Monday, March 24, 2014

Why do I need to be reminded that spaghetti squash ROCKS?!!!!

I admit it.  I don't eat spaghetti squash often enough.  I actually hardly ever eat it and I'm not sure why, because every time I eat it I LOVE it!  Tonight we had spaghetti and spicy Italian sausage over spaghetti squash and it was FANTASTIC!  It was beyond fantastic.  I could actually see myself give up the pasta version and only eat it a traditional spaghetti meal with squash.  That's pretty surprising, because I have an addiction to carbs. :)

Squashy Spaghetti...bad name, hu?
Italian Sausage and Marinara Over FREAKING AWESOME Spaghetti Squash..much better!
1 - medium spaghetti squash
salt and pepper
1/2 lb. spicy Italian sausage, cooked
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, warmed

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut spaghetti squash in half, cut the stem off and scoop out the seeds.  Salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Place squash cut side down on the pan and cook for 30-40 minutes until the squash is tender when you put a knife through it.

When squash has been cooked, take a fork and shred the "meat" off the squash.  Serve with spicy Italian sausage and marinara.

I have to add the "technique" I use when cooking sausage because I always used to have trouble cooking sausage in the pan and having the center not cooked all the way through.  I place the sausage in a frying pan with a tablespoon of oil, a half a cup of water, cover and cook until the water is gone, then brown the sausage on all sides.  I learned this "technique" from the Johnsonville Sausage container. It pays to read the meat packaging when you are cooking. LOL!!!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Girl Scout Cookie Butter...Made from Trefoils!

Do you like Speculoos? Do you like Trader Joe's cookie butter?  Do you like Trefoil Girl Scout Cookies?  Then you HAVE to try this recipe!  I made some homemade speculoos not too long ago and gave some to a friend to taste.  She said it was too sweet for her, but she thought cookie butter made from trefoils would be PERFECT!!!!  Now that Girl Scout Cookie time is upon us, I bought up some boxes...well, a BUNCH of boxes.  I need to help those little girls get to scout camp...or someplace, right? :)

This is awesome on toast in the morning...noon...or night and everything in between, on pancakes, waffles, straight off the spoon.  It is truly divine!!!  This cook butter stuff is all new to me and I'm not sure why this idea had never crossed my mind before.   

Trefoil Cookie Butter:
1 box Trefoils - or 255 grams of another shortbread cookie
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Throw everything into your blender and flip the switch!  Puree until smooth and enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Healthy Dessert? Or Chocolate Guacamole?

I saw a friend post a comment on Facebook about chocolate pudding made out of avocados...NO LIE!  I was so appalled by this idea I had to call her out...and then get the recipe because I had to try it out.  Alex gets pretty jazzed about pudding and has me purchase boxes of it when I go to the grocery store, so I thought it would be fun to surprise him with this recipe and not tell him about the main ingredient.  He was stoked when he came home from work and saw the bowl of pudding in the was my four year old.  I had the HARDEST time not spilling the beans, but I needed to ensure he gave me his opinion before he knew what was in it.  The funniest part was that he started dipping tortilla chips in it after the first bite...that was when I fell into a fit of laughter and told him he was eating chocolate guacamole.  LOL!!!  My daughter LOVED IT...which is pretty funny because she does NOT like avocados.  They were the first food I gave her as an infant and even then she was not keen on them.

I was on the boarder with this recipe.  It was good, but heavy, which is probably a good thing because you don't eat as much as you would if it was a milk based pudding.  Because it was made with the bitter chocolate, it was also very decadent...not to mention the coconut milk and avocados. But seriously, try this recipe out and discover for yourself whether you like it or not.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding:
2 large avocados, peeled, pit removed and cubed
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder - I am partial to Hershey's
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch cinnamon

Blend avocados, cocoa powder, brown sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in blender until smooth.  Refrigerate pudding until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Pressure Cooker Pork

I love pork.  Pork tacos, Cuban sandwiches, pork salad from Cafe Rio, name it, I LOVE it!  Alex LOVES Cuban sandwiches and I wanted to surprised him with a yummy Cuban sandwich panini when he got home for work the other day.  I have always failed miserably when making the pork for Cuban sandwiches so I was more than a little worried.  To make matters worse, I was running behind on getting the meal ready and didn't have time to put the meat in the crock pot.  ENTER Pressure Cooker!  I'm not kidding you, if you don't own a pressure cooker...GET ONE!!!!  My parents had one growing up and they only ever made potatoes in it for potato salad (?), so I had NO IDEA you could cook meat, beans, desserts (!) in it until I bought my own (thinking I needed it to make potato salads...really!) that came with a cook book with tons of recipes in it.  I didn't get this recipe from that book, but from Tyler Florence.

Tyler is all about the Ultimate this... or the Ultimate that...  I even own his Ultimate cookbook and have been so-so about his clams of being Ultimate.  That is, until NOW!!!  This pork recipe is the BEST I HAVE EVER MADE AT HOME!!!  That is saying a LOT because I have made more recipes than I care to think about and I can never get that just right taste or the fall apart texture that is so yummy.  In fact, I almost missed the mark with the texture on these tacos, but cooked them a little longer in the pressure cooker and VOILA!  KICK ASS pork!  

1 pound boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed with the side of your knife
1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 lime, juiced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 long Cuban bread roll
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 thin slices Swiss cheese
1 cup bread and butter pickles
8 thin slices deli ham
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Begin by braising the pork shoulder. Tie the shoulder in 4 places with kitchen twine so it will hold its shape while being cooked or ask your butcher to do this for you. Season the pork with salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Set the base of a pressure cooker over low-medium heat and add a 2 count of olive oil.

Add garlic and chili flakes and as the oil heats up it will become fragrant and infuse the oil. Add the pork. Add onions around the pork and brown slightly before adding orange juice, lime juice, stock and bay leaves.

Secure the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of your pressure cooker. The pork should be tender when done. When done allow to cool in juices before removing twine and slicing.

To prepare Cuban sandwiches, split bread in half then layer the sandwich with mustard, cheese, pickles, ham, pork then cheese again (the cheese glues everything together). Season with salt and pepper in between the ham and pork layers. (Optional: drizzle a little of the pork braising liquid over the meat as well).

To cook, heat a large cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat and lightly coat with olive oil. Place the sandwiches on the skillet and top with another heavy skillet and a couple of heavy weights (bricks, or cans of tomatoes work well). Press down firmly and cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side until the sandwich has compressed to about a third of its original size and the bread is super-crispy. Serve with beans, rice and plantain chips.

A Happy St. Pat's to You!

On Saint Patrick's Day 2010, I made my first batch of Irish Car Bomb cupcakes.  These cupcakes have become a tradition in our family as I have made them every year on Saint Patrick's Day.  Now that we have kids, I make a kid friendly version in addition to the adult version.  In the four years I have been making these cupcakes I have made them my own by tweaking the recipe.

These cupcakes have ALWAYS been a hit with kids (see instructions for kid’s version) and adults at all of our Saint Patrick’s Day parties.  These cupcakes have been shipped to friends, they are so popular!!!

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1 small package chocolate pudding

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. 

Put the butter with the beer in a sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and chocolate pudding mix. In a mixer bowl, beat the eggs and the sour cream together. Add the beer/butter/cocoa mixture and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat briefly just to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined, making sure to incorporate little pockets of flour on the bottom so that the batter is of equal consistency everywhere.

Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way if you want flatter cupcakes and 3/4 if you want domed. Bake for about 17 minutes, or until a toothpick or a slim knife inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely to room temperature. 

Ganache Filling
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)*

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.  Do not allow the ganache to cool too long or it will become a solid, making it hard to fill the cupcakes.

*I split the filling into two bowls, one for the kid’s cupcakes and one with the adult cupcakes.  I add the whiskey to the filling for the adult cupcakes.

Baileys Frosting (see Recipe Notes)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)*

*I make the frosting up to the point of adding the Bailey’s to the mix and split the frosting into two bowls; one bowl for the kid’s cupcakes and another for the adult cupcakes.  I add the Bailey’s to the adult cupcakes.

In a large mixer bowl, whip the butter for several minutes until very light and fluffly. Slowly add the powdered sugar, letting it incorporate, utnil the butter becomes thicker and stiff (you will know when this happens). Slowly drizzle the Bailey's (or milk or cream or a combination thereof) and whip until combined. Ice and decorate the cupcakes. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cuban Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Did you know you can check out cook books from the library electronically on your iPad?!  YAY!!!!  The only draw back is I don't have the book in front of me to make a copy of the recipe or put the book on my book shelf to refer back.  Thank goodness for a blog!  This way I can track my favorite recipes...which is also handy when you're at the grocery store and didn't bring the recipe with you. :)

Cuban Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 can black beans
4 cups chicken stock
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium green (or any color) bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of chile flakes
Salt, to taste

In a large pan on medium heat, cook the onions in olive oil for about 10 minutes until lightly browned.  Add the celery, carrots, tomatoes, black beans, sweet potato, bell pepper, and spices.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down and simmer until the sweet potatoes are super tender.

I thought this soup sounded unique when I came across it, but was truly amazed how sweet it turned out!  It was almost as though I had added some lime at the end.  I even got my four year old to eat this soup and she begrudgingly said she liked it.  SCORE!!!!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Raspberry Oat Muffins

While shopping in Alexandria I found a fun cook book for my sister-in-law's birthday, Pretty Delicious by Candice Kumai. I liked it so much I bought a copy for me too!  The book claims to have 'lean and lovely recipes for a healthy and happy new you.'  Judging by this one recipe, I am pretty impressed.

Raspberry Oat Muffins:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats - I used regular oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of sea salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degree's F. Line a 12-cup muffin tine with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk the eggs, applesauce, and honey together in a medium bowl.  Stir the applesauce mixture into the flour mixture until completely incorporated.  Gently fold in the frozen raspberries.

Using a 1 1/2 oz. ice cream scoop, portion the batter into the paper cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating midway though cooking, until golden brown, the center of the muffin resists light pressure, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool for 20 minutes...because the raspberries come out SCREAMING HOT!!!!...then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I tend to be suspect of 'healthy' recipes because they say they are yummy, but then taste like card board. Not so with this recipe.  I was pleased to see the amount of sweetening agents in this recipe, because even though it eliminates oil, it doesn't scrimp on flavor.  I am totally going to use blueberries the next time I make this recipe!!!