March 3, 2014
Waking up today to yet another snow here in Pennsylvania had me thinking about making a batch of These Hot Caramels for my kids today. Today, they only have a 2 hour delay and not the 10th snow that we were almost positive was going to happen. I am actually disappointed...I had the whole day planned out. So I am already looking forward to the next storm, call me crazy but my family and just love snow!
Hot Chocolate is something that just about everyone adores. I bet that you have a least one incredible memory from your childhood as well as your adult life tied into a warm cup of chocolate decadence…Am I right? How about trying something a little different and possibly create a new memory?
March 1, 2014
I adore meatballs, I think they are the ultimate comfort food. They are simple, satisfying, and fun! You can make them big, small, fancy or plain and the options are endless. I seriously think that there is a meatball for every possible occasion!
I am all about enjoying my meatballs on a nice Philly-style roll while my husband just wants them straight up on a plate. Opposites attract...right?
Last week I made the Turkey Meatballs you see above. Nothing like trying to take a few pictures of food you want to eat while you are salivating at the very thought. Skipping lunch doesn't help either.
Can you see the steam? These babies were steaming hot - just the way I like them!
As I was making these Turkey Meatballs I just couldn't "see" them in a tomato based sauce, so I decided to make a simple gravy-like broth to accompany them. These were a hit and I will be making them again. They were nice and moist too, I think that was attributed to the fact that I used both dark and while meat and I allowed them to sit in the gravy for a bit.
Do you have a favorite meatball? I need to know!
Check out my Meatball Board on Pinterest for inspiration. Thinking about that, I just might have to do a meatball post soon and round up the best of the best! My tummy is rumbling at the thought!
Turkey Meatballs in a Savory Broth
1 Tbs olive or grapeseed oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (I used 1 pound white and 1/2 pound dark)
1 cup breadcrumbs (more if necessary)
Salt & pepper
1 TBS milk
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS Italian herbs
Simple Savory Sauce
48 oz Chicken Broth
2 TBS cornstarch
Salt & pepper
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice about 1/2 tsp or to taste
Optional: Chicken billion to taste for extra flavor (start with 1/2 TBS)
In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the garlic in the oil until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. In a work bowl, combine all ingredients for the meatballs, scrape in the sauteed garlic. Mix with your hands until combined. If your meat was wet, you may need to add additional breadcrumbs. If your meat was dry, you may need to add in another TBS of milk. Form into balls and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Bake meatballs in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes (depending on how large or small you make them). Meanwhile make the sauce. In the same saute pan you used for the garlic, add in the chicken broth ( reserving 1/2 cup of broth to mix with the cornstarch in a small bowl or mason jar)and bring to a boil.
Combine 1/2 cup chicken broth and the cornstarch in a small bowl or lidded mason jar and stir or shake until smooth, then slowly add that to your bubbling broth, reduce heat and simmer until broth thickens. Season and set aside. Once your meatballs are out of the oven, add them to the broth, and cook for 5 minutes more over medium heat. Serve alone, on rolls or over garlic and oil sauteed spinach.
Colleen's Notes: These are plain, yet tasty. I make so many things that are spicy that from time to time (especially when I want the kids to eat it) I tame things a bit. You could add more garlic to the meatballs and saute some garlic and shallots to include in the sauce as well if you want to flavor it up. You could also include crispy bacon pieces in the meatballs, something I do from time to time.
February 23, 2014
The other week I was lucky enough to receive a handful of early season avocado's from the California Avocado Commission, I call THAT a good mail day! I instantly mashed one up one of those beautiful avocados for my favorite Bacon & Tomato Guacamole as lunch that day. As I was enjoying that I thought about the full crop of avocados that will soon be in season from the almost 5000 growers in California, I was wondering what the growing process and harvest was like each year and if they celebrate it in some fashion, then I thought about what to do with the other avocados sitting on my table.
I had ground chicken on hand from the farmers market so I decided whatever I would make for dinner was going to involve that. I was going for something my whole family would eat. Now that my kids are 9 and 12 they will try anything I offer. I love seeing their reactions to every new forkful coming their way. The trick however is to get them to open their mind to deciding they like it and ask for more. My daughter is so polite she usually says "Mmmmm, that's good," but then often says she doesn't want any more. My son always gives it to me straight - "Ugh no mom that is terrible" or "THAT is a-mazing" or small critiques like he is a judge on a food show like "It's ok mom, but its not your best". He cracks me up! The best thing when it comes to my son and his food is this...for years he has been coming over to me and giving me a kiss after a meal, especially after a dinner he thought was fantastic. We call it "Kiss the Cook", sometimes he sneaks up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist and says "Thanks mom that was really good". I melt...and it makes me want to run right back to the kitchen and cook him something else. I hope this continues for the rest of our lives....Love you Connor!
I decided to make chicken cakes, fashioned after a crab cake. I am happy to report that my son ate two...my daughter on the other hand, who rarely eats meat (food allergies - she can only eat fish & chicken) ate only a few forkfuls, however she did eat all of her sauteed spinach!
These were fun, they would be great made as minis for an appetizer offering.
1 TBS olive or grapeseed oil
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS minced ginger
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 a jalapeno, minced (for extra heat leave in the seeds & stems)
A few dashes of red pepper (if you like heat)
A few dashes cumin
Salt & pepper
In a small pan, saute your garlic and ginger for about 2 minutes or until fragrant over medium heat, stirring constantly (be careful to not burn the garlic).
In a work bowl, combine your ground chicken, scallions, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Add in your sauteed garlic and ginger. Combine until it comes together and form into mini or full sized cakes. If you feel your mixture is too wet, add in just a bit of Panko or breadcrumbs. I have done it both ways, it just depends on your ground chicken - I like to use a combo of white and dark meat that I get fresh ground from our farmers market. Place your cakes in your fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
Colleen's Notes: You can grind your own meat in your food processor. Give it small pulses until it is ground. You can experiment and add in various flavors to your chicken cakes if you like, like fish sauce and soy sauce or you could throw in some chili with garlic sauce (you know how much I love that!!). If you are adding in wet ingredients, just add in some breadcrumbs or Panko to help hold it together.
when ready to cook the Chicken cakes, heat 2 TBS olive or grapeseed oil in a frying pan and cook your cakes over medium-high heat until done. For small cakes 4-4 minutes per side, for larger cakes 5-6 minutes per side (lower the heat a bit when you flip them). You can also bake them in the oven on a greased baking sheet at 400 degrees - 11-12 minutes for minis and 15-16 minutes for larger cakes, however baking them does not give them the nice brown crust.
Spicy Avocado Cream
2 ripe avocados, peeled & seeded
3 oz (6 TBS) plain Greek yogurt
3 oz (6 TBS) sour cream
2 cloves of garlic, minced (if big cloves, just 1)
A few dashes of red pepper (if you like heat)
A handful of Cilantro leaves
1/2 a jalapeno pepper, minced (I include some of the seeds for extra heat)
1 TBS lime juice
Kosher salt to taste
Add all ingredients to your food processor (or blender) and pulse a until smooth. Adjust your seasonings to your liking, then scrape into a bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap (you want the wrap to touch the Avocado Cream) and chill for 20-30 minutes.
When ready to serve, dollop some Spicy avocado Cream on to each plate, top with a Chicken cake, top with a small dollop of additional Spicy Avocado Cream and serve.
February 14, 2014
Hey guys it me Samantha again! Today I wanted to tell you about a new cookbook I received called Easy As Pie Pops by Andrea Smetona. The book has really cool smart and cute ideas for baking pies as little pops on sticks!
My favorite pie pops from the book are the Caramel Apple, the Raspberry Whip, and the Strawberry Limeade(that is in the pictures here). I think the pie crust was pretty easy to make and its really fun to roll out the dough. I love chopping things, so chopping the strawberries was fun too. The strawberry lime filling is sweet and very flavorful and I told my mom I want to make that again as a filling for a cake or as a topping for cupcakes. I think my mom will like that idea because she couldn't stop eating the filling with a spoon!
This is a fun cookbook to get. Try it!
Surprise!!! One lucky winner gets one of these cookbooks for free from meeeeee!
Hi, its my turn now (Colleen), Samantha totally enjoyed receiving this cookbook for review. She flipped through all the pages, picked a few she wanted to make right away and got to work. The book is full of sweet and savory pie pops as well as a number of non pie pop recipes. In addition to making pie pops, Samantha also made the above recipe as a small pie - both were delicious.
Easy As Pie Pops is easy to understand and I have to say that the pie crust recipe is a really good one! The pie crust recipe produced a pie crust exactly as a pie crust should be - light and flakey, mmmm! I only wish the recipe explained how thin or thick to roll the dough for the pops - Samantha followed the recipe but there was no mention of that. In hindsight, she/we definitely should have rolle it thinner - next time!
I have always thought a kitchen is filled with love - what goes on in it from something as simple as packing lunch for your kids to baking for others to holiday baking and dinners to my favorite - cooking with my kids! Its appropriate this post is going up on Valentines Day...Cooking for or with those you love is priceless! Happy Valentines Day!
Win a copy of the fun new cookbook Easy As Pie Pops!
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Recipe Courtesy of : Easy As Pie Pops: Small in Size and Huge on Flavor and Fun by Andrea Smetona
(Page Street Publishing (November 12, 2013) Printed with permission
Strawberry Limeade Pie Pops (Book Excerpt)
I remember going to the local Sonic Drive-In as a teen and getting a big strawberry limeade drink during those hot Texas summers (and winters, as a matter of fact). The flavors are actually very complementary with the sweet and sour, and are just as tasty served warm. I love to display these pie pops in a clear vase filled with small limes, for a beautiful pop of green. They're also perfect for barbecues and are super easy to bring along for picnics!
YIELD: 2 DOZEN PIE POPS
1 recipe Homemade Pie Pop Crust (page 13), or 4 unbaked store-bought or homemade 9" (23 cm)-diameter pie crusts
STRAWBERRY & LIME FILLING
3 ½ C (33 g) strawberries, hulled and sliced
¾ C (143 g) granulated sugar
¼ C + 1 tbsp (122 g) Clear Jel, or
10 tbsp (94 g) cornstarch
1 C (236 ml) cold water
3 ½ tbsp (51 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp (9 g) lime zest
¼ C (59 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
1 large egg white, beaten, for brushing
Coarse sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Grease and flour a large baking sheet.
To prepare the filling: Bring ½ gallon (2 L) of water to a boil. Meanwhile, wash the strawberries under cold water in a colander, picking out any leaves or stems. Blanch them by placing them in the boiling water and bringing it back to a boil for 2 minutes. Drain the berries and keep them covered in a large bowl.
In a large pot, combine the granulated sugar, Clear Jel (or cornstarch) and cold water. Stir the mixture over medium heat until it thickens and begins to boil. Add the lemon juice and, stirring, continue to boil for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat and fold the berries, lime zest and lime juice into the hot mixture, stirring gently. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and pulse for 4 to 5 seconds.
To assemble the pie pops: Flour both sides of the two piecrusts, then roll flat with a rolling pin. Using a 3-inch (7.6 cm) round cookie cutter, cut twenty-four rounds from the dough, twelve for the bottom crust and twelve for the top crust. If doing peek-a-boo, stamp out a star-shaped peek-a-boo from each of the twelve top crusts, using a star-shaped Linzer cookie cutter.
Lay out the twelve bottom crusts on the prepared baking sheet. Brush each bottom crust with egg white, using a silicone basting brush. Press an 8-inch (20 cm)-long cookie stick firmly on top of the center of each bottom crust.
Dispense a 1 ½-inch (about 4 cm) dollop of strawberry limeade filling in the center of each bottom crust. Place a top crust over each bottom crust and press firmly around the sides only, sealing the filling inside.
Create a cookie stick dowel by cutting a 1-inch (2.5 cm)-long piece off the end of an 8-inch (20 cm)-long cookie stick. Use this dowel to crimp the sealed edges of the pie pop by pressing firmly on each side of the stick first, then move counterclockwise around the edges. This will keep the stick from moving around once the pie pop is baked.
After each pop is sealed and pressed, carefully brush more egg white on each top crust, except over the filling inside the peek-a-boo opening. Finally, sprinkle the top crusts with coarse sugar.
Bake the sheet on the center rack of the oven for 15 minutes, until the crust is nice and golden. Then place the individual pops on a cooling rack and let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
February 13, 2014
Hold on to your seats - THIS is seriously just about the best thing I ever tasted!
Last weekend we decided spur-of-the-moment to go to dinner with friends. 4 adults and 4 kids. We headed to the only BYOB in town which happens to be an Italian restaurant that recently changes hands, literally 4 minutes from our respective houses.
Our dinner was fabulous! I had the shrimp & crab risotto, my girlfriend had duck, our husbands both had steak...one with crab and one over pasta. We started out with lightly fried calamari, artichoke bottoms stuffed with crab and an Antipasto Platter. All were delicious! Soooo, you know how my favorite thing to do is recreate recipes that I tasted out (or somewhere) right? Well, I will be recreating those artichokes...soon...really soon!
What stole the show completely that night for the four of us was not the food. Instead it was what happened after dinner was over. The owner who is as Italian as you can possible be, came by to see how we enjoyed our meal...in each hand was a gallon sized Everclear bottle - as in grain alcohol. One was his homemade Limoncello, the other his homemade Chocolate...something.
Our friends who had been there recently immediately pointed to the chocolate one - me, I was going to say Limoncello...but in a flash he poured 4 shot glasses of the chocolate. I was skeptical, but "took one for the team" and joined in. Then everything stopped...everything. What had just danced over my tongue and slid down my throat was literally the best thing I ever tasted. I think I heard angels singing. The four of us connected eyes and collectively moaned! Bless that sweet man for immediately pouring us another round!
When I recovered from what I can only refer to as my moments of pure bliss, I practically jumped out of my chair to ask him "WHAT WAS THAT???...what was it"???? He replied - "Ooooh, itsa grain al-co-hol witha da melted chocolatea anda da creama." I keepa it inna da freezer for an hour beforea I-a bring it to you".
That's my written attempt at his infectious accent :)
It just so happened that I hadn't cooked in days due to a power outage that whacked our area after a big ice storm (which is why I had to go out for a really good meal). BUT the next day I immediately attempted to replicate what was in that bottle. We had a Confirmation party to attend that day so I brought a big bottle of it with me to test it out. We arrived late to the party due to other commitments and I think by the time we got there there were only about a dozen adults - My Homemade Chocolate Liquor went SO fast it was crazy. The women had twice as much as the men we kinda hid it from them) it was SO good!! Our friends Nick & Nicole, who we went out to dinner with, were there too and they were ecstatic that I had made & brought it. The Chocolate Liquor received two thumbs up from both of them!
This would make a fabulous gift for someone you love - especially for someone you love who loves chocolate. It might even make someone you want to love you....love you! Food can do that, lol!!
I scrapped my plans to ship a baked treat to my friend Shaina from Take A Bite Out Of Boca who I was paired up with this month for The Leftovers Club (a fun club where each month we are paired up with another blogger and mail the other a fun treat...wanna join in??) and decided to ship her a bottle of this Homemade Chocolate Liquor instead. I froze it, packed it in a small cooler with ice pouches, stood in line at the post office, twice (their power was limited from the storm, the office was a disaster and super crowded...I had to get a priority box from the counter since there were none out in the lobby). I was next in line when a lady needed help with something...no one moved but me. The guy behind the counter loudly proclaimed "see there still are really nice people in the world". I then stepped up for my turn, thought I'd save time by proclaiming "liquid, fragile and perishable" before he asked - he then said "what is it" I happily replied "Chocolate Liquor" he yells "NOPE"! and pushes it away - "Can't mail that, its flammable". I was like oh, no it can't catch on fire...he was like "NOPE"! And off I went.
I considered for a second driving to the next towns post office and NOT saying that it was a liquor but then had visions of being carted away to a dark cell that had no oven, stove or pantry -SO Shaina is getting these cookies instead - they are good and all - actually they are my familys favorite cookie...but they are not the magical elixir of chocolate that was in the bottle. Shaina sent me these Chocolate Avocado Muffins which were so moist and delicious...I have never had a dessert with avocado in it before AND I would never have guessed that they had avocado, coconut oil and agave nectar in them instead of the usual suspects in a muffin! I adore avocados, but that was something I just couldn't wrap my brain around - well...consider my brain wrapped because these were delicious! Check out Shaina's site for other recipes you might enjoy - especially if you are looking for recipes with a healthy twist - she's got one for you like these Cucumber Feta Rolls or these Roasted Chick Peas!
YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS - You have to! It doesn't really even taste like alcohol - its like a dessert. It was SO simple too! You can add a bit more garin if you want to taste the alcohol (I do want to taste it a bit - at the restaurant, I couldn't). I
Check out this month's Leftover Club offerings:
Easy Homemade Chocolate Liquor (That will blow your mind!)
8 ounces of high quality dark chocolate (60% cacao -I used Ghirardelli)
1 quart of heavy or light cream
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 TBS vanilla bean paste or vanilla
3/4 - 1 cup grain alcohol 151 proof
Break your chocolate up into bite sized pieces. In a large saucepan or pot combine chocolate pieces and cream, over medium heat stir mixture until chocolate is melted and smooth - like hot chocolate. Add in the sugar and stir until dissolved and smooth. Add in water and vanilla and stir until combined. Remove from heat allow it to cool for about 15 minutes, add in your grain, stir well and pour it into whatever you choose to store it in (mason jars, decorative bottles, an old alcohol bottle, etc). Place it in your fridge for up to 2 weeks (but I don't think it will last that long).
Colleen's Notes: If you know you are going to serve this - place it in the freeze for an hour or so just before - yummmm! You can even freeze it completely (just give you storage jar head-space) then that it out just before serving Mmmm-Mmmm-M! If you don't want the chocolate bits that are in it (as you can see in my empty shot glass) strain it before you bottle it. I however think the bits make it amazing!!
You can totally serve this as a Chocolate Martini too...just sayin'!
February 11, 2014
Bacon Stuffed Peaches, Vietnamese Burritos, Meat Wrapped Corn on the Cob (what!!) Queso Fundido Stuffed Burgers and Meatball Wellingtons! In case you're wondering, I am not sitting here dreaming up crazy yet deliciously decadent dishes, instead I'm flipping through the cookbook of someone who did just that...then made them!! These creations are from Dan Whalen's (aka Food in My Beard) new cookbook: Stuffed - The Ultimate Comfort Food Cookbook! Whooooweeebaby this book is jam-packed with some delicious looking recipes!
When I was asked to be a part of the Stuffed Book Tour I quickly said YES!! I had to see this book and I was not disappointed! I was torn between making either the Cheesesteak Stuffed Soft Pretzel Calzones (after all I was born & raised in Philly) or the Giant Peanut Butter Cup. As you can see it was the Giant Peanut Butter Cup that I went with.
Ok my friends - THIS dessert is crazy decadent and delicious! I made it on the day of our last snowstorm, my husband and I each had a slice. We then drove out and about in the middle of a 1 foot snowfall on unplowed roads to deliver our daughter to a friends house to play in the snow. When we picked her up 5 hours later, we delivered slices of this to 3 different houses on our journey - sometimes you just have to share the love (ooooor get temptation the heck outta-your-house, lol)!
Feedback was bonkers - people LOVED this! Literally, this could be served in a restaurant as its signature dessert - its THAT good! You do NOT need a huge slice of this - it's so rich that a thin slice will do you just fine. The Peanut Butter Frosting is amazing! That combined with the brownie bottom and chocolate ganache top Mmmmm! If you like Reese's Cups - you are going to go nuts over this (no pun intended)!
This dessert would make a fantastic Valentines Day Surprise for someone you love!
I am SO making a few of these to sell as slices for our upcoming elementary school fundraiser - I already know I need to bring copies of the recipe with me...Enjoy this!!!
Who wants to win a copy of Stuffed? I have a copy to give away - Good Luck!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
You might also enjoy this beautiful (and easy) Turtle Cheesecake - I swoon for chocolate & caramel!
Giant Peanut Butter Cup
½ cup (112 g) butter
5 ounces (140 g) 60% dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon good-quality instant coffee
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (60 g) plus 1 tablespoon (8 g) flour
Peanut Butter Frosting
1 cup (260 g) creamy peanut butter
1 cup (120 g) confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons (56 g) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream
2 pounds (908 g) milk chocolate
1 tablespoon (15 ml) light corn syrup
Make the Brownie: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
In a double boiler, heat the butter, chocolate and coffee, stirring often, just until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Whisk in the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour with a spatula until the mixture comes together. Pour the brownie mixture into the tart pan. It is kind of a thick brownie, so use a spatula to spread the brownie evenly. Put the tart pan onto a baking sheet in case some of the batter drips out. Bake the brownies for about 18 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Make the Frosting: Combine the peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and beat until combined. Add the cream and beat until light and creamy.
Make the Chocolate Ganache: Melt the ganache ingredients together in a double boiler. Stir to combine.
Stuff It!: Re-grease the visible area of the tart pan above where the brownie is. Also cut the brownie away from the sides of the pan to make it easier to slice later. Spread the peanut butter frosting all over the brownie, but leave about 1 inch (2.5 cm) around the edges, and make sure it doesn't go higher than the sides of the pan. Pour the ganache over the peanut butter and let it drip down the sides and fill the pan up to the very top. Refrigerate the tart for 2 hours. Take it out of the fridge and gently try and lift the tart out using the pull-away bottom of the pan. If it doesn't come out, run a toothpick along the edge of the pan in certain areas that seem extra stuck.
Colleens Notes: I also made this with boxed brownie mix just to see if you could in a pinch - and you can :)