Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Something Decadent, Yet Light

  After coming across this fabulous mascarpone cheese recipe, I have been trying every recipe I can find that uses mascarpone. My most recent find is a Blueberry Mascarpone Sherbet. This recipe is fantastic, but could be even stronger on the blueberry flavor. The next time I make this, I will cut the water and use only 1/2 cup (maybe even 1/4 cup) water to bring the blueberries to a boil.
  I served my sherbet with these delicious Brown Butter Almond Shortbread Cookies (just swap the pecans for almonds). I would have made the recipe as-is because I love pecans, except I realized I was out of them.
  You could very easily make this with raspberries and have a red sherbet for Valentine's Day and use a heart-shaped cookie cutter for your shortbread.


Friday, January 27, 2012

A Valentine's Day Dinner Idea

  If you work, as I do (even though I work from home), often times it is hard to get dinner ready by a reasonable time. With Valentine's Day on a weeknight this year, if you plan to spend the evening at home, you may be left wondering what to do about dinner. My recipe for Chicken Pot Pies is a perfect solution. The thing I love about this recipe is that you can customize it to your tastes, bake the pies in individual ramekins for more eye-appeal, and prepare them as far in advance as you'd like. 
  So, if you're planning to have these for dinner one night, but know you won't have the prep time, prepare them in advance and bake them when you want them. I like to make a lot of these, put them in foil casserole dishes, cover with plastic wrap and foil and freeze them. Just write the name of the dish, the date it went in the pan and the cooking instructions on the foil.

Chicken Pot Pies

extra virgin olive oil                                              2 Tbsp. flour
2 large chicken breasts, diced                              1 can (2 cups) chicken stock
3 carrots, peeled and sliced thick                         1 c. milk
1 celery stalk, diced small                                    4 potatoes, diced and boiled 15 minutes or until tender
1/2 onion, diced                                                  1 c. peas
3 Tbsp. butter                                                     1 recipe Cream Cheese Crust

  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  Heat a very large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and chicken; sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken until no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Add carrots, celery and onion to the pan and saute until tender (about 6-8 minutes). Transfer chicken/veggie mixture to a bowl.
  Return pan to heat and add butter; melt. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until flour mixture is bubbly and golden (1 minute). Gradually whisk in chicken stock and milk. Bring to a soft boil; cook until thick. Return chicken/veggie mixture to the pan. Add potatoes and peas; salt and pepper to taste.
  Pour mixture into a casserole dish or individual ramekins. Top with cream cheese crust. Cut slits in the crust to vent steam and brush with egg wash (1 egg & 1/2 tsp. water whisked together). Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until crust in golden brown.

  Note: To bake frozen pies, remove foil and plastic wrap and bake 15-25 minutes longer (1- 1 1/2 hours).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Love is in the air!

  Each year as Valentine's Day draws near plans for a romantic evening begin formulating in my brain. With three young children around I find it hard to spend the money to go out. By the time we pay a babysitter and the dinner check, a good portion of the month's dining budget is shot. I thought I would start sharing some ideas for a romantic evening in, just in case you're in the same position I am. Being the kind of girl I am, I thought I'd begin with dessert. 
  My sister-in-law has the most delicious recipe for Red Velvet Cake; it's moist and flavorful, everything you want your Red Velvet Cake to be. I divided her original recipe in half to have just the right amount for 6 people (my version is what follows), and increased the amount of cocoa because I like mine a little more chocolaty. This dessert is really more of an elegant cupcake than a souffle (since it has no attributes of a souffle except that I baked them in ramekins), but souffle sounds more romantic. I used 8-oz. ramekins, but you could use a cupcake pan and bake enough for a crowd.

Chocolate-filled Red Velvet Souffles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Raspberry Preserves

Chocolate Centers (adapted from a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens):
1 c. milk chocolate pieces
1/4 c. whipping cream
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour                          1/2 c. buttermilk, at room temperature
3/4 c. sugar                                             1 medium egg, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. baking soda                                 1 Tbsp. red food color
1/2 tsp. salt                                             1/2 tsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder                              1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. vegetable oil                                  raspberry preserves

   In a small saucepan combine chocolate, cream and butter. Stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. Let chocolate cool 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze 30 minutes to 1 hour, until a fudge-like consistency.
  Divide filling into 6 portions. Working quickly, use yours hands to roll each portion into a ball. Return balls to freezer.
  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 6 8-oz. ramekins (alternately: line muffin tins with cupcake liners).
   In a bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.
  In the bowl of a mixer, whisk oil, buttermilk, egg, food color, vinegar and vanilla.
  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing just until combined and a smooth batter forms.
  Divide half the batter between the ramekins. Place a previously-made chocolate center in the middle of each ramekin. Spoon the remaining batter over each ball of chocolate, dividing the batter evenly again between the 6 ramekins. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and bake 25-30 minutes (rotating pans about halfway through) or until the tops spring back when gently touched.
  Remove pan from oven. Invert cakes onto serving plates, add a scoop of ice cream and drizzle with raspberry preserves.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


  Looking for a fantastic Chili recipe? I just posted one on my THRIVE blog that can be ready in as little as 20 minutes!

National Peanut Butter Day?!

  Did you know today is National Peanut Butter Day? Or that there even is such a thing? I get daily recipe e-mails from various sites, and today there was an e-mail devoted to it. So, in honor of the holiday I'm sharing a recipe with you for Peanut Butter Fingers. This recipe was shared with me by a good friend over ten years ago and has been a favorite ever since. They disappear like magic every time I take them to any sort of event.

Peanut Butter Fingers

1 c. margarine                                                                   2 eggs
1 c. peanut butter (plus additional for spreading)                  2 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar                                                                       1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. brown sugar                                                                2 c. oats

  Cream margarine, peanut butter and both sugars. Add eggs and mix until smooth. Add flour, baking soda and oats and mix just until combined. Spread into a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes then spread a thin layer of additional peanut butter over the top. Let cool completely.
  Once bars have completely cooled, frost with chocolate fudge frosting. Cut into squares and serve, preferably with a very large glass of milk (I say very large because you're likely to eat more than one of these tasty treats!)

Note: I'm typically all about real butter in things, but there's something about using margarine in this recipe...just go with it. You'll be happy you did!

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
2 tsp. vanilla extract
milk (about 2-5 Tbsp.)

  Beat butter and confectioner's sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add cooled chocolate and vanilla; continue to beat until shiny and smooth. While beating, very slowly add milk just until frosting turns light and fluffy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I'm cooking from my Home Store

  This week I have been cooking from my Home Store. Check out my THRIVE blog for all the details. I tried a recipe for Spicy Chicken Salad yesterday that was incredible!

Biscoff Crunch Ice Cream

  It was about 20 degrees here and snowing the other day, when suddenly I got the itch to make ice cream. I came across this recipe a couple days ago for Homemade Ice Cream without a machine. I've tried recipes before that taunted me with claims of not needing a mixer, only to be disappointed with the outcome of the ice cream. This recipe however, intrigued me because of it's use of sweetened condensed milk. I've been on a Biscoff craze lately, so I decided to take her recipe for Nutella Peanut Butter Chip Ice Cream and make Biscoff Crunch Ice Cream. In place of the Nutella I used 1/2 cup Biscoff spread, and substituted 6 crushed Biscoff cookies for the peanut butter chips. I let the ice cream freeze over-night so the flavors could really develop. I have to say, I'm pleased with the outcome. The ice cream is incredibly creamy, almost to the point of having a whipped cream texture (which is essentially what this is). The odd thing about it is that it doesn't really melt in your mouth or in your bowl like ice cream does. The ice cream as a whole reminds me of Gelato, except without the melting part. I loved the flavors of the Biscoff spread and cookies coming together in an ice cream. I also love the idea of not having to use a machine. I will have to try making another batch of Biscoff Crunch Ice Cream with a different ice cream recipe and try making the machine-less ice cream recipe in another flavor.

  All-in-all, quite tasty!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A New Recipe

  I tried a new recipe last night; one for brussel sprouts. If you like brussel sprouts, or would like to try a recipe to find out if you like brussel sprouts, check out how it went. If you don't like brussel sprouts, wait for me to try something else new and read about how that goes!
  I am trying out a new recipe tonight, so I'll post about it as soon as I can.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Biscoff Double-Chocolate Chip Cookies

  During my time trying to master Liege Waffles, I got sucked into a new obsession-Biscoff Cookies and Biscoff Spread. Speculoos Spread really is my true obsession, but until it becomes available to purchase in the states, Biscoff Spread with my own addition of crushed Biscoff Cookies will have to suffice. Biscoff Cookies can be found in the cookie aisle at nearly any supermarket (I bought mine at Walmart because the price was the best). Biscoff Spread can be found in the peanut butter aisle or international aisle at select supermarkets. None of my local supermarkets carry the spread, so I will be picking it up at a "Fresh Market" store about 30 minutes from me.
  I have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies), which I also use to make White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies (my dad's favorite). I substitute the grated Hershey Bar for grated white chocolate chips, then use white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.
  With Biscoff Cookie cravings looming over me, I decided to use my chocolate chip cookie recipe to make Biscoff Double-Chocolate Chip Cookies. Check out my recipe below.
 Biscoff Double-Chocolate Chip Cookies
½ c. Unsalted Butter                          20 Biscoff Cookies, crushed very fine
½ c. Margarine                                  1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 c. Sugar                                         1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 c. Brown Sugar                               ½ tsp. Salt
2 Eggs                                              1 ¼ c. Chocolate Chips (half semi-sweet, half white)
1 tsp. Vanilla                                     20 Biscoff Cookies, coarsely chopped (to add crunch)
3 c. Flour                                         
  Cream together butters and sugars, just until blended. Blend in eggs and vanilla just until combined. Add flour, finely crushed cookies, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix just until combined. Add chocolate chips and coarsely chopped cookies and mix just until combined.-The secret to a chewy cookie is not over-creaming or over-mixing the ingredients.
  Scoop cookies onto baking sheets; bake at 375 degrees for 11 ½-12 minutes (you want to remove the cookies from the oven when they are still slightly under-cooked. Let rest on cookie sheet 1 minute before removing.  Makes approximately 44 cookies. 
  These cookies turned out heavenly. I was still a little wanting in the Biscoff flavor, so I think my next attempt will be at incorporating Biscoff spread into the cookie as well; sort of a take on peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, but with Biscoff. YUM!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Liege Waffles Round Two

  I hope you had as wonderful a holiday break as we did. We spent New Year's Eve with my family and given that we all love to cook, we had enough food to feed a small country. We all provided one or more finger foods/appetizers so that we'd have something for everyone (that, and it's just more fun to have a lot of little things to munch.) Dinner turned into a 2 hour affair, which I am certainly not complaining about (although my hips might say otherwise). We simply ate and visited and ate some more, as each item came out of the oven. Speaking of the cooking process, I have now mastered the art of figuring out how to cook 10+ dishes at varying oven temperatures.
  After my last attempt at Liege Waffles I decided it was time to try again at perfecting them; this time for a spectacular dessert I could "WOW" my family with. The recipe I used originally was quite an ordeal, so I scoured the internet for more recipes that required less of me (it's called Christmas break for a reason). I came across a recipe from Bobby Flay; given that he's a very reputable cook (and that it only required about 1 1/2 hours prep time), I decided to give it a shot. Can I note here that if by some chance you have managed to get away with not buying a kitchen scale, this recipe is worth buying one for! So go right now and buy one! Seriously, they're like $15 at Walmart! You'll be happy you did.
  I tried the waffle recipe out early in the week prior to New Year's Eve to see how they turned out. They were delicious, but still a little too heavy (I'm basing this off the texture of the incredible $10 waffle I purchased at Bruges Waffles and Frites a couple months ago). So, New Year's Eve morning as I began making the dough, I made the decision to increase the flour by half a pound (I should note here that I cut the recipe by 5 so I would have one-fifth the original-I did not need nearly 50 waffles!)
  The $10 waffle at Bruges I spoke of...it's called the "Torpedo". It is a liege waffle that is stuffed with Belgium dark chocolate. I then chose to top it with strawberries and vanilla bean ice cream (They also offer something called "Speculoos" which is a spread made from "Biscoff" cookies. Incredible!) Of course, these were the waffles I planned to "WOW" my family with.
  As I divided my dough into balls for the waffles, I split each portion in half resulting in 20 smaller balls of dough. I placed these on Silpat-lined baking sheets and covered them with cooking spray-coated plastic wrap.
  When it came time to cook the waffles, I placed one portion of dough on the waffle iron plate, stuck a square of chocolate in it (I used a Belgium chocolate I found in the candy aisle at the supermarket), then placed another portion of dough on top of the chocolate and closed the waffle iron. Once the waffle was golden brown and the sugar and melted and caramelized on the waffle, I knew it was done.
  Here's the finished product: A Belgium Chocolate-stuffed Liege Waffle topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Strawberries and crushed Biscoff Cookies (because Speculoos isn't sold in the states and I couldn't get Biscoff spread without driving 30 miles).  

 Please excuse the paper plate-we were trying our hardest to avoid standing in the kitchen washing dishes so we could spend more time socializing.

1/5 Bobby Flay's recipe ingredients:

1 lb. flour
2 eggs
scant 1/2 c. whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
vanilla bean (a whole bean never hurt any recipe)
1/4 lb. honey
.05 lb. yeast
.55 lb. unsalted butter (the equivalent of 17 Tbsp.)
1 1/4 tsp. salt
.3 lb. pearl sugar (which I purchased on Amazon in bulk)

 As a quick note; if you live near me and would like to try making this recipe on your own, but do not want to purchase a dozen boxes of pearl sugar, give me a call and I'd be happy to sell you one of my boxes. I want any interested parties to join the Liege Waffle obsession with me!