Monday, December 30, 2013

Nutella Swirl Cheesecake Bars

"If this fell on the ground; I would pick it up and eat it and never regret it." This was told to me by a fellow co-worker after he inhaled one of these scrumptious cheesecake bars. There's your answer whether or not these little devils are good or not. This was the second recipe I used from Sallys Baking Addiction to include in my cookie bag. They have a velvety, nutellay (made up word), and cheesy taste. The graham cracker crust gives it a nice little crunch and help hold everything together. This recipe was quite simple to make, and as you can see from the above quote very much loved. Enjoy!

12 full-sheet graham crackers (or 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs)
6 Tablespoons (90 grams) melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar

16 ounces cream cheese (2 standard packages or 450g), softened to room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup (100g) Nutella, slightly warmed*

First, pre-heat your oven to 350 and get out an 8x8 baking dish. Place parchment paper in the baking dish so enough hangs over the edge. Set aside.

If you're using graham crackers then you will need to take out your food processor and place the crackers in the processor and pulse until it's a fine crumb. Get out a medium bowl and pour in the graham cracker crumbs, add in the melted butter, and sugar. Stir well, and pour into the baking dish and press down gently. Bake for 5 minutes, and then take out and set aside.

Now, in your standing mixer add in your cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy; about 3 minutes. Pour the mixture on top of the graham cracker crust. Gently spread evenly. Take the warmed nutella and dump in batches onto the cream cheese mixture. Take a knife and make swirls. Then, bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cheesecake has set and the edges are a golden brown. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes, and then place in the fridge to further cool for about 3 hours. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oreo Truffles

If there's one thing you have to make this year (okay, maybe next year) it's these oreo truffles. OMG! They are so heavenly. What do I mean by heavenly, you ask? Try rich, chocolaty, smooth, delicious. Your friends will think you're a gourmet chef. And, you know the best part of this; it's so friggin' easy!!!!! Seriously, all you do is dump a package of oreos into a food processor. Then, dump that along with one package of cream cheese into a standing mixer, and stir it all up. Roll it into balls and dip in chocolate, refrigerate, and wa-la you're done!!!!!!! I've basically just told you the recipe. I received a ton of compliments on these little truffles, and you will too! Enjoy!

36 OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided (Just use one package of oreos, which equals 36 cookies)
1 pkg.(8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
4 pkg.(4 oz. each) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, broken into pieces, melted

Like I said above; take out your food process and toss in the oreos. Process until the cookies are a fine crumb. Pour into your standing mixer, and add in the cream cheese. Stir until well blended. Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. This makes about 48 truffles. Take out a medium bowl and put the chocolate in it. Then, microwave for 2 minutes, but be sure you stir the chocolate every 30 seconds. Working in batches of about 4 truffles; place in the chocolate and coat well while using a fork to take the truffles out of the chocolate. Place the truffle on a cookie sheet. Toss some sprinkles on top and then refrigerate for a couple hours. Enjoy!

Candy Cane Kiss Cookies

Every year I bake cookies for those co-workers who are lucky enough to get a batch from me. I have a lot of fun perusing various food blogs trying to figure out what I'm going to bake. This year I settled on 2 cookies, an oreo truffle, and a nutella cheesecake brownie thing. Sally's Baking Addiction is my new favorite food blog. I was salivating looking at her pictures. 2 of the recipes that I made for my co-workers were courteous of her website. Funny enough I had just tried Hershey Peppermint Kisses at a Stella and Dot Trunk show. I knew I had to make these cookies after devouring those kisses. I was right; these cookies are heavenly. They're not real sweet, but I thought they had a nice flavor especially when you bite into the velvety hershey kiss. And, then the mini candy cane pieces in the hershey kiss give it a bit of a crunch. I definitely agree with Sally; do not over-bake these cookies. Bake them at the allotted 8 to 11 minutes, and you'll be fine. Give these a whirl; your co-workers will thank you. Enjoy!

10 Tablespoons (145g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups (190g) King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
24 Candy Cane Hershey Kisses

Go ahead and set your oven to 350 degrees to pre-heat. I only needed one baking sheet as I was able to fit 24 of the cookies on it. Be sure you line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Take out a medium sized bowl and add in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Meanwhile, cream your butter and sugar using a standing mixer for about 5 minutes. Next, add in the egg yolks, your vanilla, and scrape down the sides if necessary. Then, slowly add in the flour mixture with the speed on low. I added it a little at a time. The dough will come out pretty thick. Take out a couple bowls and add in the sprinkles. I used two different kinds as you can see from the picture above. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls, and then dip into the sprinkles. Place on the cookie sheet. Continue doing this until you've filled up the cookie sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will look slightly underbake. Trust me; this is fine. I over-baked a batch of mine, and they were pretty crunchy. Remove the cookies from the oven, and let rest for 5 minutes. Then, add the hershey kisses into the center of the cookie and gently press down. Sally gave a great tip to place the cookie sheet in the oven for a couple minutes, which will help the kisses maintain their "kiss" shape. This worked great for me. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Dinner Rolls

For any holiday dinner the one thing I can't do without are rolls. Rolls not only are great as a side for dinner, but they're great the next day for turkey or ham sandwiches. I found this recipe from Sprinkle Some Sunshine, and they turned out perfectly. Unfortunately, I didn't have much left-over as I only made enough for lunch and dinner on Thanksgiving. But, I will definitely make them again and save a couple for left-overs. Everyone really enjoyed them, and I know you will, too. Enjoy!

1 package regular dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups flour (approximately)

Set your oven to about 100 degrees. Take out a large bowl, and dissolve the yeast in warm water. The water should be about 105 to 110 degrees. Set aside for 10 minutes or until the yeast dissolves and puffs up. Next, pour milk in a medium bowl and microwave for a couple minutes. While the milk is hot; stir in the butter. Once the milk and butter has cooled some stir the egg, salt, and milk mixture into the yeast. Using a fork stir in sugar and 2 cups of the flour. This should form a batter. Now, add in enough flour to make dough easy to handle. I probably used an additional 2-3 cups of flour. Pour the dough onto a floured surface, and knead for several minutes. Place dough in a large greased bowl, and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Place in the warm oven or an hour until it's doubled in size. It took about 2 hours for my dough to double in size. Then, remove the dough from the oven and punch it down. Shape the dough into rolls, and place in a greased 9x13 baking dish. It made about 15 rolls. Cover with a towel and place back in the warm oven to rise an additional hour. Remove from oven and then set the temperature to 350 degrees. Then, bake for 15-20 minutes or until a golden brown color. Remove from oven, and brush with melted butter.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hot Fried Turkey

Last year I had fried turkey for the very first time, and it was to die for. Seriously, I could not believe how good it was and how long I've been missing out on it. Well, this year I cooked Thanksgiving lunch for my Dad. I decided I would try my hand at frying up some turkey, but the catch is I don't have one of those frying contraptions. So, I went googling for a fried turkey breast recipe. Plus, since it was just me and my Dad; I didn't want to cook a whole turkey. Well, I came across this recipe from Carla Hall (you may remember her from Top Chef) and decided to try it. Man, it was freaking GOOD. I made the spicy oil to go along with it, and that provided a lot of heat. The turkey had so much flavor and it was so incredibly moist. I brined the turkey (per the instructions) for a couple hours and I'm thinking that's what made it so moist. The turkey even tasted good the next day. Seriously, if you are making Thanksgiving for a handful of people give this recipe a try. You won't be disappointed. Enjoy!

For the Brine:
2 quarts Water
1/2 cup Hot Sauce
1/2 cup Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
1 Turkey Breast (both sides; cut into 8 pieces)

For the Spiced Oil:
3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil (plus more for frying)
2 tablespoons Cayenne Pepper
 1 teaspoon Paprika
 2 teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
 2 teaspoons Salt
 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
 1 teaspoon Sugar

For Dredging:
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper

I think the hardest part of this recipe is chopping the turkey into 8 pieces. I don't own a meat cleaver, so it proved to be a bit difficult cutting the bone. But, I managed to get thru it with all my fingers in tact. Be extremely careful when cutting threw the bones. 
Take out a large saute pan and add the water, hot sauce, salt, and sugar. Add the turkey pieces and place the pot in your fridge for a couple hours. The recipe says brine the turkey for at least an hour. I brined mine for a little over 2 hours. While the turkey is brining; go ahead and make your spiced oil. Take out a small saute pan and add the oil thru the sugar to the pot. Over medium heat cook until fragrant...about 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl. Set aside.

For the dredging; take out a medium bowl and combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Once the turkey has finished brining; pour into a colander and pat the turkey dry with a paper towel. Place on a wire rack and lightly dust the turkey with some of the flour mixture. Then, transfer the turkey to a large plate and let air dry in the fridge for an hour.

About 15 minutes before your ready to take the turkey out of the fridge; get out your dutch oven and pour enough vegetable oil into the pot to cover the turkey while frying. I used about a bottle and a half of canola oil for this. Heat the oil to 325.

Take out the turkey from the fridge; and cake the turkey with your flour mixture. Be sure to press the flour into the turkey so that it adheres to the skin. Fry the turkey in the pre-heated oil for about 8 to 10 minutes. Carefully, remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels or a wire rack. Check the temperature of the turkey to ensure it's around 160 degrees. Then, crank up the oil to a temperature of 375 and fry the turkey a second time for 4-6 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel and drizzle with the spiced oil. Enjoy!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Roasted Squash Toss

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I ate myself silly. I made Thanksgiving lunch for my Dad. Then, later that day I went over to my mom's for Thanksgiving dinner. I'll post what I made for lunch in a little bit. For dinner, I decided to make a squash recipe because I have a ton of squash sitting around just waiting to be eaten. I was going to make Ina Garten's Roasted Butternut Squash, but decided to find a recipe that also incorporated Acorn Squash. I came across this recipe from Sunny Anderson and decided to give it a shot. It got really good reviews, so I thought why not. Well, why not indeed. It turned out to be a very tasty and spicy recipe. The only spice in the recipe (other than cinnamon) is red pepper flakes, but it definitely packed a punch. I highly recommend this recipe not just for Thanksgiving, but for any day of the week. Enjoy!

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons red chili flakes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 (1 1/2 pound) acorn squash, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup almond slivers
1/2 orange, zested and juiced (about 1/3 cup juice and 1 tablespoon zest) (I omitted this ingredient and it still turned out fine)

Preheat your oven to 425. Take out a large bowl and combine the garlic thru the cinnamon. Add in the cubed and peeled squash. Toss together well. Season with salt and pepper. I added about half a teaspoon salt and about 1/4 tsp black pepper. Place the squash on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes. While the squash is roasting; go ahead and take out a saute pan and add the almond slivers to it. Toast at medium heat until the almonds turn a light golden color; about 4 minutes. Be sure to stir often. Remove the squash from the oven and add to a serving bowl along with the slivered almonds. If you're going to use the orange zest and juice; this is the point where you add it. Serve and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mashed Potato Casserole with Smoked Gouda and Bacon

One of our very first Iron Chef's was Iron Chef Bacon. Can you believe we've been doing these Iron Chefs for almost 4 years??!! Yowa!! I remember loooving this mashed potato casserole courtesy of Bon Appetit. I, of course, thought it was the winner, but my presentation was pretty lame. Oh well. I've made this recipe several times since, and most recently at a Friends-giving party. I bet it would have been voted the winner had those friends attended the Iron Chef party. ;) This recipe is filled with lots of goodness: butter, potatoes, cheese, and bacon! Mmmm. Trust me; you'll love it and your friends will thank you for it! Enjoy!  

6 slices thick-cut smoked bacon (preferably applewood-smoked)
3 large green onions (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely grated smoked Gouda, divided

Take out a 13x9 baking dish and butter it. I omitted buttering the dish. I figured it wasn't needed since mashed potatoes aren't exactly sticky. Place the peeled and diced potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Throw in some salt and boil with the lid slightly ajar for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes come out fork tender.

Meanwhile;  cook bacon in a large heavy skillet until nice and crispy. I used the entire package of bacon. I mean really; 6 pieces?!  Anyway, once the bacon is sufficiently crispy; transfer to a paper towel to drain. Then take out a small bowl; and add in the chopped green onions along with the crumbled bacon. Stir and set aside.

Once the potatoes are fork tender; drain into a colander. Then place potatoes back in the same large pot, and while cooking over medium heat; stir until potatoes are dry and light film forms in the bottom of the pot. Next, add in the sour cream, milk, and butter. Use a potato masher to mash up the potatoes until almost smooth. Honestly, I used an immersion blender at this point because my masher wasn't doing a good job at smoothing the potatoes. They were quite chunky. Then, stir in 1 1/2 cups of the smoked Gouda and 1 cup of the bacon mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Next, spread the potato mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining Gouda.

Pre-heat oven to 375 and then bake the potatoes for about 30 minutes or until the cheese melts and the edges of the potatoes start boiling. Sprinkle reserved bacon mixture on top and serve.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Honey Chicken Stir-Fry

I know what you are thinking. Is this? Could it be? Did Emily post a new recipe? I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I went missing for a little over a month, and I really don't have a good excuse. Okay. Okay. Who are we kidding? I can always come up with a "good" excuse. My excuse really is just plain ol' laziness. I blamed it on the time change, but who are we kidding? I was just being lazy. But, I'm back! And, I promise to post more recipes over the Thanksgiving weekend. Anyway, back to this new recipe fromTaste of Home. I've actually made this a couple times since I found it. It's paleo friendly and very delicious plus very simple. I came across it while perusing stir-fry recipes on Yummly. I added broccoli and cauliflower as my veggie, and I didn't cook rice. But, feel free to cook up some rice if you want. Enjoy!

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tsp olive oil, divided
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 package (16 oz) frozen broccoli stir-fry vegetable blend
2 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp water
Hot rice

Note: From a lot of reviews; they suggest doubling the honey sauce. I agree with the reviews as well. If you don't double the sauce; then the mixture will get pretty dry. 
Take out your wok and heat to medium. Add in 2 teaspoons oil and the minced garlic. Saute for about a minute and then toss in your chicken pieces. Then, add in the honey, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink. Remove the chicken and keep warm.
Next, add in the vegetables and the remaining teaspoon of oil in the same pan. Cook for about 5-10 minutes or until veggies are tender. Now, return the chicken to the pan. Then, take a small bowl and add the corn starch and water. Stir well. Add the corn starch mixture to the wok and stir for a minute. The honey mixture should thicken pretty quickly. Serve on top of rice and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chipotle Meatballs

I’ve made a Mexican Meatball before but in the recipe I had the flavors were just a little too sharp and intense. I did like the concept, however, and had my eye out for another Mexican style meatball that might tickle my fancy a bit more. I found this recipe on Eat, Drink, Paleo, and while I made some substitutions that took it out of Paleo land, you could easily take it right back if you were so inclined (Looking at you, Emily). These turned out really good. Lots of robust flavor, but not too much spiciness, and they made a very satisfying meal over rice. My only complaint is that it didn’t really make a “sauce” per se, but that could easily be remedied with a small can of tomato sauce next time. I went ahead and added that into the ingredients for you because that's just the kind of person I am. 

1 pound ground beef
3 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp of salt
½ large onion, finely chopped

½ large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 chipotle chilies, minced
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sweet paprika
2 bay leaves
1 14.5oz can diced tomatos (we used fire-roasted)
½ tsp salt
1 8oz can of tomato sauce (I would add this next time)

Queso Fresco (optional)
Cilantro, chopped (optional)

You’ll notice (or you will now that I’m pointing it out) that there is a half onion in both the meatballs and the sauce. You can actually cook it all at the same time, and split it after it’s been sautéed in olive oil (or butter) for 5 minutes or so. Add half the onions to a bowl and set the rest aside for the sauce. Mix the onions with the ground beef, garlic, chilies, cilantro, coriander, cumin, paprika, olive oil and salt to make the meatballs. Mix them well with your hands and then form them into meatballs. I like to make mine about golf ball size.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan until hot and then brown the meatballs, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Don’t worry that they aren’t cooked all the way through. After the balls are browned, add the ingredients for the sauce to the pan. If you can, when adding the spices, avoid putting them directly on the meatballs as that makes it hard to stir them into the sauce. You’ll have an easier time if you put them into a saucy area of the pan.

Stir everything together, making sure that the sauce gets on and around the meatballs, and simmer on medium low for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. You want to make sure the meatballs finish cooking all the way through. Finally taste the sauce (carefully!) and add more salt if needed. We served ours over rice with a sprinkling of queso fresco. You could also sprinkle on some fresh cilantro as well!  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mushroom Bruschetta

You really don’t have to do much to mushrooms to make them really mouthwatering. A little salt and pepper, sauté them in butter, toss in some garlic for good measure and viola—mega deliciousness for your mouth! It’s always wonderful when something good is also so simple. I found this Mushroom Bruschetta on Everyday Maven. It has a few more ingredients but is still relatively simple to make and definitely looks and tastes absolutely wonderful. My parents really enjoyed it, as did I, and I will definitely make it again. One caveat, which is true of all mushroom dishes, is that it needs to be served and eaten warm.

20 oz mixed mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 Tbsps finely chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Baguette, thinly sliced
Garlic salt (optional)
1 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Pepper to taste.
1 Tbsps Butter
½ Tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsps grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
Splash of lemon juice

Start by prepping all the ingredients: clean and slice your mushrooms, chop parsley, prep garlic and slice your bread. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees to toast your bread. Put the slices on a baking sheet and spray each with olive oil (I just sprayed with olive oil flavored Pam cause I’m that person). Sprinkle a little garlic salt over the slices if you are so inclined and then toast. It only takes a few minute per side. Just keep an eye on them so you don’t burn them.

In a pan over medium heat, heat up your olive oil and then add in the mushrooms. You want to cook them until they are nice and golden brown, which should take about ten minutes. Set them aside. Add the butter to the pan and once it’s melted add the garlic. Cook about 30 seconds, making sure you don’t burn the garlic. Drain any liquid from the mushrooms and add them back into the pan along with the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese. Cook, stirring, for just another minute and then remove from heat. Splash with a little lemon juice, if desired. Spoon the mushrooms onto the toast and the mushroom mega deliciousness!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pistachio Pesto Chicken Pasta

If there's one thing I miss the most (besides bread) with going gluten free; it's pasta. Gluten-free pasta just isn't the same as good ol' grain filled pasta. But, one of my favorite discoveries is spaghetti squash. I already made this recipe, which was really delicious. But, I'm looooving this Pistachio Pesto with spaghetti squash. The pistachios gives the pesto such great flavor. And, I added whole pistachios to my chicken which helped give the dish additional texture. It is so flavorful and tastes great the next day. I found it from PaleoOMG's blog, which is a great blog that you should definitely check out. I'm definitely not missing pasta with this recipe. Enjoy!

1 medium spaghetti squash, halved, seeds and excess threads removed
½-2/3lbs chicken, sliced or cubed
1 cup pistachios, unsalted and shelled
1-1½ cup basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
½-1 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
handful of sundried tomatoes, sliced, to garnish

First set your oven to about 400 degrees; take your halved, seeded squash and place on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven and let roast for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Next, take out your food processor and combine the pistachios and pulse. Then, add your garlic and basil and pulse again till combined. Turn on the food processor, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil and then the lemon juice. I believe I used about a half cup of olive oil. Set the pesto aside. Take out a skillet and place on your stove with the heat at medium. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and then place in the skillet. Cook until almost cooked thru, and then add the pesto to the skillet. Now, take a fork and shred the spaghetti squash. Place the squash in with the chicken and the pesto. Combine well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Iron Chef Chili Peppers Recap

When we did Iron Chef Spicy a while back, the results were... less than spicy. To put it mildly, well, they were mild. However, Iron Chef Chili Peppers was definitely spicy. Like breathing fire spicy in some cases. But you know me, I love me some spicy, so this Iron Chef turned out pretty good in my opinion. And I hosted in my fancy new kitchen, so yay! Not a lot of the ladies could make it this time, but keeping it cozy was nice.

We started with Emily's Strawberry Habanero Cocktail served in a mason jar. She made it with strawberry habanero simple syrup, vodka, malibu rum and some La Croix, plus muddled strawberries! It was pretty awesome to watch people as they tasted it for the first time, because it was surprisingly spicy. Especially since the habanero was only infused in the simple syrup and not blended in the actual drink. But despite the spiciness, it was also really tasty and Emily was our runner up for the night!

Kristy brought Cucumbers with Lime and Chili Pepper, which were actually kind of cooling after such a spicy drink. They were refreshing, in a way, even though they were covered in chili pepper. It was a smart pairing, and even though I'm not a big cucumber fan, I enjoyed them!

Next we had Doan's appetizer, a Brie and Spicy Apple Chutney on toasted baguette. It also featured habaneros and was also extremely spicy. We all thought it kind of tasted like super spicy apple pie. And it was truly delicious, giving Doan her first ever win! A lot of us were surprised that it was her first win since she's made some really good dishes in the past. Congrats Doan! Well deserved.

We enjoyed Kim's main dish next, which I would call sort of a Jalapeno Popper Chicken. It was chicken with cheese and a whole jalapeno, all wrapped up in bacon. Even though Kim wasn't happy with the crispness of the bacon, I thought the whole thing worked really well together. How can you go wrong with cheese, bacon and jalapeno, right? It wasn't spicy at all, but that wasn't a requirement of the challenge. I would definitely make this again for a meal.

Chelyen served her side dish next, making Cheesy Grits with Ancho Chile Butter. I don't have grits very often, but these were really good! Again, not super spicy, but that was sort of a relief after the others. These packed a lot of flavor and I thought the addition of fresh thyme on top was a great layer to the dish. I could see making this with chipotles if you wanted to increase the spice level.

Finally we had my dessert, which I served amid flashbacks of Cara's infamous Chocolate Cayenne Ice Cream at Iron Chef Spicy. I made a White Chocolate Habanero Ice Cream that sounds scary but actually turned out pretty tasty. It was definitely spicy, but that was helped by the coolness of the ice cream. This was a pretty interesting dish, and although it's not something I would make for every day, it was tasty for an occasion like this.

There was a lot of good food in the mix for this competition, and as always, great company. Plus our spicy offerings didn't make our pregnant guest go into labor at the party, so that's always a good thing. This probably does it for the year for Iron Chef competitions but we will resume the competition next year!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Iron Chef Chili Peppers - Strawberry Habanero Cocktail

For Iron Chef; I try to make sure I do an even number of dishes. I decided to do a drink for Chili Peppers because this would be the fourth drink that I've done. I found a couple recipes that sounded interesting, but ultimately I came up with my own recipe. I love strawberries and wanted to make something with that ingredient. Also, I have habaneros growing in my garden, and knew that would help bring a kick to my drink. So, I came up with a strawberry habanero simple syrup. I had purchased vodka and malibu rum for a different recipe, so I just decided to incorporate it into this recipe. I think it turned out pretty darn good hence my second place finish. Enjoy!

1 shot Vodka
1 shot Malibu Coconut Rum
1/8th cup strawberry habanero simple syrup (recipe to follow)
3-5 strawberries
Splash of club soda or sparkling water

To make the simple syrup; take out a small sauce pan and add 1 cup water with 1 cup granulated sugar. Add 1/2 cup frozen strawberries. Cut the stem off of an habanero and toss it in the saucepan. Once the sugar dissolves; smash the strawberries with a potato masher. Throw out the habanero. Now, take out a glass and add in your shot of vodka, shot of rum, and the simple syrup. Add in the strawberries and muddle. Toss some ice into the glass and add a splash of club soda. Enjoy

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

The combination of peanut butter and chocolate really can’t be beat. I mean there are other delicious food combinations (hello, grilled cheese and tomato soup, cheese and wine, and bacon and…anything.) But nothing is quite as perfect together as peanut butter and chocolate. There are thousands of delicious recipes involving this dynamic duo and I decided to try one this weekend. I have always loved the peanut butter cookie with a chocolate kiss, but this recipe (found on Cup of Sugar, Pinch of Salt) takes that to another level by replacing the kiss with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The genius part is making the cookies in mini-muffin pans instead of on a sheet. That way, the cookies are tall enough to handle a mini Reese’s Cup. So smart, and tasty!

1 package Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures (you’ll need about 40)
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Start by putting your Reese’s Cups in the freezer. Trust me, they will be much easier to handle this way when you are pushing them into hot cookies later. Preheat the oven to 375 and spray your mini muffin cups with cooking spray. In a medium bowl mix together butter, sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, egg and vanilla until it gets all light and fluffy (just a couple minutes). Then stir together flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl before adding it to the peanut butter mixture. Beat until it’s blended. The dough will seem a tad dry, but don’t worry. This helps you form the cookie balls. 

Roll them into 1-inch balls and place one in each of the mini muffin cups. I found that smaller balls were harder to push the cups into, so make sure they are at least an inch. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes (ten worked for me) until the balls have puffed up and are lightly browned. While they are baking, remove the wrappers from the Reese’s cups (trust me, don’t wait). You have to move fast, so when you pull the muffin tin out, immediately push Reese’s cups into each of the cookie tops. Don’t be afraid to push them firmly, and in fact, I had to go back through and give them each a second push. Let them cool for about five minutes in the tin before gently removing them from the pan and letting them cool. The Reese’s cup will get somewhat molten inside the cookie, so keep them upright and let them cool for a few hours. 

Contrary to most cookies, I would avoid eating them warm and wait until the cup has set up. There is something overwhelming about it when the chocolate is all melty. I think because the center of the cup stays together so it just becomes a kind of weird chunk. Anyway, I have a feeling you won’t heed my warning so you’ll find out for yourself!