Friday, February 29, 2008

Blog Name Change

I have decided that I am going to change my blog name so that it matches its URL. I am feeling confused myself, so I am sure some of you have been confused as well! It is now known as "Artists in the Kitchen." Dexter still hangs out in the kitchen with me at times, but not so much these days...not unless I am cooking shrimp, which he is TOTALLY silly for.

Also...my apologies...I failed to complete this month's Daring Baker's challenge. :( Seriously...the recipe was 16 pages long, and was supposed to take 10 hours to complete. I only had two weekends this month in which I had that much time for baking, and I happened to be sick both of those weekends. Boo!!!! :( Check out my friends' blogs though, to see their lovely French Breads!

CB
Nikki
Nina
and many more!!! If you haven't checked it out yet, visit the Daring Baker's Blogroll to find many more bloggers who participated in this month's challenge.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More wedding pics....

After looking at all my friends' wedding photos, and voting again (you can vote every day - I would be super fantastically pleased if you'd go vote for me again today! ;)), I have been looking through more of my photos, and I feel like sharing the ones that didn't make it into the top 7. Just for fun. Bear with me...I'm still a newlywed and get a little sentimental over the best day of my life. :) ::cheese!::
I promise, no more wedding stuff after this! :)

I love this picture of Mike, getting ready.

My "something old, borrowed, and blue." My mother-in-law's antique pendant, passed down to her from her grandfather. I was going to wrap it around my bouquet, but I decided that I loved the way it looked with my dress.

I love how pretty the aisle looked with these pomanders.

Me and my girls.

I think this shot is adorable...everyone making cheesy faces at us. :)

My husband is just too freaking adorable in this picture. :)

A very cool winery shot. :)

This is the photo we sent out with all our thank you's.
You gotta have the barrel room photos!

Here come the newlyweds! Ready to party. :)

Father & Daughter Dance

My cake table looks super cool in this shot...though you can only see the very top of the "I DO" letters.

I think this is such a classic, pretty picture of the cake cutting.

My nephew thoroughly enjoyed his cake... :)

Time to boogie!

Not sure what Mike is doing here...

Oh yeah, I like to get down on the dance floor!

The coolest bouquet toss shot ever...I totally threw it over everyone's head!

This shot is one of my favorites...end of the night, so romantic. :)

Thanks for putting up with all my wedding reminiscing! :)

Meal update

So...I've been slacking on the blogging. Honestly, since my cupcakes, I haven't done much cooking. We ended up having people over, so we just BBQ'd burgers. Then, the other night, I had planned to cook, but it didn't happen. I went to the gym, took a shower, and then put on sweats, intending to cook dinner. I came upstairs, walked into the kitchen like a total mess, pj's, wet hair and all, and M's friends said "Hey, want to go out for dinner? I'll buy." Sheesh. Well, I didn't want to bother cooking, but at the same time, I really didn't feel like changing my clothes and putting myself together. But, what the hey...I can't turn down a free dinner. So, we all carted off to the Burger Lounge. I didn't have very high expectations, since I was picturing a little Hamburger Stand or a snooty bougie place, since it was in La Jolla. I was pleasantly surprised! It was pretty classy in there but still had that 50's diner kind of feel. I ordered a turkey burger, which was delicious, and Troy ordered a vegetarian burger, which was actually made of quinoa! It was really tasty. Mike ordered chicken fingers, which came on a stick. Matt had a regular burger. We all agreed that our food was delish, though Mike wished he had ordered a turkey burger too. On the counter, they had these huge cupcakes. I honestly could not stop staring at them. The girl at the counter probably thought I had a problem. I was just loving the way they were decorated...how nicely shaped they were. Wow. What has gotten into me? I'm becoming a cupcake fanatic. I resisted the urge to buy one, however, since I had just gone to the gym, and a beer and a burger was quite filling enough for me.

So, on to last night. I did cook, but I didn't take any pictures because the food came out SO ugly. It tasted great though! I made this and this. I thought the Tilapia Francaise sounded lovely, and I too made it with steamed broccoli, just like my friend Andrea did. I had a lot of fillets, so I had a really hard time making sauce in the same pan as the fish, and I ended up breaking the fillets into pieces, which was not pretty. :( But, again, it tasted great. The white pepper REALLY helped. I could take it or leave it, but Mike really liked it. The Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries were SO good. I love sweet potatoes, and with the chili powder and Parmesan cheese, they are delectable! The horseradish dipping sauce was just the icing on the cake. I am totally making these again!

I probably won't be blogging about cooking for a while...we are having family from Ohio here for the next week, so I have a feeling we'll be doing a lot of eating out. Tonight we are BBQing carne asada and pollo asado with our dear friends, Chris and Holly. Should be a blast!

Ciao!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vote for me!

Dear blog readers:
I entered my wedding photos into the Knot's contest - The First Annual Wedding Awards. It is a competition for the best wedding of 2007. I personally think that my wedding was the best wedding EVER, so of course, I had to enter! :) Please, check it out, and please, vote for me! I would SO love to win a South African safari. I would also get my photos published in the Knot magazine. I'm sure my photographer, Angie Gaylor, would be thrilled!

Here is the link to my photos. I would be SUPER excited if you'd rate me 5 stars on all counts.... ;)

*muah!*

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tagged again!

I have been tagged again! My friend, Mrs. Watermelon, is the guilty tagger this time. :)

These are the rules:1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.2. Share 5 facts about yourself3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

1. I do not like meringue.

2. I have decided to limit my cupcake baking to once a month, in order to preserve my waistline.

3. I talk to my cats a lot. Probably too much. People probably think that I am already a crazy cat lady.

4. I actually like doing my taxes. Entering information into computer programs is actually interesting for me.

5. I took 3 semesters of Italian. I can kind of understand and read the basics, but I am not good at speaking or writing, unfortunately.

I'm not going to tag anyone else, since I think everyone I know has already been tagged! :)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with White Chocolate or Rose Frosting

Cuppys with White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting

Cuppy with Rose Frosting

I have been really excited to make these cupcakes. As you might have noticed, I have a thing for vanilla beans and cupcakes lately. Since my vanilla bean frosting turned out so well, I wanted to try a vanilla bean cupcake! My friend CB shared this recipe with me. You can find it at Leite's Culinaria. I followed the recipe as-is (other than halving the frosting recipe), so I won't repost it here. I'm not a huge white chocolate fan, so I wanted to try another type of frosting as well. I've been really curious about rosewater as a flavoring lately, and I thought it might go well with a vanilla-flavored cupcake. It is definitely different, but I like the originality of it.

Rose Frosting
3 oz cream cheese
2 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
1 T milk
1 t rosewater

Here's me slicing open my vanilla bean, preparing to scrape out the seeds.


Holy crap...look how much batter is left after filling my cupcake tray! It says it makes 12 cupcakes....I ended up with 32!!!



Look how nice and poofy they got this time! :)

Getting ready to chop the chocolate.

Chocolate milk in a bowl...I was supposed to let this chill for at least 4 hours, but seriously, who has that kind of time when cupcakes are on the line? I let it chill for 2...It worked fine. I don't know if the flavor would have changed or not.


Overall, these cupcakes were delicious. I was really not that impressed by the vanilla bean flavor though, unfortunately. They really just kind of taste like white cake. They are really moist and tasty though, so I can't complain! They are good with the rose frosting - it is subtle, but definitely is the highlight of these cuppys. For the white chocolate frosting, while I didn't care for the flavor so much on it's own, when I piled it on top of the cupcake, OMG...it was heavenly! So light and fluffy and airy. I don't like the fact that the cupcakes need to be stored in the fridge because of the milk content in the frosting, but hey, I'm not going to complain. :)

The boys loved these cupcakes, so all in all, they were a success!








Friday, February 22, 2008

My first special feature!

Today I was featured on All Things Cupcake for my Vanilla Nut Martini Cupcakes! I feel like I am really moving on up in the world of blogging. :) Check out my cupcakes, as well as some of the other amazingly tasty-looking treats featured!!!


Tagged again!

A. Grace of A Southern Grace so kindly tagged me, after I "made the grave mistake" of commenting on her blog. Oh, but it was no mistake...I just wanted to get tagged again, so I would feel more popular! :)

Seeing as how I just did 5 things about me, I'm going to mix it up a bit, as a few others have done recently. You are going to find out my favorite things for today.

Favorite color: red - every car I have owned has been red, my coat is red, my purse (up until recently) was red, my umbrella is red, my coffee mug is red, and so on.
Favorite movie: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - I can watch it over and over again!
Favorite dessert: cupcakes - preferably with fresh vanilla bean
Favorite day of the week: Saturday
Favorite time of day: roughly 7 pm (on a weekday)
Favorite food: I am REALLY craving a burrito these past few days
Favorite holiday: whichever one is coming up next (that we actually get off work for)
Favorite sibling: just kidding - I don't play favorites

That's all I can think of right now...sorry...it's still early in the AM.

Have a lovely weekend, all!!!



There will be no food blogging today...last night I went out to dinner with Natalie and Marilea (happy birthday, Marilea!), and the night before that, Mike and I ordered pizza.  Stay tuned for more on another day....

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Garlic Shrimp with Lemon Parmesan Risotto

Last night I made Lemon Parmesan Risotto. Unfortunately, I was so hungry, I forgot to take a picture first. :(

Lemon Parmesan Risotto

2 T butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

5 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups arborio or other risotto rice

3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

2 T butter, extra

sea salt and cracked black pepper

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, oil and onion and cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft and golden. Place the stock in a separate saucepan. Cover and bring to a slow simmer.

Add the rice and lemon rind to the onion mixture, stirring over medium heat for 2 minutes or until the rice is translucent (I didn't see this step...I only stirred it for a minute before adding the stock).

Add the hot stock 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously until each cup of stock is absorbed and the rice is al dente (around 25-30 minutes). To serve, stir through the parmesan, extra butter, salt and pepper. (When I added the last cup of stock, I covered the pan and turned the heat down to low. Why? Because 1. I had a bad experience last time I made risotto with the rice not getting tender enough, and 2. I needed time to cook my shrimp. It took about 5 minutes to cook...perfectly tender rice!)

Serve immediately. Serves 4.

I also topped the risotto with shrimp sauteed in olive oil, butter, and garlic.

This meal was SO yummy!!! I can't wait to go eat leftovers. :)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Crack - I mean Buffalo Chicken Dip

So, I found this recipe circulating around on several blogs. It sounded a little weird, but from the ratings it was getting, I figured I had to try it. Seriously, how many dips do you hear called "Crack Dip?" I decided I'd make it for our house-warming party so I would have many guinea pigs to try it out on.

It is SO simple! Here is the recipe I used, though I totally didn't stick with the measurements closely at all. I just dumped things in the amounts that seemed right - the way I like to cook!

The last place I found this recipe was on my new friend Gillian's blog.

Ingredients:
3 cooked and shredded chicken breasts (I just used two, and microwaved them because I was already using my oven for cupcakes)
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
8 ounces cream cheese (I used the lower-fat Neufchatel cheese)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Method:
1. Mix the cooked and shredded chicken with the hot sauce in the bottom of the pan.


2. In a separate pan, melt the cream cheese and ranch dressing together. Blend in the blue cheese. Spread this mixture on top of the chicken.

3. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After baking, I let mine cool so I could transport it. Sprinkle it with the cheddar and bake an additional 10 minutes or so to warm it through.

I served this with carrot sticks and celery sticks and tortilla chips. The tortilla chips worked MUCH better. It was hard to eat hot, cooked chicken on a raw carrot stick. They did go well together though. I could NOT stop eating this stuff! All night long, people kept coming up to me and saying they loved the stuff, and asking for the recipe. So, here you have it, people! Buffalo Crack Dip. Or Crack Chicken Dip. Whatever you want to call it. :)

Apple Cinnamon Granola


I found this wonderful recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Baking Bites. I've been thinking about fresh, homemade granola for quite some time now, so when I found this recipe, I just HAD to make it! It's so easily customizable, anyone can make it, however they like!

There is quite a bit of cinnamon in this granola, so I am entering it into this month's Master Baker competition. There is nothing quite so yummy as apple cinnamon granola!

Here is the original recipe, with my changes in red.

Mix-n-Match Applesauce Granola
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground cardamom
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup plain applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (I used honey and Karo Syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used a vanilla bean, because I am obsessed with them lately)
up to 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts
up to 1 cup dried fruit

nut suggestions: almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, etc (I used pecans, slivered almonds, and pumpkin seeds)
dried fruit suggestions: cranberries, raisins, apricots, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. (I used apples, dates, and blueberries)

Preheat the oven to 325F and line a large baking sheet (or two smaller sheets) with parchment paper. (I cooked mine in a Pyrex baking dish because that's how my mom used to do it, but it took WAY too long to bake since it was so deep.)
In a large bowl, combine oats, puffed rice cereal, and spices. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, applesauce (do not use chunky applesauce), maple syrup (or honey)and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients along with chopped nuts and stir to combine. Spread on prepared baking sheet(s) in an even layer. (I wasn't paying attention and I added the dried fruit now. I think it came out fine though, because I wanted my fruit to be mixed in the granola clusters.)

Bake for 30 minutes, then turn over the granola carefully using a large wide spatula, and bake for additional 15 minutes, until crisp and golden. Depending on the size of your baking sheet, the center might not be fully dried if your granola layer is thick, so if necessary remove the edges of the cooked granola to a cooling rack and let the rest cook for another 10-15 minutes until done.
Cool on pan or on a wire rack.
Break granola up as desired and stir in dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 8 servings, more depending on add-ins.


This granola is so yummy! I ate it plain, out of the pan, and in milk. It would also be delish with yogurt!

Tag...I'm it!

My dahling friend CB, of I Heart Cuppycakes, has tagged me!

These are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

5 Things About Me That You REALLY Wanted to Know (Or Didn't Want to Know at All)

1. I was homeschooled. Kicking and screaming the whole time, but my parents tied me down and kept me there. I believe I got a good education...but I sure did miss having a normal social life.

2. I'm not really a huge fan of chocolate, but I LOVE vanilla. Especially vanilla bean vanilla.

3. I live about 5 blocks away from the beach, and I still haven't been down there yet. (I've only lived here for 2 months though...and it's winter...and I don't surf. I swear I will walk down there in the next couple weeks at the most!)

4. I love to cook, but I really don't like cleaning up dishes. I usually do it anyway though, because cooking in a kitchen full of dirty dishes does NOT work for me.

5. The older I get, the more interested in politics I get. I didn't vote until I was probably 22 years old. I'm VERY interested this year.

Who’s ready to play next…?


I tag:
(sorry if I double-tag anyone...)

Alanna from Two Fat Als
Nina from Love-Sweet-Love
Dawn from My Life in a Nutshell
Beth from The Hagie Life
Nikki from Crazy Delicious

Cupcake Hero: Vanilla Nut Martini Cupcakes


This month's Cupcake Hero challenge was to make cupcakes that included liquor in the cupcakes and/or the frosting. The wheels in my head started quickly turning, and I decided to use the flavors from my favorite martini of all time - the Vanilla Nut Martini. The martini is made with Frangelico and vanilla vodka. Frangelico is such a delicacy...I love the sweet hazelnut flavor. It's an expensive bottle, but OH so worth the money. I adapted a recipe for Amaretto Dream Cupcakes, replacing the Amaretto with Frangelico, and omitting the slivered almonds. I also used the frosting recipe, but omitted the Amaretto, and used 1 t vanilla extract, and a vanilla bean. Every day I kept thinking about how I wanted to do these cupcakes. I decided that the vanilla bean would add a more distinctive vanilla flavor than just plain vanilla. I also wanted to keep my hazelnut and vanilla flavors separate by making the cupcake one flavor, and the frosting the other, rather than combining them.

OH. MY. GOSH.

You would not believe how heavenly these cupcakes are. I was licking the bowl like crazy. It was seriously the yummiest batter I have ever tasted!!!! The cupcakes baked nicely, although my oven is whack. (We got new knobs that don't seem to align properly, and the temperature is never right. It took me an hour to bake my last cupcakes, so I set the temp for 100 degrees hotter this time. They still took 10 extra minutes to bake this time, but whatevs.)


The frosting turned out very nice. I had to use 5 T whipping cream, because I didn't take into account the liquid I was missing from the Amaretto.

I served these cupcakes at our housewarming party, and people were seriously freaking out about how good the cupcakes were. The cupcakes themselves were perfectly moist and soft. The flavor of the Frangelico had baked out a little more than I had hoped, so in the future, I might add just a little bit more. They had a really nice, mellow flavor though. I think it was everyone's opinion that the frosting TOTALLY made the cupcakes. It was SO good. The natural vanilla flavor was so good! I heard someone say it almost tasted like Breyer's vanilla ice cream.

I cannot wait to make these again...they were AWESOME!!!! Everyone at the party asked for the recipe. So, with no more ado...here is the recipe after I made my modifications to it.

Vanilla Nut Martini Cupcakes

Cupcakes:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Frangelico


Icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
5 T whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
vanilla bean

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add 1/3 of the flour and all of the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour and all of the Frangelico, beating well after each addition. Add remaining flour; mix until smooth.

Line regular or mini muffin cups with baking papers. Fill each 2/3 full. Bake at 375ºF for 14-16 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

For frosting, beat powdered sugar and butter in a small mixing bowl. Scrape out vanilla beans and stir in into sugar mixture until they're evenly distributed. Add whipping cream and vanilla, beat until smooth. Add remaining cream if needed to reach spreading consistency. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

Yield: 24 regular or 48 mini cupcakes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna

(photo from Jesse - mine looked very similar, so since I am sans-camera, I'll show you her pic!)

Last night I made lasagna. I was SO hungry. I didn't feel like cooking, but I had the ingredients in the fridge that needed cooking, and really, I was starving. Unfortunately, the process of cooking and then baking probably took an hour and a half or more, but it's all good. I found this idea on Jesse's blog, "We All Go Poopie" (that name cracks me up) and decided to figure out how to make it myself. She doesn't actually have a recipe on her blog, just a run-through of her ingredients, so I'll try to share my process with you. :)

Lasagna:
lasagna noodles
shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
mascarpone cheese (ricotta will also work well)
shiitake mushrooms (any kind will probably work)
fresh sage
2 bags fresh spinach
1/2 onion
salt & pepper to taste

Bechamel sauce:
1 1/2 T butter
2 T flour
1 C milk
1/2 t salt
1/8 t nutmeg

First, I made a VERY tasty Bechamel sauce. (I didn't know what that was, so I had to look up a recipe.) I melted 1 1/2 T butter in a saucepan, and added a couple tablespoons of flour. I cooked it until it turned golden brown, then added 1 C heavy cream. (The recipe called for milk, but I didn't have any. I think the heavy cream made it even more decadent!) I let it boil, then cooked it for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. I removed it from the heat, and added 1/2 t salt and 1/8 t nutmeg. Then I let it sit until I was ready for it.
Next, I sauteed shiitake mushrooms and fresh sage (from my garden!) in butter. In a separate pan, I sauteed chopped onions in olive oil, and then added two bags of fresh spinach leaves. After they wilted, I added salt & pepper.

Now for the fun part. I spread a little of the Bechamel sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan, then layered no-bake lasagna noodles on top. I spread a bit more Bechamel on top of the noodles, and then spread a third of the spinach on top. This was followed by half of the mushrooms. Then I scattered dollops of mascarpone cheese on top, followed by mozzarella and Parmesan. I put more lasagna noodles on top, and repeated the previous steps. The top layer was just spinach, mozzarella, and Parmesan.

I covered the lasagna with foil, and baked at 375 for 55 minutes. I took the foil off and baked for 5 more minutes, til the cheese was golden.

Yum!

I think it would have been better with chicken, but Mike thought it was pretty good as-is. I like the ease of the no-bake noodles, but I think next time I'll stick with the regular kind.

I made cupcakes! Hot Chocolate & Bailey's

Last night I had a craving. A craving for sweets. And since I've had nothing on the brain other than cupcakes lately, naturally I looked for a cupcake recipe. I was hoping to find something to use up my leftover mascarpone, and possibly some of the little bits of liquor left in the cabinet. I settled on Kahlua cupcakes from How to Eat a Cupcake. I knew I was VERY low on Kahlua, so I decided to use Bailey's instead. The batter was so perfect - thick but light. I think it was the most perfect batter I've ever made. The Bailey's flavor sure was strong though! I went ahead and put it in the cupcake cups. Unfortunately, I filled them way too full, and instead of baking in 25 minutes, it took closer to an hour to bake them all the way through!!! I had intended to frost them with Tiramisu Cream, but by the time the cupcakes were done, it was almost 11:00 pm, and I didn't want to disturb the neighbors with my mixer. I just stirred together some Cool Whip and the leftover mascarpone and smeared it all over my warm cupcake. Mmm...heavenly. Just like hot chocolate with Bailey's with whipped cream on top. :) The Bailey's flavor was still really strong after baking. I like it, but I think I might tone it down if I tried it again. And of course, I wouldn't fill my cupcake liners so full! :)

No pictures, sorry...roomie still has the camera and won't be back til later today. :(

Kahlúa Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup Kahlúa
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Insert 24 liners into a medium cupcake pan.
2. In a large bowl cream together the butter, cocoa, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and creamy, 3-5 minutes. Add egg yolks and beat for 4 minutes.
3. In a small bowl mix water and Kahlúa.
4. In another large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternating with the Kahlua mixture. Mix on medium speed until ingredients are completely combined.
6. With clean beaters and a large bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until they form soft peaks. With a rubber spatula, fold the meringue into the batter.
7. Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in the pan.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ravioli in Balsamic Brown Butter

Well, I didn't get much cooking done this weekend, seeing as how I was stuck in bed for most of it. Quite a pity, since here in San Diego, we had summer weather, and the rest of the population was at the beach catching rays. What a waste of a weekend. :( My throat was too sore to eat much of anything, and even if I had been able to eat, I wasn't capable of standing long enough to cook. So, I didn't do much cooking until last night, when I figured I was well enough to cook some ravioli, which was also soft enough for me to eat. The other problem is that my roommate borrowed my camera for the next three days, so I can't post any new pics on my blog. But, you can look at my friend Andrea's pictures, who's recipe I borrowed, since mine looked pretty much the same anyway! (Andrea's photo)
I made Ravioli in Balsamic Brown Butter, and like Andrea suggested, I used half butter and half olive oil. It looks delicious, but I wasn't really all that impressed. Mike and his friend thought it was great though. I just felt like it was missing something. I suppose if I had served it with a salad like I had intended to, it would have balanced the meal out a bit better. Anyway, tasty recipe, but not one I'm likely to make again. Next time I make ravioli, I'll just serve it with my homemade marinara sauce.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wasabi Salmon and Crabby Potatoes


I've realized that this is really the only way Mike will eat salmon anymore. Everytime he hears I'm making it, he gets whiny and says he wants it with wasabi and soy. So, I've gotten pretty good at it. Here's what I do...


Heat sesame oil in a skillet. Put the salmon fillets in the skillet and pour a bit of soy sauce over the top. Top each fillet with as much wasabi as you can handle. ;) Then, sprinkle sesame seeds over the top. I cooked these until they were cooked about halfway through, then put them under the broiler to cook the top. I served them with a bit of soy sauce drizzled over the top.


For the potatoes, make mashed potatoes as usual, and add imitation crab and wasabi. Mike bought a different brand of imitation crab this time, and though he usually LOVES the stuff, he didn't care for it this time. I thought it was totally bland, and couldn't taste it in the potatoes at all. Dexter and Chloe loved the crabby pieces though. :)

I served the salmon and potatoes with our favorite, edamame sprinkled with sea salt. Yum!

**On a sad note: While I was eating, my lips were stinging really bad. I'm starting to think that soy sauce and/or salt is causing my strange lip reaction (swelling and cracking). This is very sad to me, because I LOVE soy sauce and I always like my food salty! This would be a devastating blow if this is the case!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Menu 2/7-2/18

Yes, you read that right. I am going to attempt to shop for an entire week and a half. We'll see how that goes!

I am going grocery shopping tonight, so I want to cook simply. I also have to cook the salmon that I intended to cook last night, since it's ready to eat NOW.

Thursday: Wasabi Salmon with Crabby Potatoes and Edamame (no recipe...I make this up as I go along.)
Friday: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas with salad on the side (and Cilantro Pepita Caesar dressing!)
Saturday: I'll be wine-tasting all day, so I need something easy. In fact, I MAY not cook that night, so I need something super easy or something that isn't too perishable to save for next week. Ravioli in Balsamic Brown Butter with a salad
Sunday: Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken
Monday: Gym night...need a lighter meal: Tilapia Francaise with steamed broccoli and Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries with Horseradish Sauce
Tuesday: Veggie Lasagna with French bread (I'll try to healthy it up a LITTLE bit)
Wednesday: Gym night again...need another lighter meal: Pan-Seared Scallops on Linguine with Tomato-Cream Sauce with French bread
Thursday: Valentine's Day - going out for dinner!
Friday: Garlic Cheddar Chicken with baked or mashed potatoes and peas
Saturday: Having a party...we will be BBQing burgers, sausages, Boca burgers, and I will serve finger foods and I think I'm going to make Buffalo Chicken Dip to serve with carrots and celery
Sunday: Cheesy Baked Mushroom Tortellini with salad and bread
Monday: Gym night again, need a lighter meal! Lemon Parmesan Risotto with Shrimp served with a side salad

Also this week, I am planning to make cupcakes (recipe is mine for now!) and Mix-and-Match Applesauce Granola. I am going to try making the granola with a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract and see how that turns out.


Now, the challenge is that I need to keep my grocery trip within a budget. So, if I notice things getting a little too pricey, I have to slow down. I color-coded my shopping list by meal, so I know which ingredient goes to which meal. That way, I can skip the items that are for the meals I plan to make at the end of my list. I'll give you an update tomorrow on how I do!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Vanilla Beans are here!!!

Thanks to my friends, I have discovered that there is a wealth of affordable vanilla beans on ebay!!! I made my first purchase two days ago, and my beans arrived today!!!!!!! Only $6.94 for 11 beans - including the cost of shipping! I am SO excited to get started on my baking with vanilla beans. Cupcake Hero, here I come...

cupcake anxiety

I'm getting anxious. Still no word from Mr. Cuppycakes...

Chicken & Asparagus in White Wine Sauce with Twice-Baked Parmesan Potatoes


Last night's dinner was simple, yet very tasty! I made Chicken and Asparagus in White Wine Sauce from the Cooking Light 2008 cookbook. It was so simple, I was afraid it wouldn't have that much flavor, but I actually LOVED the mild, buttery flavor of the chicken.

Chicken and Asparagus in White Wine Sauce

Ingredients

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used two and just sliced them in half horizontally to make four thin breast slices)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preparation

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. (I skipped this step since I had cut the breasts in half, making them 1/4-inch thick already.) Sprinkle chicken breasts evenly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add wine, broth, and garlic to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook 2 minutes. Add asparagus; cover and cook 3 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and juice. Serve asparagus and sauce with chicken.

Yield

4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half, about 5 asparagus spears, and about 2 tablespoons sauce)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 289(25% from fat); FAT 8g (sat 4.2g,mono 2g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 43g; CHOLESTEROL 114mg; CALCIUM 59mg; SODIUM 648mg; FIBER 2.8g; IRON 4.3mg; CARBOHYDRATE 10.5g
Barbara Seelig-Brown , Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2007 Stress Free Cooking


Twice-Baked Parmesan Potatoes

My menu originally said to buy pre-made mashed potatoes and just flavor them, but that sounded like cheating to me, so I planned to make my own mashed potatoes. Once I realized how simple the chicken was, I decided to church up my potatoes a bit. I baked them at 400 degrees for an hour. I let them cool a bit, then cut a slot out of the top and hollowed them out, making little potato canoes.

The inside of the potatoes were SO soft and perfect - I can't believe I haven't baked potatoes in SO long! I mashed them with butter, Parmesan cheese, fresh chives, salt & pepper, and buttermilk, since it was the only dairy product I had available for moisture. Once the mashed potato mixture was ready, I refilled the potato canoes with the mashed potatoes, and topped them with a bit of Parmesan cheese. I put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the cheese was melted and golden. Voila - I had perfect twice-baked potatoes!

This meal was SO easy and SO yummy. I'm definitely making it again!!!

Dexter really liked the chicken, too.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Really, tofu.

Show me your best tofu recipes! We have a ton of firm tofu in the fridge, and I have NO idea what to do with it.

Night off from cooking

I was very fortunate last night. We were invited over to Troy's girl's house for dinner. She had bought us some Tortilla Soup from her favorite store, Ranch Market. OMG, it was SO good! It was thick and satisfying and spicy. I loved it! She also baked us some fresh brownies from scratch. This girl rocks...she's a painter and she can cook! I found myself a new friend to bake with. Woohoo! :) Tonight though, I'm back to cooking dinner at home. I'm making Chicken & Asparagus in White Wine Sauce. Which reminds me, I think I need to stop at the store and buy some more white wine. It just doesn't last long in my house! I'm serving it with mashed potatoes on the side. I suppose I should come up with something for Troy to eat instead of chicken...Hm. Tofu, anyone?

How do you cook tofu?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Beef & Beer Chili with Quesadillas and Salad

Yet another recipe from my Cooking Light 2008 cookbook! I opted to cook this chili in the crockpot while we were out watching the Superbowl, rather than cooking it on the stove for 15 minutes. Seriously, can flavors REALLY mingle in 15 minutes? I think not. Anyhow, the house smelled SO good when we got home after the game! I cooked mine without the meat so that our veggie roommate could have a bowl. I took out a bowl's worth for him, and then added seasoned meat and let it cook for another hour or so. This chili was EXCELLENT!!! And the quesadillas rocked, but I'm pretty partial to quesadillas. I never met one I didn't like!

Here's me about to partake in a delightfully tasty meal.
And here's Mike...completely satisfied after finishing his bowl of chili.


Beef & Beer Chili

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups chopped red onion (about 1 medium)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1 small) (I left this out because we don't really like bell pepper)
8 ounces extralean ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (19-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer (such as Budweiser) (I used Stone Levitation Ale...a local IPA)
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (I forgot this at the end...I'm sure it would have been excellent though)

Preparation

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. (I just put all the ingredients directly into the crockpot and skipped all this next stuff.) Cook 5 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in chili powder, cumin, sugar, and salt; cook 1 minute. Add oregano and next 4 ingredients (through beer) to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in cornmeal; cook 5 minutes. Stir in juice. My chili was still pretty runny, so I mixed some cornstarch in a cup with the chili broth and then added it to the pot. It thickened instantly. We like it hot, so I added some cayenne, several shots of Tampico hot sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, and more salt and pepper.

Yield

4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 261(20% from fat); FAT 5.7g (sat 2.1g,mono 2g,poly 0.2g); PROTEIN 18.3g; CHOLESTEROL 30mg; CALCIUM 74mg; SODIUM 799mg; FIBER 8.3g; IRON 3.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 30.3g

Jackie Mills, M.S., R.D. , Cooking Light, SEPTEMBER 2007



Quesadillas

I sprayed each tortilla with cooking spray, and set them sprayed side down on a baking sheet. I topped half of each tortilla with Monterey Jack cheese, chopped roasted red peppers, and cilantro. I folded each one in half, and put them in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes. Yum!

Troy made us a salad, and we topped it with Cilantro Caesar dressing.

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells w/Garlic Roasted Green Beans



Here is one recipe that the boys at my house totally drooled over. I think that this got the highest rating of the week! The best part was that I made my own sauce, so we have plenty more for another meal this week!!!

Spinach and Ricotta-Stuffed Shells
recipe from Cooking Light (2008 Cookbook) - photos from my kitchen

Ingredients

2 cups Basic Marinara, divided
Cooking spray
2 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 large egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced
24 cooked jumbo pasta shells

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spread 1/2 cup Basic Marinara over bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine ricotta and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a large bowl, stirring well. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons filling into each pasta shell. Arrange stuffed shells in prepared dish; spread with remaining 1 1/2 cups Basic Marinara. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I topped mine with mozzarella and Parmesan and popped it in the oven for 5 more minutes to make it look tastier. I gotta have my cheese!!!

Yield

6 servings (serving size: 4 stuffed shells and about 1/3 cup sauce)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 329(27% from fat); FAT 9.8g (sat 4.8g,mono 3g,poly 1g); PROTEIN 19.6g; CHOLESTEROL 67mg; CALCIUM 377mg; SODIUM 552mg; FIBER 4.2g; IRON 2.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 39.4g

Bruce Weinstein , Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2007



Basic Marinara


Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onion (about 3 medium)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 (28-ounce) cans no-salt-added crushed tomatoes

Preparation

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and next 7 ingredients (through fennel seeds); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

After simmering for an hour or so, I taste-tested the sauce, and found it needed more seasoning. I added fresh basil, onion powder, garlic powder, more balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. I also added some bean stock (I found this tip on Culinate. The bean stock is supposed to add a heartier, meatier flavor, as well as thickening up the sauce.)

To store in the freezer: Ladle room-temperature or chilled sauce into plastic containers or zip-top plastic bags. Seal and freeze for up to four months. Consider freezing the sauce in one-cup increments (two servings' worth). That way, you can pull out exactly as much as you want for future meals.

To thaw sauce: Try one of three methods.

1. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Place frozen blocks in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a low simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

3. Place frozen blocks in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave at HIGH one minute at a time, stirring after each increment until thawed.

To boost taste: Long stints in the freezer can dull the taste of tomatoes. To perk up thawed sauce, add one-half teaspoon finely grated lemon rind or one teaspoon balsamic vinegar while reheating.

Yield

About 12 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 50(32% from fat); FAT 1.8g (sat 0.2g,mono 1.3g,poly 0.2g); PROTEIN 1.3g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 28mg; SODIUM 270mg; FIBER 2.1g; IRON 0.5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 8g

Bruce Weinstein , Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2007


Green Beans

Place trimmed green beans on a baking sheet with a chopped shallot. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Add 5 thinly sliced garlic cloves; toss. Bake at 400 for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and drizzle with lemon juice.

Superbowl Cupcakes


Well, I'm a little embarrassed to post my cupcakes after seeing the incredibly cute ones CB made, but since I have pictures, I suppose I might as well go for it.

I finally decided to install Picasa on my computer at work so I can resize pictures. Thus, I will be able to BU from work!

I used the recipe from Hungry Girl for Red Velvet Insanity Cupcakes. I liked them because of the beautiful red color! I felt like I was cheating a bit, since I was using box mixes, but I only used a cup of each, and then used my own ingredients. Still, not my favorite way to do things. I used regular sugar rather than Splenda, because I HATE the taste of fake sugar. The frosting was delicious!!! And the cupcakes were SO moist, and very chocolatey and red. I was a little disappointed because the minute I took them out of the oven, the nice smooth tops settled a bit and got wrinkly. :( Fortunately, the frosting covered that up, but I was still kind of sad.

I think they looked pretty cute...superbowl colors (I liked the powder blue...I still had to represent my Chargers!) They were VERY popular at the party. I was watching...several people at 3 of them! Mike said they were MUCH better than the blue velvet cupcakes I made 2 weeks ago.



HG's Red Velvet Insanity Cupcakes

Red HOT!

These cupcakes are so moist, so delicious, so RED, and so completely guilt-free, that writing extra words to introduce this recipe would be a complete and total waste of everyone's time. So here ya go... HG's Red Velvet Insanity Cupcakes!

Ingredients:

For Frosting
6 tbsp. Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme
6 tbsp. Cool Whip Free, thawed
1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated) (I used regular sugar)
(I added blue food coloring)

For Cupcakes
1 cup Pillsbury Moist Supreme Reduced Sugar Cake Mix, Devil's Food**
1 cup Pillsbury Moist Supreme Reduced Sugar Cake Mix, Classic Yellow**
Two 25-calorie diet hot cocoa mix packets
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters) (I used 2 eggs)
1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (I overdid the chips...more chocolate!)
1/2 oz. red food coloring
1 tsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated) (I used regular sugar)
1/8 tsp. salt

Directions:
Place half of your chocolate chips (2 tbsp.) and the contents of both cocoa packets in a tall glass. Add 12 ounces of boiling water, and stir until chips and cocoa mix have dissolved. Place glass in the freezer until mixture is cold (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together marshmallow creme, cream cheese, and 1 tbsp. Splenda until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Place bowl in the fridge to chill until cupcakes are ready to be frosted. Once the cocoa in the freezer has chilled, give it a stir, and pour it into a large mixing bowl. Add the cake mixes, egg substitute, remaining chocolate chips, red food coloring, 1 tsp. Splenda, and salt. Using a whisk or fork, mix batter for about 2 minutes (until smooth and blended). Batter will be thin, but don't worry, your cupcakes will puff up once baked! Line a 12-cup muffin pan with baking cups, and spray lightly with nonstick spray (or simply spray the pan with nonstick spray). Evenly spoon batter into the pan. Place pan in the oven, and bake for 15 - 20 minutes. Cupcakes will look shiny when done. Once cupcakes have cooled completely, evenly spread the frosting over them. Enjoy! MAKES 12 SERVINGS


Serving Size: 1 frosted cupcake
Calories: 134
Fat: 3g
Sodium: 266mg
Carbs: 25g
Fiber: 0.75g
Sugars: 11g
Protein: 3g

POINTS® value 3*

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

My friend Beth asked me if I had made these yet. I forgot that I hadn't posted about them! I actually did take a picture, but I accidentally deleted it off of my camera. :( But, I'll tell you about them anyhow!

I used 1 lb ground turkey, and mixed it with buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot). I just poured it in until the meat was a nice bright orange color, but not too soft and squishy. Maybe 1/4-1/3 C? Then I added a bit of blue cheese crumbles to the meat mixture. I didn't over do it, since I didn't want the burgers to fall apart. I also added some bread crumbs to help the mix stick together. I salted and peppered it, then shaped it into patties. Mike grilled them, and then we served them with Ranch dressing (bleu cheese would probably be even better), more bleu cheese crumbles, and lettuce. Mike and I both loved them, and he doesn't even like turkey burgers! I'll definitely be making these again. And hopefully, I'll keep the picture next time! :)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Note to self: Must try Chicken Nachos

My friend April RAVES about these Chicken Nachos, so naturally, I must try them. I'm saving the recipe for future use....

Nachos craving!


So, if I had to eat three foods for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t gain weight or be unhealthy, they would be: french fries, pizza, and nachos. I can’t even tell you how much I am craving nachos this week!! Tonight in honor of the UK football game, I am going to make chicken nachos. I have never made them before but I can’t wait to get home and do it! I’ll update with the recipe and pictures this evening… : )

Update: I have now made the nachos…and YUM!!!!!! These are so good. I know that there are probably countless ways to make chicken nachos. I followed a recipe on allrecipes.com and added a few things to it. We are loving these! Definitely not an every week thing but a good treat for a middle of the week football game!

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 green onions, sliced, white parts and tops separated
3 tablespoons canola oil (I used olive oil)
1 shredded, cooked, whole chicken breast
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup salsa
1/2 (12 ounce) package tortilla chips
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese blend
1/2 large tomato, diced

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a 12 inch skillet over medium heat, cook and stir the garlic and white parts of the green onions in canola oil until tender. Mix in shredded chicken, salt and pepper. Toss until well coated with oil. Stir in the salsa.
Arrange tortilla chips on a large baking sheet. Spoon the chicken mixture over tortilla chips. Top with Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese blend and tomato. Bake in the preheated oven 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Remove from heat and sprinkle with green onion tops before serving.

Notes: I heated the chips for 5 minutes before cooking the nachos to avoid sogginess. We also added jalapenos, fat free sour cream, and I added about a teaspoon of taco seasoning to the chicken mixture. Mmmm…