Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spicy Thai Coconut Tofu Soup

A few weeks ago my sister sent me a recipe for Thai Shrimp Soup that she created with her friend, Kelly. I thought it sounded great, but I don't eat shrimp. I decided to sub in tofu. I also wanted to bulk up the veggies, so I added in the snap peas. This was very spicy and delicious! There was much more broth, but to see the veggies and noodles, I strained it a bit for the photo, then re-plated it with more broth.

Spicy Thai Coconut Tofu Soup

1 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, minced
4 tsp. ginger paste
Crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 15 oz. can light coconut milk
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 c. sliced snap peas
1/2 package thin rice noodles
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. hot red curry paste
2 tsp. honey
1 block extra firm tofu, diced

In a large pot, heat olive oil, sautee onion, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper (to taste, about ¼ tsp.) till fragrant, about one minute.
Add chicken broth, coconut milk and carrots.
Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 10 minutes or until carrots are tender.
Add the noodles and snap peas.
In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and warm water.
Add slurry, curry paste, honey and tofu.
Cook for about 5-10 more minutes.

Serve the soup with a lime wedge. It adds great extra flavor. (I didn't have one, so I added scallions)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

For dinner tonight, I made a recipe that my sister emailed to me and thought I might like. I saved it for a dinner when JJ wouldn't be home because he's not a big fan of garam masala and vegetarian meals. It was very good! Thanks, Kris!

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup
Modified from Better Homes and Gardens

1 c. dried lentils
2 1/2 c. butternut squash cubes
1 chopped onion
2 sliced carrots
2 minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon garam masala
4 c. low sodium vegetable broth (I used chicken stock)
Salt and Pepper

Rinse and drain lentils.
Place lentils, squash, onion, carrot and garlic in a slow cooker.
Sprinkle garam masala over vegetables.
Pour broth over all.
Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8 to 9 hours or on high heat setting for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Adjust seasoning.
Ladle into bowls.
Top with sour cream, garnish with chopped cilantro.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Creamy Broccoli and White Bean Soup

Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables. I love creamy broccoli soup, but I don’t like to add cream to soup, or use a roux, made with lots of butter because the calories and fat really add up! In order to give this soup a creamy texture without added fat, I used pureed cannellini beans. They keep the consistency of the soup velvety, don’t alter the color, and add a nice texture. I like to puree 2/3 of the broccoli and leave some with a bit of texture, but you can puree it all, or leave it chunky. I serve with with beer bread for a delicious, warm, wholesome vegetarian meal.

Creamy Broccoli and White Bean Soup

1 head of broccoli, steamed
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 yellow onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 c. vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 c. skim milk
¼ tsp. dried oregano
Salt and Pepper

Cheddar Cheese
Sour Cream
Crumbled Bacon

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.
Add EVOO, onion and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes.
While onions and garlic cook, add stock and 2/3 of the broccoli to a blender. Puree.
Pour into the pot with the onions and garlic.
Put the cannellini beans in the blender with the milk, puree.
Pour into the soup.
Chop the remaining steamed broccoli to desired size, add to pot.
Add oregano, taste for seasoning.
Bring to a bubble. Plate, serve with toppings.

A Year Ago (I forgot to do this for a few days):
Country Challenge - Thailand - Green Curry with Tofu
Inaugural Tuesday's With Dorie - Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Isn't our CFO so cute?? She turned as red as her jacket!

Earlier this week, it was announced that my boss, Shannon, was promoted from Controller to CFO! It is a huge milestone for her career, and a goal she has had for 5 years! My co-workers and I were so proud of her, and so happy that she accomplished it, we threw her a surprise party!
Shannon loves Chocolate Chip cookes, and usually has them for breakfast, so when I said I'd make a cake, I thought a chocolate chip cookie cake would be fitting. I love the cookie bar recipe Trish gave me, and decided that would probably work best. I used a little less baking soda so it would spread a little more, and not rise as much, and it came out perfectly! I baked it in a 14" cake pan lined with parchment, and it was very easy to transfer to my stand.
I iced it with buttercream and used little royal flowers for decorations. Of course, we served sparkling grape juice with it. Have I mentioned I LOVE MY JOB AND COWORKERS?!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 c vegetable oil
1 c light brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cp semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugars with the oil.
3. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, mixing well.
4. Gradually add dry ingredients.
5. Stir chocolate chips.
6. Line a 14" cake pan with parchment paper, spray with nonstick spray.
7. Spread the dough into the pan.
8. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes until light golden brown.

The Lost Shower Cake!

Back in August, my mom co-hosted a bridal shower for a friend's daughter. They asked me to make the cake, so I brought my supplies home to my parents house, and made the cake there, and forgot my digital camera! I was so sad about it, but my mom said she'd have one of the other women take a photo for me. So here it is, I absolutely loved this cake! They gave me a napkin (which you can see in the top left corner) as something to design the cake around.
I made it with Paula Deen's Almond Sour Cream pound cake recipe, and made a lemon curd and raspberry filling and iced it with vanilla buttercream.
I heard it was better than Bon Bonnerie's! (a big, local bakery)

Unfortunately, the photo was taken with a flash, so Tricia offered to photo shop it and take away some of the brightness, so here is her awesome photoshop work, and then the original!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vegetarian Gumbo

With Mardi Gras on my mind, I was craving gumbo... but I don't eat seafood, and I've made a chicken and andouille gumbo, so I decided to go vegetarian. I added an element that is southern, but not normally in gumbo - sweet potato! It makes the dish a little more hearty, which could get lost with the lack of meat. This was absolutely delicious, spicy and hearty.

Vegetarian Gumbo

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet potato, diced (I leave the skin on)
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1 c. beer
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. gumbo file seasoning (which is ground sassafras leaves)
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 c. frozen okra
Sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Prepared brown rice

Heat a dutch oven over medium heat.
Add olive oil, sweet potato, pepper, onion and garlic.
Season with salt and pepper, sauté for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle in flour and stir to coat.
Cook for 2 more minutes, turn to high and add beer.
Allow alcohol to cook off, turn to low add tomatoes, hot sauce, and seasoning.
Stir to combine, cover and simmer for an hour.
Add okra, stir to combine, bring back to a simmer.
Serve over brown rice.
Top with sour cream.

A Year Ago:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Roasted Sweet and Sour Tofu with Peanut Soy Noodles and Veggies

About two weeks ago, during my quick/cheap/few ingredients challenge, I made a Peanut Soy Chicken and Noodle Bowl. It was so great, I honestly wanted to make it the next night. I was originally going to make it with tofu, but since my husband isn't a big tofu fan, I went with chicken.

Since he was gone again for dinner, I decided to make another version of it, but with roasted tofu and some different veggies. I also had the noodles warm this time. It was so delicious, even better with the tofu!

Roasted Sweet and Sour Tofu with Peanut Soy Noodles and Veggies
(serves 2)
1 brick of extra firm tofu, drained and diced
2 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. thai chili paste
1 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
3 tbsp. light soy sauce
5 oz. Barilla plus thin spaghetti
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3 scallions, sliced
1 6 oz. bag snap peas
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
handfull of cilantro, minced

Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, honey and thai chilie paste. Toss tofu in mixture, refrigerate for 30 minutes to a few hours.

Preaheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick spray. Place tofu on the baking sheet, and roast for 15 minutes, tossing a few times to brown all over.

Add pasta to boiling water, during the last minute add snap peas. Drain, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine soy sauce and peanut butter, whisk until smooth. Add veggies and pasta, toss to combine.

Plate, top with tofu cubes and cilantro.

A Year Ago: Chicken Enchiladas

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Best Ever Roasted Cauliflower

I believe in fate... especially when it comes to good food! Sadly, baseball season is in full force, so my husband will be missing many dinners at home over the next few months, but it's ok, because I get to make some of my favorite dishes (and eat vegetarian meals)!
JJ will eat almost anything I put on his plate, but he's told me he refuses to eat cauliflower, so don't bother making it for him ever. I respect his hatred (though I can't understand it!) so when I was planning this week's menu, I had to include some cauliflower!
I was just about to ask for some recommendations when Cara said she had the best ever cauliflower for dinner. She simply roasted it, then tossed it with balsamic vinegar and blue cheese, two of my other favorite ingredients! It was fate... and it was GOOD!
I decided to plate it over some barilla plus rotini and I added a chopped up chik'n patty (morningstar farms faux chicken).

(Balsamic and Blue Cheese Cauliflower)

1 head of fresh cauliflower, washed and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 oz crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 400F.
Toss cauliflower in olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast for about 18 minutes, then remove from oven.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and toss to distribute.
Sprinkle with cheese and returns to oven for another 5-10 minutes.
If desired, turn on broiler at the end to finish browning to your liking.

Since I haven't posted much this week, there's a bit of A Year Ago's, as an aside, these are some of my absolute favorite dishes EVER:
German Potato Salad
Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs & Baked Zucchini Sticks with Marinara
Sausage and Lentil Stew with Cheddar Herb Beer Bread
Pesto & Pea Orrecchheti with Prosciutto and Provolone Stuffed Chicken

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nutella Swirl Cheesecake

For Valentine's Day, my co-workers and their husbands and JJ and I went to dinner at a Japanese Hibachi Restaurant, then we went back to Michele's to play games and have dessert, which I offered to make. I asked what everyone would like, and they all said whatever, so I started throwing out ideas. I said how about cheesecake, and everyone said YES! Then I said well, I want it to have chocolate and fruit, so I asked them if they liked Nutella. Vickie said she and her husband love it, but the other's hadn't had it, so I knew I'd have to introduce them to it!

I decided to make a plain, New York style cheesecake, but with a chocolate graham crust, rather than plain, and then swirl in the Nutella so it didn't completely overpower the cheesecake.

I think the Nutella could have actually been a little stronger, it wasn't completely overshadowed by the cheesecake batter, but it wasn't a very predominant flavor. Maybe next time I'd swirl it on top after cooking, as well, because I think cooking it might have reduced some of the flavor. Also, I'd use the whole jar, rather than a jar less 2 giant spoonfulls that I ate :)

This cheesecake is SO amazing, decadent, but really light, super creamy, and wonderful, another Dorie classic I'll go back to from now on! Just be sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature, and make sure you listen to the directions about how long to whip and cream the ingredients (something I tend to rush)! Also, I used a 3" high springform pan, I think 9" in diameter, and I had the perfect amount of batter.

Nutella Swirl Cheesecake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

2 packages of Chocolate Graham crackers (out of a box of 3), crushed, about 2 c.
1 stick of butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar

4 8 oz. bricks of Cream Cheese
1 1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 c. Nutella hazlenut chocolate spread
6-8 Strawberries, halved (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in a bowl, toss in graham cracker crumbs and sugar.
Spray a springform pan wrapped in foil with nonstick spray.
Press graham cracker mixture into the bottom and up the sides, about 2" (I use a glass to help me press in the sides).
Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove, set aside. Reduce oven temp. to 325 degrees.

While crust bakes, prepare filling.
Boil a kettle full of water.
Beat the cream cheese at a medium speed until soft and creamy (about 4 minutes).
With the mixer still running add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes or so, the cream cheese should appear light and creamy.
Add the vanilla and the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition, about 1 minute.
Reduce speed to low, add the sour cream and beat for 1 minute.

Pour the water into a large roasting pan (I used a steel sautee pan with high sides)
Place the spring form pan in, then pour half the batter in the crust.
Put the nutella in a piping bag and make a swirl of it over the batter.
Pour the remaining batter in, it will go above the crust.
Pipe a cross-hatch pattern on the top with nutella, use a toothpick to swirl at a 45 degree.
Bake the cheesecake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. It will be a little golden on top, and will puff up above the rim.

Turn off the oven, prop open, and allow to cool gently for a further hour.

Remove the tin from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack, about another hour.
When the cake has cooled to room temperature refridgerate for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
Before serving, top with strawberries.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Restaurant Review: Dunn Inn

Dunn Inn
208 S Dunn St.
Bloomington, IN
(812) 330-2002

Location: Downtown on Dunn between 4th and 3rd
Cuisine: American Bistro
Price: Sandwiches/Burgers about $10, Dinner Entrees about $15

I have been to the Dunn Inn two times, once for lunch with a group from work and once for dinner, so I have tried many things there! I enjoy going with groups because I tend to eat vegetarian and others don't, so I get a better idea of the whole menu.

The Dunn Inn is a relatively new restaurant in Bloomington. It's got a great patio for sitting outside, a nice, big bar area, and about 15 tables inside. Both times I went, I noticed it seemed kind of dark inside, especially at lunch time.

The Dunn Inn has a great beer selection including Guiness on draft, which made me very happy! The prices are pretty standard for beer and wine. Both times we had great servers. When I eat out I drink a lot, and the waiters were great about keeping up with my refills.

My first dining experience there was with co-workers for a birthday at lunch, so we all chose lighter options. I had the Black Bean Burger and Red Cabbage Slaw. The burger was pretty standard, but the Dunn Inn dressed it up with an avocado spread and feta, which I would have never thought to pair together, but were delicious. The slaw was also very good, fresh and crisp red cabbage in a sweet and sour vinaigrette.
All of my co-workers chose Burgers including the Bleu-Bacon, the Done Inn's Burger. They said they were both standard burgers, juicy and a good portion. All three ordered the fruit salad, which looked like it had specks of saffron and mint in it. I appreciated the way that took something simple like fruit salad, and added some nice, quality ingredients to really dress it up.

The second time I went to the Dunn Inn was when my dad visited Bloomington for the weekend. We started out our dinner with the Roasted Garlic Hummus with Grilled Pitas appetizer. The hummus was great, however we all felt that the portion could have been a bit bigger. I think we each got 2 pita points with a smear of hummus and piece of red pepper.
*As a side note, ordering/buying hummus and paying so much tends to irk me anyway because it's so cheap to make at home, but I try to look at reviewing restaurants from the average patron's point of view who can't make hummus*

When it came time to order, something very funny happened, JJ and my dad both ordered the same beer, and then both proceeded to order the Famous Crab Cake Sandwich. It was a large lump crab cake seared and served with a garlic aioli. Both my dad and JJ really enojoyed the crabcake and said it was priced well for what they got.
I ordered a Grilled Eggplant and Pepper Panini with Pesto and Mozzarella. I thought the sandwich components were delicious, but the bread was too greasy for me. It's important to note that I do not like greasy food at all, so others might not find it as greasy. I again ordered the red cabbage slaw, which was as great as the first time.

I would definitely recommend the Dunn Inn for a nice, casual restaurant with a great bar selection and something on the menu for everyone. It would be 'safe' for picky eaters (grilled turkey and provolone), but it has enough flare on the menu for patrons who expect something different (like the avocado spread and mint saffron fruit salad). I would also recommend going in the summer and enjoying the nice patio seating and the abundant parking downtown when school is out!

Twilight Cake/Cookies and Party!

Last fall, one of my co-workers, Cindy, began reading the Twilight series. She eventually talked the 3 of us into reading the series, and we were all hooked. For about 2 months, we were talking about Twilight 24/7!

Cindy's birthday was December 31, and Vickie wanted to get a carboard cutout of Edward to put in the office, but it wasn't going to be shipped on time. Vickie told me about it, and I said how about we do it on Valentine's Day.

Well the ideas snowballed, and we decided to have an all out Twilight themed Valentine's Day party. We surprised Cindy with it, and it was so much fun.

In this post, I'm going to have directions to make the Twilight cake, which has many elements, and took me all week to make (but could probably be made in one marathon day)!

To plan the perfect Twilight party, we had the cutout, a cake, cookies, apples with caramel and chocolate dip, "Blood" punch, then for decorations we had red, black and white balloons, red and while tulips (like the New Moon cover), banners with the Twilight font, and we listened to the Twilight soundtrack all day.

So here is how to make the cake, with the cookie decorations, fondant, icings, cake, filling, and assembly.

This post will be LONG, with lots of photos!

Twilight Cake!

I made this cake over 4 days, each day I did a part of it, taking about 3 hours each day.

Day 1 was making the sugar cookies and royal icing.

Step #1 - Cookie Decorations
My Famous Sugar Cookies!
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tbsp. lemon zest
5 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes.
Add in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
Add in vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
Beat for 10 seconds.
Add in baking powder and salt, beat again.
Add in flour 1 c. at a time, mix for 15 seconds between each addition.
Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.
Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.

This recipe made about 50 cookies - I made 6 small sized of each cover icon (3 total cookies, on sticks, sandwiched), and 4 large to give away to my co-workers. Then I also made 16 skinny hearts (8 total cookes on sticks)
To make the sugar cookies, I used the following

Twilight Apple - pumpkin cookie cutter, bottom pinched in to make it apple shaped

New Moon Tulip - upside down tulip cookie cutter

Eclipse Ribbon - cancer ribbon cookie cutter

Breaking Dawn Chess Piece - I used a baby bottle cookie cutter with the sides cut out

To make the cookies on sticks, I rolled them out really thin, brushed warm water on the top, then pressed the other cookie on top. These baked for about 9 minutes.

I made 3 (only used 2 though) in case one broke or the icing was messed up.

I made a large batch of Royal Icing to ice the cookies, and to pipe on the cake:

Wilton Royal Icing:
3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons warm water

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).
NOTE: Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
I put half the icing in one container, left white, and the other half in another container, and dyed it red with Christmas Red gel food coloring.

I filled bags with each icing, then piped the outside edges of each cookie.
I made sure the bags still had lots of icing in them, then I added a few TBSP of water to the containers holding the icing so I could use it to flood the cookies. You want it to be like maple syrup in consistency.

I like to use squeeze bottles to fill my cookies, it's easier to control the flow.

To make the tulips, I filled them with white, then made 3 stripes of red with the flooded red in a squeeze bottle. I used a toothpick to make the red run like feathers.

Since the apples and tulips have a few elements, I left them with just the icing. With the ribbon and chess pieces, since they're somewhat plain, I used sanding sugars to give them a bit more dimension. Make sure you sprinkle them right away or the icing will dry and it won't stick.

It's optional to pipe leaves on the apples, they don't need it, but it does add some color. Use folled fondant to make the stem (which we'll make later...) Here are the final cookies with the cooresponding books. Let the cookies dry overnight to harden.

I made Chocolate Frosting for the cake on night 2, here is the recipe:

Chocolate Frosting
1 cup butter
3/4 c. Dutch process cocoa
6 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
Cream Butter, add in cocoa powder and mix together on low. Add vanilla.
Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Keep refrigerated until use.

I covered this cake in Chocolate Rolled Fondant. I used my white chocolate recipe, but subbed in dark chocolate candy melts and some cocoa powder. It cracked much easier than the white chocolate fondant, but it tasted much better!

Chocolate Rolled Fondant: (For photos of steps, see this post)

1 lb. dark chocolate candy coating
3/4 c. corn syrup
1 c. Cocoa Powder
3.5 lbs. powdered sugar
8 tbsp. hot water
1 c. glucose (I get this at cake/candy supply stores)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. white crisco

Step 1: Melt the chocoalte chips in the microwave or over a double boiler, stir in the corn syrup, set aside so it cools. It should form a pasty dough.

Step 2: Put 3/4 of powdered sugar and cocoa powder in the bowl of a mixer, make a well in the center. Set Aside.
Step 3: Mix water, glucose, vanilla, salt, and shortening together in a saucepan. Heat until shortening is almost melted.

Step 4: Pour into the well of powdered sugar, use dough hook and mix until incorporated, about 4 minutes. Add white chocolate mixture to mixing bowl a tablespoon full at a time, until incorporated.

Step 5: When mixture is too hard to mix, take it out and turn on a powder sugar dusted surface, knead in the remaining powdered sugar.

Wrap very tightly in plastic wrap, then place in a ziplock bag. It will get somewhat hard, but kneading it will loosen it up. Use within a month. (Do not refrigerate)

I made a Red Velvet cake with creamcheese filling for the Twilight cake. I used this recipe.

Red Velvet Cake (original recipe for cupcakes):

15 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
13 ounces granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red food coloring
1 1/4 teaspoons vinegar (white or apple cider can both work)
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 cup water

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.
In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix on low, scraping down sides occasionally, and mix until just combined. Be sure not to over mix, or the batter will come out tough.

Line 2 8" and 2 10" cake pans with parchment and spray with nonstick spray.

Pour batter into 1 8" and 1 10" pan. Make another batch and fill other pans.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes, invert and cool until room temperature.

Cream Cheese Filling:

1 8oz. brick of cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. milk

Cream together all ingredients, beat until smooth.
Use a serrated knife to level out cakes. Fill with creamcheese filling, then ice with chocolate buttercream.
Roll out fondant, cover cakes.

Decorate cake with icing and cookies!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dinner Challenge update!

So I changed the challenge up a bit, and decided to go for 6 dinners this week, all under $15, 10 ingredients or less (salt, pepper, and EVOO don't count though) and I'm going to make them in about 20 minutes or less instead of 30.... because we all need more time, right?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookies

For the final cookie in the package, I went back to my favorite, Chocolate Covered Cherries, and turned them into a cookie. I used my Double Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, and added in some dried cherries. They are fantastic!

Chocolate Cherry Chunk Cookies

2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 c. dried tart cherries
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.
Cream sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat at high speed until well blended.
Add vanilla and eggs; beat well.
Beat in baking powder, soda and salt.
Gradually add flour.
Beat just until combined.
Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.
Drop 2 inches apart onto baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 12 minutes, cool completely on wire racks.

Valentine's M&M Cookies

Every person who tries these cookies says they're the best, so I make them for every occasion. They're so easy, but so delicious, and very festive!

Pink M&M Cookies

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. light brown sugar
2 eggs at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 c. flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. pink M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides.
Add in vanilla, turn mixer on medium, add eggs one at a time.
Add in salt, baking poweder and soda.
Slowly add in flour and most of the M&M's.
Place dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Roll dough into walnut sized balls, place on a greased cookie sheet, press extra M&M's into the dough so they are on top and visable.
Bake for 14 minutes, or until golden and puffy.

Honey Pecan Shortbread

When I was choosing the items to put in the Valentine's packages, I kept coming up with chocolate things... it makes sense, chocolate at Valentine's Day, but I wanted some variety. I thought about doing something with honey, and thought a shortbread with honey would be great. I searched online and found a few recipes, and settled on this one. The shortbread has a slight hint of honey, but when you open the oven door, the scent floods into the kitchen. Since honey is a strong flavor, I think these cookies have the perfect amount, not too overpowering, but strong enough.

1 Cup Butter
2 ½ Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Honey
¾ Cup Chopped Pecans
1 tsp. Vanilla

Beat butter, honey and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer until mixture is light and fluffy.
Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. If dough becomes too stiff to stir, knead in remaining flour by hand.
Work in nuts.
*My method differs here from original recipe*
Roll into a log, then shape into a square.
Refrigerate for 4 hours or so.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice into 1/4", place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
Prick with a fork.
Bake for 14 minutes.

A Year Ago: Roasted Garlic Pasta with Prosciutto, Spinach and White Beans

Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

I'm not a big fan of Peanut Butter Cookies, just the raw cookie dough... However I know most people do like them (including my husband), so I made them for Valentine's Day, too. I played around with a few recipes, and came up with something of my own. I like a chewy cookie, so that's what these are! I think next time I might use chunky peanut butter, and leave out the chips.

Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

18 oz. jar of creamy peanut butter
1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. white sugar
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Peanut Butter chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream the peanut butter and butter.
Add the white sugar and brown sugar until well blended.
Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.
Beat in the baking powder and salt.
Add the flour, mix until it just comes together. Add a little more flour if it's too sticky.
Fold in peanut butter chips.
Chill dough for 2 hours.
Scoop taplespoons full out onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 12 minutes.

Sugar Cookie Conversation Hearts

I think the most infamous thing to come from this blog is my rolled sugar cookie recipe. After trying out so many recipes over the years, and interjecting a few of my favorite flavors and techniques, I've come up with something I love. They hold their shape so well, they're tender but still sturdy, and the flavor is complex but delicious. They're not too sweet, which is good because they're usually covered with sugary royal icing.
I made these conversation heart cookies for Valentine's Day because they're just so cute!
I'm going to put some on sticks and bring them to work Friday

My Famous Sugar Cookies!

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tbsp. lemon zest
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes.
Add in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
Add in vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
Beat for 10 seconds.
Add in baking powder and salt, beat again.
Add in flour 1 c. at a time, mix for 15 seconds between each addition.
Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.
Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.

A Year Ago: Banana Bread

Baileys Fudge Balls

Baileys on the rocks is one of my favorite drinks when I'm not paying, or at my mom's house! My dad gets her a bottle of Baileys every Christmas, and this year the expanded the tradition and got one for me! She got the mint chocoloate kind for me, which is delicious!
Last Valentine's Day I made Baileys Fudge with a ganache, then rolled in cocoa powder, but it didn't set well, so I decided to use my basic fudge recipe and add the Baileys. It's not overpowering, which I think is good, and it adds a great flavor! These would be great for St. Patrick's Day!

Baileys Fudge Balls

3 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter
2/3 c. (5 1/3 fl. oz. can) Carnation evaporated milk
14 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c. Kraft marshmallow crème
¼ c. baileys irish crème
12 oz. milk chocolate chips, melted
12 oz. dark chocolate chips, melted

Combine sugar, butter and milk in heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan; bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly until a thermometer reaches 234 degrees.
Remove from heat; stir in chocolate pieces until melted.
Add marshmallow creme and Baileys; beat until well blended.
Pour into a glass bowl. Cool at room temperature; use a cookie scoop to portion out balls.
Let them harden, then dip into melted chocolate

For the top of these, I drizzled white chocolate dyed green (or you can use candy bark that is predyed at Michaels or a craft store).

Milk and Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries

I rarely get boxes of chocolates, but when I do, the first one I look for the cherry! When I found this recipe on, I was so excited. I had no idea how it easy it is to make them. I decided to add them to the Valentine's packages I made this weekend.
I decided to do half milk chocolate, and half dark to please everyone.
The directions say to let them sit for a week for the center to go back to liquid, so I'll try to save one and eat it next Saturday!
Chocolate Covered Cherries

60 maraschino cherries with stems
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons corn syrup
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 pound chocolate confectioners' coating
(I used 12 oz. milk and 12 oz. dark chocolate)

Drain cherries and set on paper towels to dry.In a medium bowl, combine butter and corn syrup until smooth.
Stir in confectioners' sugar and knead to form a dough.
Chill to stiffen if necessary.
Wrap each cherry in about 1 teaspoon of dough.
Chill until firm.
Melt confectioners' coating in a heavy saucepan over low heat.
Dip each cherry in by its stem, and place on waxed paper lined sheets.
Chill until completely set.
Store in an airtight container in a cool place.
Best after 1 or 2 weeks.

The 'dough' and the cherries, drying

The cherries, wrapped in dough, before being coated in chocolate

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dinner Challenge Week!

A few days ago, I posted a quick, easy, healthy, and inexpensive dinner option because I know many of my readers like the quick and less intense meals. I love spending hours in the kitchen, but I know not everyone does!
One of my readers, Jennifer, challenged me to do a whole week of quick meals, so I've taken her on! Next week, Monday thru Friday, I will have dinners that are less than 10 ingredients, less than $15, and less than 20 minutes to make!

Now I am a coupon/circular shopper, so my prices might be lower than some because of the specials at Kroger and the coupons, but there are always good substitutes that you might find by where you live.
So, on Monday, check back for my first night!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Eggplant Timbale

Have you ever had the feeling that a recipe was written just for you? When I saw Giada make this Eggplant Timbale, I was literally drooling at the TV! I absolutely love eggplant, but I have trouble incorporating it into dishes that aren't eggplant parm. I have seen similar dishes made with bread rather than eggplant, but I didn't want to have bread and pasta in one meal.
I made a few small changes to this recipe - I used Morningstar farm crumbles rather than beef and pork, and I made my own homemade sauce rather than jarred.
This dish is a bit time consuming for a weeknight, but it's worth it!

by Giada De Laurentiis

2 medium eggplants, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound penne pasta
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound Italian pork sausage
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 cups store-bought marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups diced smoked mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus 1/4 cup
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the eggplant slices with 1/3 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill the eggplant until tender and colored with grill marks, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the beef and pork, and brown the meat, breaking it into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the peas and marinara sauce and stir to combine. Add the cheeses, basil, and cooked pasta. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the springform pan with the grilled eggplant. Be sure that the slices overlap and hang over the edge of the pan. Fill the pan with the pasta mixture, pressing down to make sure the pan is filling up evenly. Fold the eggplant slices up over the top of the pasta and add a few more slices on top to completely enclose the timbale. Bake the timbale until warmed through and the cheese has melted, about 30 minutes. Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes to set.

To serve, invert the timbale onto a serving plate and remove the springform pan.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese over the top. Slice and serve.

A Year Ago: Muffalettas and Mock PF Changs Tofu Lettuce Wraps and Wonton Soup