Monday, June 27, 2011

Easy Frozen Mocha Pie

I don’t often make desserts. Mostly because my husband isn’t a “dessert person” (I am) and won’t eat more than a little (I will) and well… you can see where this is going (mostly to the butt/hip/thigh region). So when someone has a party and I have the opportunity to bring something, I try to break out one of the hundred thousand dessert recipes that I have saved. Such was the case when I stopped by a house-warming. However, since I didn’t have a whole lot of time, I chose a ridiculously easy recipe that i found on a blog called Espresso and Cream. Seriously, you can make this with one hand tied behind your back (although that may get a bit messy). And it tastes pretty good. At least the empty pie tin at the end of the night seemed to think so.

1 pre-packaged graham cracker crust
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 pint coffee-flavored ice cream, softened
1/2 cup chocolate chips

So I ended up getting the chocolate graham cracker crust, which didn’t come in the biggest size (leaving me with some extra filling), but I think that the chocolate worked really well so I’d recommend that. When you get home from the grocery store, put the ice cream in the fridge (not freezer) and the cream cheese on the counter. When the cream cheese is soft enough, the ice cream will be as well. First you want to beat the cream cheese alone until it’s smooth (no chunks in the pie). Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and beat, then mix in the ice cream until everything is well combined. Then pour it into the crust and freeze for a few hours. If you want, you can melt chocolate chips and drizzle on top, or I just chopped up some chips and sprinkled them on top. For an extra coffee burst you could also chop up some chocolate covered espresso beans. See—so easy and tasty too. It makes a perfect summer dessert to take to a party, or when you have people over. Just don’t leave yourself alone with it too long (I warned you). 

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Spicy Noodles

I think I'm getting pretty good at picking out awesome spicy asian recipes if I do say so myself. I found this particular recipe when searching for sriracha. I never would have guessed when I was 13 years old that I would like this type of dish. But, I'm glad my tastebuds have evolved over time. This recipe packs plenty of spice thanks to the 2 tablespoons of sriracha. Obviously, if you don't like spice as much I would cut it back to about 1 tbsp. But, I really think you should try to be tough and handle it. It's that good. It sort of reminded me of this asian peanut recipe I posted a couple of months ago. But, it doesn't have any veggies other than the green onions (I used scallions from my garden). Also, there's no chicken in it either. I highly recommend this if you like spice and peanuts. Plus it is super easy to make! Delicious! Enjoy!

12-16 oz long, flat pasta, cooked (I just used spaghetti noodles)
4 green onions, chopped (I used scallions from my garden)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter (I used reduced-fat crunchy peanut butter)
2 tablespoons chili sauce (I used sriracha)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil (I just used olive oil)
2 tablespoons broth or water
1 tablespoon honey
Big handful cilantro, chopped
Handful roasted peanuts
Palmful sesame seeds
Also I used some basil, chopped

Take all of the ingredients minus the spaghetti, peanuts, and the sesame seeds and combine in small bowl. I put my bowl in the fridge for an hour. But, you don't have to do that.
If you want toast the sesame seeds and peanuts in a pan for about 5 minutes. Prepare your noodles. Once the noodles have been cooked and drained; pour into your bowl. Pour the sauce on top of the noodles and toss. Add the peanuts and the sesame seeds and toss. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sriracha Grilled Chicken Breasts

A couple months ago I discovered how good sriracha is. I mean I've known about this product for a couple years. Afterall if you've been to Kuba Kuba in the fan you'll see a bottle on every one of those tables. Since I'm not a very adventurous eater I never wanted to try it. I now admit that I've been missing out. It's really spicy and really flavorful. Since I have this bottle sitting in my fridge I decided to look for recipes that incorporate this hot chili sauce. Basically, I entered siracha in tastespottings search engine, and it came back with zero results. I thought to myself, well, that's weird. There has to be bloggers who use this ingredient. So, I went to hand-dandy google, and it ends up I mis-spelled it. It's sriracha. Aha! Spelling the ingredient right is key when searching on tastespotting's site. Doh! Anyway, I came across this recipe. But, it's different than how I made it. First of all it's a chicken wing recipe and they bake it. Well, I'm not a fan of boned-in wings. And, I didn't want to bake my chicken. So, I used the core of the recipe for chicken breasts, and I grilled it instead. I must say it is a very good recipe! Even more importantly, it's super easy to make. I will definitely be using this recipe again! Enjoy!

1/4 c honey
1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
1.5 tsp sesame seed oil
1.5 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp garlic powder or 2 large cloves, minced
3 tbsp sriracha sauce
1. 5 tsp salt
2-3 lbs of chicken wings

Basically, combine all of the ingredients thru the salt into a bowl. Stir. If you shall desire salt your chicken, and put in a zip-lock bag. Pour the sauce into the ziplock bag, and marinade for at the least 30 minutes. The longer it marinades the more flavor it will pack. I let mine marinade for about an hour. I bet if I had let it sit longer it would have been even better. At this point, I got my grill ready. Once the temperature reached about 400 degrees I put my chicken on, and grilled for about 10 minutes till the chicken was cooked.

Now, if you want to do it the way the blogger intended; you'd set your oven to 450 degrees. Take a cooling rack and place on a baking sheet. Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray. Place the chicken on the rack, sprinkle with more salt if desired. And, bake for 25-30 minutes.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Iron Chef Strawberry: Strawberry Bellini

Since I hosted this particular Iron Chef I didn't want to choose something that might give me the chance to win. Sure, I would like to keep my own gifts, but what's the fun in that. I picked a drink, because the poor drink has yet to win. Strawberries provide a lot of recipes for drinks. However, I remember watching an episode of Barefoot Contessa and she talked about easy cocktails for parties. One of her favorite cocktails is a Bellini. A "strawberry" bellini wasn't one of her picks, but I thought it would work fabulously with champagne. And, boy, was I right. I "practiced" this drink on multiple occasions.;) Obviously, I enjoyed it very much, and I know you will too!!

1 bottle of your favorite champagne
1 cup Simple Syrup (or less if you don't like it sweet)
1 small bag of frozen Strawberries

Take out your blender, and add the frozen strawberries. Then, add the simple syrup. Remember, simple syrup is just equal parts water to sugar and boiled till the sugar is dissolved. So, in this case 1 cup water to 1 cup sugar, dissolved.
Next, add about a half cup of the champagne to the blender. Puree for about 30 seconds until the mixture is well blended. Take out your champagne glasses, and pour the puree to about 1/2 the way.  Then, add champagne to the remaining half. Stir. It really is a pretty drink, and very simple to make. Enjoy!!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Iron Chef Strawberry: Chicken Thighs with Devil's Sauce

For these Iron Chef competitions, I usually like to pick one of the harder courses for the secret ingredient. Well, for a long time while I was searching for a recipe, I thought I outdid myself on this one. Savory strawberry dishes are pretty hard to find. So I asked my brother (who I’ve mentioned before is a great chef) what he thought. He told me about a sauce called Devil’s Sauce, which he makes with raspberries and serves over steak. He thought I could make a similar sauce with strawberries.

Well… as sometimes (ok, often) happens, I started to mess with the recipe. First, I decided to use chicken instead of steak, since we have a non-beef eater in the Iron Chef group. Then, I realized I didn’t have malt vinegar, and didn’t feel like running to the store. So I used balsamic, which actually pairs really nicely with strawberries. Finally, as I was measuring out the ingredients, the ratios just didn’t seem right to me. So I improvised. I’m sure that my brother’s Devil’s Sauce is amazing, and my version is like a redheaded stepsister to that sauce. But all in all, it turned out pretty good. So good that I used my leftover sauce a few nights later and made it for my husband. It didn’t taste a thing like strawberries, but outside of the Iron Chef competition that really doesn’t matter.

Strawberry Puree
Strawberries (about 20, give or take)
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp water

Devil’s Sauce
1 ½ cups strawberry puree
½ 15oz can Hunt’s tomato sauce
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 Tbsp Worcestershire
Sriracha (to taste)

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs

First cut the green tops off your strawberries and quarter them. Throw your strawberries in a saucepan with the water on medium heat. After the water gets hot and is tinged pink with strawberry juice, sprinkle the sugar over the top and lower the heat. This isn’t to make the mixture sweet, just to cut the tartness. Stir often until there is a significant amount of juice and the strawberries are soft. Remove from heat and pour into a blender, or immersion blend. Make sure your top is on the blender; you don’t want hot strawberry juice flying around your kitchen. Blend to a pulp and then strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth (sieve is better) into a bowl. Don’t skip this step—you don’t want seeds in your sauce.

Clean out your saucepan and use it again for the next step. Or heck, if you want to wreck your kitchen use a whole new pan. Mix all the ingredients over low heat for about 15 minutes. I used about two teaspoons of sriracha and I personally could have used a little more, but since I was serving a crowd I made it a little less spicy. Taste it along the way and adjust until it’s where you want it.

I’ve touted the virtues of chicken thighs before, they are so juicy and cheap. But in truth you can use this on anything you’d use BBQ sauce on. Throw the thighs on the grill and brush them with sauce. The more layers of sauce the better. Turn them and keep saucing for about 10-15 minutes, keeping the grill around 350 degrees and shutting the lid in between. If you do go with bone-in thighs it will take longer.

We ate these with grilled corn on the cob, which is such a great way to eat corn. And I’m an Indiana girl so you better believe I know my corn. Just soak the whole cob, husk and all for about 15 minutes before grilling. Cut off the extra silk (it’ll burn) and place them directly on the grill. Turn them often, and when they are all nice and charred (10-12 minutes) they are done. Smear with butter and salt and enjoy! Sometimes I like to sprinkle a little cayenne on them as well. It’s a great summer meal to eat outside with a glass of lemonade or beer.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Iron Chef Strawberry Recap

I came into this battle not being a big fan of strawberries. I mean, I like them. I just always felt like they seemed too sickly sweet. Or if they weren’t sweet, they were overly tart. In short, I wasn’t looking forward to eating a bunch of strawberries for this battle. But from the very first dish to the last, I was pleasantly surprised. This battle changed my mind about strawberries, and opened my mind to all the possibilities. We had sweet dishes, savory dishes, strawberries with seafood, and even spicy strawberries. Emily, the lovely hostess for the evening, started off the evening right with her Strawberry Bellini, a mix of strawberry puree and champagne that was delicious, and pretty as well. It was a nice summery drink—and classier than a daiquiri for your next summer party.

This was Shu’s first Iron Chef battle, but she came in like a pro with her sophisticated endive cups with strawberry, walnut, blue cheese & balsamic filling topped with chives. I love the idea of using endive for a quick little bite, and this was a tasty appetizer (I had seconds). 

I never would have thought of pairing strawberries with scallops. In fact, I never would have thought of bringing scallops to an Iron Chef party. But Laura’s Strawberry Scallop salad was really good. With cucumbers, gorgonzola and a citrus-dijon vinaigrette, it was a surprising combination of flavors that worked well together.

And now, the Iron Chef strawberry winner: Cara! Homemade biscuits with strawberry jam—it’s a classic for a reason. But Cara gave it an Iron Chef worthy twist by making spicy strawberry chipotle jam and cheddar biscuits. The biscuits were light and fluffy, and the jam was just sweet enough and very spicy. We all were excited to get our own personal jars to take home. I’ve already broken mine out a few times this weekend. Congrats Cara!

Doan earned a runner’s up gift with her salmon and strawberry mango salsa. Another surprising combination of flavors that went so well together. Personally, I thought the addition of cilantro to the salsa was genius—who would have thought that cilantro and strawberries would mix so well? This would make a great summer dish for a cook out. It just felt fresh and light, with lots of flavor.

I had the other entrée and made chicken thighs with devil’s sauce—a strawberry barbeque sauce. It was pretty tasty, but it was missing one key element: it didn’t taste a thing like strawberry! Even so, I may put this sauce in my regular barbeque rotation.

Finally, the desserts. Arguably the easiest category for strawberries, but Jen and Greta didn’t go the classic route. Jen made a fun play on a pizza, with a sugar cookie crust, strawberry cream cheese and fresh strawberries on top. Plus there was a tasty strawberry drizzle.

Greta made a frozen dessert with alcohol involved, which is always appreciated. Her strawberry margarita torte had amaretto and tequila in it and did taste somewhat like a creamy margarita—with a graham cracker crust!

I would say that this round of Iron Chef was one of our better tasting efforts. There were definitely no flops, and everyone really stepped up in the creativity department. It was a great summer ingredient, and a really fun evening. Thanks to Emily for hosting us and congratulations to the winners! Our next secret ingredient hasn’t been picked yet, but we have a few really interesting options in the mix. So stay tuned for the next battle!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I know, I know, everyone has a guacamole recipe. But let me tell you a little story about why you should try this one. My brother is a really good chef. Like works in a restaurant…creates his own recipes…that kind of chef. And he’s pretty snooty about it. When I recently made a potato salad, he daintily sniffed a bite, looked at me with disdain and asked, “Is this fresh dill?” (It wasn’t.) He repeatedly turns his nose up at almost everything I make.

My guacamole… he requests. Every single time I come home he wants me to make it, and then he eats the majority of it himself. He even put a version of it on his menu. I feel like that’s both the best compliment he could give, and the best endorsement of how good this guac is. It’s so simple, relatively healthy, and easy to remember. It’s also massively customizable. I can make it without a recipe, but for you, because I like you, I’ll write it down.

Avocados (5)
Limes (2), juice
Jalapeno or Serrano peppers (2), chopped small
Small onion, chopped
Garlic, pressed or minced
Olive oil

So, you’ll notice that I haven’t given you very many measurements. That’s because this is what I’d like to call a tasting recipe. You mix it up, and taste it and make adjustments. Taste the pepper before you add it and decide how much heat you want. Just remember that you can’t adjust down, so put in less than you think and taste it before adding more.

I always start with the avocados, one of the most fun fruits (yes, they are fruit) to cut up. The best way is to slice it long ways all the way around, then CAREFULLY swing the knife into the pit and twist it slowly. This is the easiest way to get the pit out without destroying the avocado. Sorry I don’t have a picture of that to help the description, but maybe I’ll take it later and repost. Scoop the fruit out of the peel with a big spoon and put it in a large bowl.

If you have a citrus press, usually 1 ½ limes is enough. If not, use two. An cool way to get out more of the juice is to stick a fork into the fruit while you squeeze. Pour the lime juice over the avocados. Add in your chopped onion, pepper, and garlic. Then take a small handful of cilantro, chop that up and put it in as well. Add the olive oil. I usually just pour it in without measuring but it’s probably around ¼ cup. Put in about a teaspoon of salt and a ½ teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper to start and then mash it all up with a potato masher. You can leave it chunkier if you like, or mash it completely if you prefer. I like mine somewhere in the middle.

Now, taste it (with tortilla chips, since they add salt) and see if you need more salt and pepper, or more lime, or more heat. If you like yours with tomatoes, throw some in. Make it yours. Then, you’ll have your own guacamole recipe too. 

(Click here for printable recipe)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Margherita Pizza

There was a time when I was 12 years old, and I didn’t like pizza. That’s right, folks. A 12 year old kid didn’t like pizza. To be honest, I can’t really remember why I stopped liking pizza. I remember I stopped liking ketchup once because I had gotten hives, and it was right after I had eaten McDonald’s French fries with you guessed it; ketchup. I made up my mind then that I would stop eating ketchup for fear I might get hives again. But, quitting pizza? I don’t get it. I was a weird kid. I think it was a year or two later when I decided to eat it again, and of course I loved it. It’s been a love affair ever since. Of course, you might find it funny that even though I love pizza I only eat cheese pizza. I’m sure BBQ Pizza is great. I’m sure Meat Lovers is pretty special, too. But, for me it’s all about the sauce, the dough, and the cheese!!!! Recently, I stumbled across this recipe from savory seduction’s blog. Her pictures make the pizza look yummy. Plus, I love basil. So, I printed it out and made it this weekend. The key is having a pizza stone and a pizza peel. I had to go out to Target to buy a pizza peel for only $10. I have to say I loved the dough. It was perfection. My only complaint was I thought the basil was a bit over-cooked. But, overall this was a definite homerun. Enjoy!

Pizza Dough Ingredients:
2 cups flour ( I needed more for dusting and to help the dough be less sticky)
1 package Active Dry Yeast
1 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Addition flavorings such as garlic powder/salt, dried basil, dried oregano (optional)

Pizza Toppings:
Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Basil
Sea Salt
Fresh Black Pepper
Anything else you’d like to add

To make the pizza dough, first grab your mixing bowl and add the yeast, the warm water, and the sugar. Stir. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes until proofed. It should appear puffy and the yeast should be dissolved.
Take your mixing bowl and put it on your mixer, with your dough-hook in place, mix the flour, the yeast mixture, the salt, and EVOO, along with any extra flavorings ( I added about an 1/8th of tsp garlic salt) to the bowl. And mix at medium-high speed for 10 minutes. I added more flour as it mixed just so it wasn’t super sticky. The dough should eventually fling cleanly away from the bowl, and you’ll know it’s ready then. Take a large bowl and coat it with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm oven (around 85 degrees) for an hour or so until the dough has risen. I waited about 2 hours and it rose nicely.

While the dough is rising you can gather your ingredients together. Also, if you want to make a homemade marinara sauce now is a good time. I make my own by taking a small can of tomato sauce (flavored or not) and I add a bit of salt, minced garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, a little sugar, and dried cilantro. I just eye-ball it. Warm it over low heat.

Once the dough has risen, remove from oven. Turn the oven to the highest setting around 500 degrees. Place your pizza stone in the oven.
About 10 minutes later, get your pizza peel nicely floured. Roll out your pizza dough into a circle shape. You really need to make sure the pizza peel is nicely floured at this point otherwise the dough will stick to it when you transfer it to the stone. Add your tomato sauce, add the mozzarella, add your basil.
Once the pizza stone is nice and hot (I waited about 20 minutes) transfer the dough to the pizza stone and place in oven. Cook for about 5-10 minutes. You may want to rotate it half way thru so it cooks evenly. Cook until nicely golden-brown and the cheese is melted. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ham, Cheese & ½ Spinach Quiche

There’s a Ukrainian word hospidiña (bear with my non-traditional spelling. Ukranians use the cyrillic alphabet). Hospidiña means one who takes great care with cooking, presentation, and being a great hostess. My grandmother was known as a great hospidiña. The tables she set, the flowers she arranged, the food she presented… it was all treated like an art. I like to think that I have a bit of my grandmother in me, or I at least aspire to.
Recently for Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I played host as family stayed with us. Perhaps I went overboard, but I was having a lot of fun. My onion flowers ("how-to" post coming soon!) even broke out amid the lettuce, tomatoes and onions for the burgers. But what I really had fun with were the breakfasts. Feeding 5 to 9 mouths is not the norm in my childless household, so I thought it was a great excuse to try a few new recipes. Here’s the first:
Ham, Cheese & ½ Spinach Quiche

This was the quiche to please the range of eaters in my family. What started out as a plan to make 2 quiches turned into an improvisation that blended the two.
Ingredients: 1 pastry shell (9 inches), roughly 2 cups diced fully-cooked ham, 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese, minced onion to taste, 4 eggs, 2 cups half-and-half, ¼ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, 2 hand-fulls fresh baby spinach.
Spray pie pan with non-stick oil. Unroll store bought pastry shell (see, I cheated here!) into pie pan - personally I use a Pampered Chef Pie Stone, which I love! Bake pastry shell at 400° for 5 minutes covered with foil. Remove foil; bake 5 minutes more. (The pastry shell needs more time to cook than the filling, so this makes sure the whole quiche is finished at the same time.)
After you pull out the shell, scatter ham, half of the cheese and onion on top of the shell. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper, and after it is blended pour it into the shell on top of other ingredients. Spread cheese over mixture and slowly stir with the whisk to blend it in evenly.
This is where the picky eaters come in. I didn’t put in any spinach until this point, because I tried to keep it on only half the quiche, with no spill over. (Important stuff!) Wash the spinach in a strainer, and then push it into the mixture on the one side. I dropped it on top and then pushed it deeper with the whisk.
Cover the edges with foil so they don’t brown more-so than the rest of the quiche. Bake at 400° for 35-40 minutes. When a knife is inserted in the center and comes out cleanly, it’s done.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Iron Chef Melon: Herbed-Grilled Chicken with Watermelon-Feta Salad

Keeping with the watermelon theme; this particular recipe was from our Iron Chef Melon from last June. Kim Mackey made this recipe and it's very delicious. I made this all last summer and it's great with pork tenderloin as well as chicken. It has a wonderful herbed flavor and the diced watermelon with the feta works great to give it a little texture and coolness to the warm meat. It was probably my favorite dish of the night at that particular iron chef. Great pick, Kim!!

Herbed-Chicken Marinade:
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper 4 boneless
skinless chicken breasts no-stick spray

Watermelon Feta salad ingredients:
1 1/2 cups diced seedless watermelon
3/4 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons reserved marinade
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

First gather all of the ingredients for the herbed-chicken into a bowl. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of your marinade for the watermelon-feta salad. Salt and pepper your chicken. Pour the marinade (along with the chicken) into a plastic zip-lock bag and marinate for an hour or so. While the chicken is marinating begin dicing the ingredients for your watermelon salad. Place all of the ingredients into a bowl along with the reserved marinade and place in the refrigerator. Get your grill to a heat of about 350 degrees and cook your chicken on each side for about 5 minutes. When chicken is ready remove from grill. Place some of the watermelon salad on top of your chicken and enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)