend, but we plan to spend Saturday evening with some friends. Kelsey and I are going to experiment with her Instant Pot, and carnitas seemed to be a good place to start. (I’m skeptical about the entire instant-pot process, so we’ll see if this changes my mind.) I still need to come up with a dessert for us to enjoy as well.

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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My Kind of Salad

I don’t know if this is a regional dish, or if they appear at holiday dinners everywhere, but I grew up with what my family calls “24-hour salad” at almost every holiday meal.

You mix canned fruit and mini marshmallows in a bowl, then sprinkle instant pudding mix over the entire thing. Stir in a container of Cool Whip, and then stick it in the fridge overnight. Bam! Holiday side complete. And since it’s a salad, you can eat it alongside your ham AND have seconds before dessert even appears. What’s not to love?

Oh, right. Things like instant pudding and Cool Whip. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy a generous serving of 24-hour salad at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But if a more “homemade” option exists, I’ll try that too. 🙂

I stumbled on this recipe last fall when Karen, Janelle and I were planning our Friendsgiving 2.0 menu. I was immediately intrigued. It looked like a cranberry version of the traditional 24-hour salad, and it used real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip. I had a stockpile of cranberries in the freezer, and I almost always have whipping cream in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the salad got scratched from the Friendsgiving menu because we had SO MUCH FOOD.

I didn’t forget about the recipe though. As I started planning our Easter menu, I knew I wanted to try the cranberry salad. And since we were having people over for dinner, I knew we wouldn’t have to eat the entire bowl ourselves.

I used my food processor to chop the cranberries and walnuts (not together though). After that, I simply mixed everything together and put it in the fridge. Right before dinner, I whipped the cream and folded it into the cranberries. It was probably the easiest part of the meal. It was one of the tastiest parts too. I definitely went back for seconds and thirds on salad.

One of the downsides to this recipe, if there is one, is that it doesn’t keep nearly as well. The whipped cream starts to separate and get soggy after a day in the fridge, so you should plan on eating it all in one sitting. Good thing it’s always OK to have more salad.

CreamyCranberrySalad

Creamy Cranberry Salad

3 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups of mini marshmallows
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups of heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cranberries, pineapple, apple, sugar, salt and marshmallows. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream and walnuts into the cranberry mixture. Serve immediately.

From Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Side Dishes

 

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Quick & Easy Shrimp Dinner!

Things have been pretty quiet around here (again). Whoops. Let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about fast, easy dinners instead.

Thanks to Zaycon, I have a stockpile of shrimp in the freezer. And since shrimp thaws and cooks quickly, it’s perfect for nights when I really don’t have much of a game plan for dinner. (Which, if I’m being honest, are happening more often than I’d like to admit lately. I need to get back on the meal-planning wagon.)  Anyway…

I found this recipe in an old issue of Everyday Food, and it met all of my criteria for the evening:

  1. Cooks in less than 30 minutes.
  2. Dirties minimal dishes.
  3. Uses everyday pantry items.

Win-win-win. Oh, and it tasted good! That should go without saying though. I’m not going to share something that doesn’t taste good. 😉

Potatoes are one of my favorite things, but I would have never thought to pair them with shrimp (or curry powder) before. The potatoes get extra crispy, which is my favorite part, and the curry adds the right amount of spice and flavor. Since I don’t own a nonstick skillet, I used my cast iron skillet with no problems, which shouldn’t surprise anyone by now.

CrispyPotato&Shrimp

Shrimp with Scallions and Crispy Potatoes

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 baking potatoes, approximately 1 pound, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons curry powder
coarse salt and pepper

In a large skillet (nonstick or cast iron), heat two tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and crispy, which should take about 12-15 minutes. Add the scallion whites to the pan and cook for one minute more. Scoop the scallion-potato mixture out of the pan and onto a plate. Set aside.

Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan, and then add the shrimp and curry powder to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about two or three minutes. Slide the potato-scallion mixture back into the skillet and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and then top with the scallion greens. Serve immediately.

From Everyday Food, November 2008

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Main Dishes, Seafood

 

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