Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

What to say about this recipe? I think it is safe to say I have a "thing" for strawberry pretzel salad. I could probably eat it every day of my life and be rather happy. There are a few different variations of this recipe out there. Recently when I was craving this yummy treat a good friend of mine brought me a slice. This was the recipe she used. The strawberries and strawberry jello can be substituted for raspberries which is also delicious. Enjoy! Strawberry Pretzel Salad Ingredients 2 cups crushed pretzels 3/4 cup melted butter 3 tablespoons sugar, plus 3/4 cup sugar 1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese 1 (8 ounce) containers whipped topping 2 (3 ounce) packages strawberry gelatin 2 cups boiling water 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen strawberries 1 (8 ounce) cans crushed pineapple whipped topping or whipped cream, to garnish Directions Directions Preheat oven to 400°. For the crust, mix the pretzels, butter, and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Press this mixture into a 9 by 13-inch pan and bake for 7 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool completely. In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and 3/4 cup of sugar. Fold in the whipped topping, and spread over the cooled crust. Refrigerate until well chilled. In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, and allow to cool slightly. Add the strawberries and pineapple, and pour over the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until serving time. To serve, cut slices and serve with a dollop of whipped topping.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spinach Artichoke Pasta...get outta town!!

Who doesn't love spinach artichoke dip? I don't know anyone. If I did, I'd think they were crazy. As soon as I saw the name of this pasta I knew I had to try it and I knew I would love it. It did not fall short of my expectations to say the least. I served this dish with homemade French bread dripping with butter. What can I say, I was carb loading for a run I had planned the next day. At least that is how I justified this glutinous meal. It was late(r) by the time I got our dinner put together and all natural light was gone. So pardon my awful pictures. Do not let them put you off making this dish. In fact head over to Ree's page for a looksee at her gorgeous pics of this dish. Spinach Artichoke Pasta Pioneer Woman
Ingredients 6 Tablespoons Butter 4 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced 2 bags Baby Spinach 2 cans Artichoke Hearts, Drained And Halved 3 Tablespoons Flour 3 cups Whole Milk ¼ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper Salt And Pepper, to taste ½ cups Grated Parmesan Cheese 1-½ cup Mozzarella Or Monterey Jack Cheese, Grated ½ cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth (less Or More) 12 ounces, weight Penne, Cooked Until Al Dente- I used gluten free pasta ½ cups Seasoned Panko Breadcrumbs- see note below Crushed Red Pepper, To Taste Preparation Instructions Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot or skillet. Add garlic and throw in the spinach. Stir it around until it’s wilted, about 1 minute. Remove spinach from heat and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the same pot and raise the heat to high. Throw in the halved artichokes and stir it around until they get a little color, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the artichokes from the pot and set them aside. Reduce the heat to low. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the pot. When melted, sprinkle in flour and whisk until it’s combined. Pour in milk and whisk to combine. Let it cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until starting to thicken. Add Parmesan, Mozzarella/Monterey Jack, salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir to melt, and if it’s overly thick, splash in chicken broth. Add artichokes and pasta, tossing gently to combine. Gently fold in spinach, then pour the pasta into a serving bowl. Sprinkle the top with crushed red pepper flakes and plenty of Panko breadcrumbs for crunch. Note- I had some panko breadcrumbs but they were not seasoned or toasted. So I threw some on a cookie sheet, sprinkled them with Italian seasoning and then baked them at 350 until they were golden brown and extra crunch. This maybe took 10 minutes or so. But if you do this, keep you eye on the breadcrumbs so as not to burn them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Raspberry Scones

Oh how I love thee, raspberry scones. What's not to love?! Soft, flakey, sweet, fruity goodness. I've made these are couple of times now and they never seem to last long. In fact the last time I made them they went so quickly I didn't even get a picture of them ;) I've mentioned before that I absolutely love America's Test Kitchen. I love to peruse their cookbooks and love to watch the show on Saturday mornings on PBS. Watching the show and reading the cookbooks inspires me to create delicious food in the kitchen for my family and the ones I love. I really don't need much more than that to feel happy and satisfied. The way to my certainly through food!! Raspberry Scones From America's Test Kitchen Makes 8 larger scones Ingredients: 8 TBS unsalted butter, frozen 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup sour cream 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup sugar 2 tsp baking powder 1 tsp fresh lemon zest 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp baking soda Directions: Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Grate the butter and set aside in the freezer. In a small bowl, whisk the milk and sour cream together. Refrigerate until needed. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, salt, and baking soda. Add the frozen, gated butter and mix until butter is coated with flour mixture. Fold in the cold milk/sour cream mixture until just until combined. Turn the dough and any floury bits on a well floured counter-top. Flour your hands and the dough and gently knead 6-8 times. The dough will be quite sticky and should just barely form a raggedy ball. Roll dough out in a 12 inch(or so) square, using additional flour to prevent sticking if needed. Fold the top and chill the dough in the freezer for about 5 minutes. Roll the chilled dough onto a well floured countered top and form into a 12 inch square. Sprinkle the frozen blueberries evenly over the whole surface. Fold the sides of the dough to form a 4 inch square. Loosen the dough with a bench scraper. Roll the dough in a log. Turn the seam side down and press down on the log to form a 12x4 inch rectangle. With a floured knife, cut the dough in 4 small rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 4 triangles. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake for 18-25 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Incredibly easy and delicious Banoffe Pie

I have made this pie probably 4 or 5 times since thanksgiving. This year for thanksgiving the four of us were on our own. We had a lovely dinner at home. Since Thanksgiving is more important to my hubby than it is to me, I told him he could pick the menu. For dessert he wanted banana cream pie. Banana cream pie is not my fave but I was determined to make his meal special. I set out to find a recipe for banana cream pie that maybe I could like too. As soon as I found this one, I knew I had hit the jackpot. It was banana cream pie-ish enough to make Brad happy and close enough to a cheesecake to satisfy me. It is a new fave in our house for sure. I love how incredibly easy it is and it never ceases to impress those who consume it. It is the perfect mix of textures; creamy, substantial thanks to the bananas and then a slight crunch due to the heavenly Oreo crust. The bananas also help cut the sweetness of the pie adding a freshness that is so delicious. I am not a fan of overly sickly, can hardly get them down without a gallon of water sweets. This pie is sweet but not too sweet. I have actually made it with both an oreo and a graham cracker crust. I like both but I think I have decided I LOVE it with the oreo crust. The Best Banoffee Pie
Note: I use the Heath brand of chocolate covered toffee bits. If you can't find chocolate covered, chop up regular-sized Heath bars. Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature, otherwise, the topping may be prone to little lumps of cream cheese. Also, it's really important to have a healthy layer of bananas otherwise the pie is too sweet. If your bananas are small and two won't cut it, don't be afraid - add a third. Ingredients Crust: 24 chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos or Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's) 5 tablespoons butter, softened Pie: 20 ounces dulce de leche (1 1/2 cans) or make your own 2 bananas 1 cup chocolate covered toffee bits 1 cup heavy whipping cream 1/4 cup powdered sugar 8 ounces light or regular cream cheese, softened to room temperature 1/4 cup brown sugar Directions 1.Add the cookies and butter to a blender or food processor and process until well combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate or freeze until set (this makes it easier to spread the dulce de leche over the crust). Spread the dulce de leche over the bottom and up the sides of the chilled crust. 2.In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar, brown sugar and cream cheese. Whip with a handheld or electric stand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add the heavy whipping cream and starting at the lowest speed (to avoid splatters), mix until combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until the mixture is light and creamy and is the consistency of spreadable, thick frosting. 3.Slice the bananas about 1/4-inch thick and layer the slices over the dulce de leche in the crust. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup toffee bits over the bananas. Spread the whipped cream filling over the bananas and toffee, making sure to spread all the way to the edges of the pie, covering the bananas completely so they don't brown. Sprinkle the top of the pie with the remaining toffee bits. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving and up to 8 hours (longer than that and the bananas may get a little brown and mushy).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Delicious Chicken Pillows with Creamy Parmesan Sauce

What's not to love about chicken pillows. Tender shredded chicken, cream cheese, soft pillowy, butter rolls topped with a creamy gravy. I have never met one that I haven't enjoyed. However, taking a little extra time to make my own rolls rather than using the Pillsbury canned crescent rolls and making the creamy gravy from scratch without harming a can of cream of anything soup took this delicious meal to the next level for me. The rolls were flavorful and more substantial than the usual thinner crescent kind. The gravy...Ooooh the gravy. Well you will just have to try it for yourself. I have really been trying for a couple of years now to stay away from condensed soups of any kind. They are full of preservatives and other junk and I...well I just try to avoid them where and when possible. I was thrilled when Mel from Melskitchencafe posted this recipe. Though, I didn't use her roll recipe for this recipe, her idea was genius. I feel like chicken pillows is a recipe that takes a little more work anyway. So I figure, if I'm going to take the time to make them, why not take the time to really make them. I took these to a friend and her family for dinner last night and then had my brother and his wife over for dinner also. I think my brother had 4, maybe 5 pillows. Needless to say, everyone loved these and I was happy I took the extra time.
Delicious Chicken Pillows with Creamy Parmesan Sauce For the rolls: Note- I found that using this roll recipe along with the chicken I could get about 20 chicken pillows total. 1/2 cup milk (I use Vitamin D or full fat milk) 1/2 cup buttermilk 1/3 cup sugar 1 tbsp yeast 1/3 cup oil 2 eggs beaten 3 1/2 cups flour 2/3 tsp salt Put milk and buttermilk into a glass measuring cup and microwave approximately 35 seconds. Add sugar and yeast to milks and stir until sugar is somewhat dissolved. Put that mixture into bread maker. Then add all other ingredients into bread maker and hit dough cycle. This can also be done without the breadmaker in a kitchenaid or other standard mixer. If not using a bread machine, you just need to let your dough rise for about 45-1 hour after your dough is complete. For the chicken: 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 – 3 pounds) 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, light or regular, softened to room temperature 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon salt I like to put my chicken breasts in the crockpot with a little chicken or vegetable broth and some seasoning and cook it on low for about 6 hours. Once cooked and cooled I then shred it. When the chicken is cooked and cooled slightly, shred or cut into small pieces. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, cream cheese, garlic powder and salt and mix until well combined. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use. Rolls and coatingb> 1 batch buttery crescent rolls 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted 2 cups panko bread crumbs 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese Once the cycle is done I rolled out my dough into the biggest rectangle I could get. I added a little bit of flour to the dough so that it wasn't too sticky. Once I had my rectangle I just kind of eyeballed how many smalled rectangles I could get out of my large rectangle and using my pizza cuter cut my large rectangle into about 20 smaller ones. I then took each smaller rectangle one by one and filled it with the chicken mixture (approx. 1/4 cup of chicken mixture per roll), rolled it up, pinched the seams and set it aside. When all the chicken pillows have been formed, combine the panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a bowl or flat dish (like a pie plate). One by one, dip each chicken pillow in the melted butter and roll in the panko/Parmesan mixture. Place seam side down about 2 inches apart on baking trays lined with parchment paper, a silpat liner or lightly greased. Cream sauce/gravy: 3 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons flour 1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 1/2 cups milk 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1 cup sour cream, light or regular In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, cooking over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture is golden and bubbly. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper once the milk has been completely added. Stir constantly over medium heat until the sauce thickens and bubbles, about 5-10 minutes, taking care to adjust the heat accordingly so the sauce doesn’t burn on the bottom. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the sour cream. Thin the sauce with a little milk if needed. I served our chicken pillows with a little mashed carrot and parsnip, rice pilaf and corn. It was a delicious meal and one I am sure I will make again...soon!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. Hmmmm just hearing those lovely little words makes me salivate. These are simply awesome! Warm out of the oven, they literally melt in your mouth and then once cooled, they are soft, pillowy deliciousness in a yummy little package. I love them...can you tell? Pumpkin and chocolate are just a match made in heaven. I had some pumpkin in the fridge that needed to be used and was bored so thought I'd whip up a batch of these beauties. Gabe had a couple of friends over and I knew I had a friend stopping over later in the day to bring me some raspberry pretzel salad I had been craving so I wanted to have something to feed the boys and to give to my friend when she came by. Gabe and his friends devoured a few, I may or may not have eaten 6 or so for lunch and then once the hubby got home from work we polished them off in a jiffy. It was a good day ;) Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Modified from a recipe by - George Duran (Food Network) Ingredients 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 1 cup white sugar 1 cup light brown sugar 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups canned pumpkin puree (One big can- original recipe called for 1 cup) 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper Directions Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper. Using a mixer beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 14 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Buttery Cornmeal Crescent Rolls

I have a wonderful recipe for homemade buttermilk rolls that I got from my sister in law a few years ago. They are my go to. Unless my yeast is bad, they have never failed me and they never seem to disappoint. However, lately I've felt myself needing something different. I guess you could say I've become a little bored with my old recipe and so I thought I'd try my hand at something new. I saw this recipe and was intrigued by the use of cornmeal. I thought why not? It doesn't hurt to have a couple of favorite roll recipes right?! Besides if Mel says they are good, then they have to be good. These were really delicious. The corn gave these soft, tender, buttery rolls a slightly different texture and sweetness than my buttermilk roll recipe. They were easy enough to make and I really enjoyed them. I think I'll definitely make them again and I am happy to add them to my list of favorite rolls. Buttery Cornmeal Crescent Rolls Yield: Makes 2 dozen rolls Note: if you need/want to use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast(which is what I did), change the amount of yeast to 2 tablespoons active dry and dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let the yeast mixture activate and foam (approximately 5 minutes) before adding it to the cornmeal mixture with the butter and 1/3 cup sugar. Also, as with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I’ve added compared to the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be. Ingredients 2 cups milk 2/3 cup yellow corn meal - I actually used white cornmeal. I honestly didn't notice I had bought white until I got home from the store. 1 ½ tablespoons instant yeast ½ cup (1 stick) butter 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon salt 3 large eggs 5 ½ – 6 cups flour Directions 1.Heat the milk to just below a boil so bubbles are just appearing around the edges (this is called scalding milk). Add the cornmeal and cook and stir until thickened, lowering the temperature if needed so the mixture doesn’t boil (see picture below the recipe for an idea of what the consistency should be). Pour the cornmeal/milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl and let cool until lukewarm. Add the yeast, butter and sugar (if you dissolved active dry yeast with a bit of water and sugar until it foamed, add it now). Mix. Add the salt and eggs. Mix well. Add the flour gradually until a soft dough forms. Knead for 5-8 minutes. 2.Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl covered with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. 3.Divide the dough into three portions and roll each into about an 8-10 inch circle. Brush the top lightly with butter. Cut into 8 wedges and roll each wedge up starting from the wide end so it forms a crescent roll shape. Place each roll on a lightly greased or silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 1-2 inches apart to allow for rising. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise until doubled. 4.Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Brush with butter while still warm.