July 31, 2012

Pin It Grilled Chicken, Peach, Blackberry and Basil Pizza

Taken From How Sweet It Is

Week 31

There is a lot going on here, it's true, but it works. I could have lived without the blackberries, but that may have just been the batch I bought more than the ingredient itself.

Check out How Sweet It Is' post for ingredients and directions, I'll give you the general gist below.

To start out you'll need a basic pizza dough (I used Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough). Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 4 cloves of crushed garlic.  Top this with a layer of shredded mozzarella.
Then add on all your summery goodies. We've got: grilled chicken, chopped blackberries, a sliced peach, and chopped basil.
On top of all that add your grilled sweet onion.
Then to top it off (as if there is room) add MORE cheese.  The recipe called for sliced fresh mozzarella but I ended up substituting that with more shredded mozzarella and a little shredded parmesan.
I baked my pizza at 375 for ~30 minutes and this is what I got, yum!
Crispy, melty cheese with all sort of things hidden underneath.
I topped it off with some balsamic glaze (which incidentally never turns out that glazy for me and is esentially just like pouring balsamic straight from the bottle, maybe I'll get it right next time).  This added some nice acidity that went well with the fruit/cheese combo. You'll notice there is no sauce on this pizza, but I promise you won't miss it.  There was so much going on with so many layers of toppings that I'm not sure you could actually fit anything more on there.

I saw the skepticism in Tom's face as I told him what was in here but he did liked it, and I think it's worth a try.  It's definitely a different kind of pizza, but I think it's good to mix it up every once in a while :)

July 28, 2012

Pin It Almond Butter Granola Bars


Week 30
I've been on a kick lately of wanting to make all of my own snacks. I desperately want a food processor so I can make my own peanut butter (among dozens of other things). I saw this tutorial on Avery Cooks for homemade peanut butter and I've been telling everyone about it! The thought of making your own peanut butter (or any nut butter really) and getting to add in whatever you want (cinnamon, honey, chocolate, etc.) is so exciting, plus it looks sooooo easy. All you do is grind the peanuts for 5 minutes in your food processor and voila, you have peanut butter!  I can't wait to try it out myself.

Since I don't yet have a food processor, I decided I'd try my hand at making homemade granola bars.  A lot of recipes require a food processor, so I had to find one that I could manage without. I already had the majority of the ingredients for this one (minus the sunflower seeds) so I thought it seemed the most feasible on a Saturday afternoon.

I skipped some of the dried fruit (raisins and apricots) and ended up using the following:

1/2 cup almond butter
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/4 + 2 Tbsp dried cherries
1/4 + 2 Tbsp chocolate chips
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup rolled oats


I think these would have turned out a little better if I didn't substitute the chocolate chips for dried fruit, but instead had added them in addition to the dried fruit.  I think the fruit helps the bars stick together, so my lack of fruit made mine a little crumbly. Good to know for next time.

I started out by mixing the almond butter and mashed bananas together over medium heat.  After it was well blended, I removed it from the heat and set it aside for later.
Then I ground the almonds and dried fruit in my "food processor," AKA Magic Bullet.
I mixed together my fruit/nut mix with the oats, seeds and chocolate chips.

After that, I folded in the almond butter/banana mixture until everything was evenly combined. I pressed the mixture into a small parchment paper lined casserole.
I baked the bars for ~23 minutes at 350...and tada, I had granola bars!

I didn't love the banana flavor of these and almond butter is not my favorite nut butter, so these weren't the best in my opinion, but you may like them! They ended up chewy and hearty, plus they were super fast and easy to whip up.  Prep time was probably only 15 minutes.  I am excited to try more granola bar recipes and really liked that I knew all the ingredients that went into these.  I think that if you also depend on granola bars as a snack throughout the week, you should definitely attempt making your own. We can all pretend were in Little House on the Prairie.  Maybe we can even play with a pig bladder when we are done with our chores. 

Anyone else disturbed by that as a child?! 
No, just me?

July 23, 2012

Pin It Avocado Mac and Cheese

Taken From Two Peas and Their Pod

Week 30

You should definitely check out this recipe on the Two Peas and Their Pod site, it was delicious!  Not the healthiest of dinners but so creamy and cheesy and good.  After adding the avocado sauce to the pasta I thought that it seemed pretty creamy already and probably didn't even need the cheese sauce (I know, that would have been absurd).  However, if you are looking for a healthier option, you could just make it a creamy avocado pasta and leave out the cheese, milk and butter. Again, I'm not sure why anyone would leave cheese out of any meal, but I'm just throwing it out there as an option.

This was super simple and took very little prep/cook time, especially with the help of my newly inherited Magic Bullet! (Remember those ridiculous 3 hour long infomercials about how easy it is to make an omelet when there is no chopping involved? Or how convenient it is to be able to drink the smoothie you just blended right out of the party cup you blended it in?! Yeah, one of those). I don't have a blender or food processor, so I inevitably end up using my immersion blender to get the job done.  Tom recently brought over his Magic Bullet which made blending the avocado sauce much easier.  The bullet is by no means a replacement for a real blender or food processor or even a paper weight, but it works well enough, especially if it's your only option J

July 21, 2012

Pin It Rolo Brownie Bites


Inspired by My Baking Addiction's Milky Way Brownie Bites

Week 29
Yes, this is one desert stuffed inside another.   I promise I'm trying to veer away from this theme but I'd never made brownie bites before...and they are so cute!


The original recipe calls for Milky Ways, but it's hard to find the mini candy bars outside of the Halloween season.  I thought the Rolos would be an even better fit because: 1. They are round and 2. They are caramel-filled-chocolates, which would make this desert chocolate, filled with caramel-filled-chocolate, and topped with more caramel!

To make these salty sweet little bites you'll need the following:

Ingredients 
For the Brownies
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate; coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
48 miniature Rolos, frozen for at least 1 hour

For the Caramel Sauce
See my post of Salted Caramel Sauce

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the wells of a nonstick miniature muffin tin with cooking spray.

2. Microwave chocolate and butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl at 50% power for 3-4 minutes, or until butter is melted. You can also melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler.

3. Stir until chocolate is melted. Whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Gradually add in flour; stir until just combined.

4. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop the brownie batter into the prepared miniature muffin tin wells. (I used a full scoop of the mini cookie scoop and thought this made the perfect sized brownie bite. It was enough so that it puffed up a bit while baking and gave it a nice rounded top). Place a Rolo into the center of each well and press it lightly into the batter. Do not worry about covering the Rolo with batter, this will create the prefect dimple to hold the salted caramel. Bake brownies in preheated oven for 9-10 minutes, the edges will look set. Do not over bake.

5. Remove to cooling rack to cool completely. Carefully remove the brownie bites from the pan and prepare the caramel sauce.

6. Find salted caramel prep directions here. Drizzle caramel onto the center of each brownie bite.  

I was able to whip these up super fast.  The only thing that made it drag a little was the fact that I only have one mini muffin pan, so I could only make 12 at a time.

Chopped unsweetened chocolate. 
Melty chocolate and butter.
Sugar, vanilla, chocolate and butter.
Scooping batter into greased mini-muffin pans.
Pressing Rolos into the center of each brownie bite.
All organized looking and ready to go into the oven.
Baked for 9 minutes, prefect.
See how cute and mounded they are? This is my favorite angle.
Filling Rolo dimple with salted caramel.
See how nicely the caramel stays contained within the bite? I was excited about this part.
Inside: brownie + Rolo + salted caramel = surprisingly not super sweet. 
My niece Quinn enjoying a stuffed brownie bite, fever and all.
These turned out nicely.  The brownie was moist and not too cakey but also not super gooey. This was also not over-the-top sweet.  The brownie almost had a mild chocolate flavor to it, so I think the Rolo and salted caramel added a nice flavor boost and a little bit of textural diversity.

July 17, 2012

Pin It Asiago Portabello Burgers with Balsamic Glaze

Taken From How Sweet It Is

Week 29

I have not always been a lover of mushrooms, this is actually a newer development in my life.  I have both my friend Bonnie (makes awesome stuffed mushrooms) and the Citrus Club's garlic beef and shitake mushrooms noodle dish (so good) to thank for this. Portabello and shitake are my favorite but I have been branching out and trying their other fungus-ey friends too. Portabellos are especially amazing because they are so thick and meaty, they really can stand in for a beef patty in a delicious burger.

Exhibit A:

I'll leave the instructions for this one to Jessica, which can be found here. This recipe was super easy and probably only took me about 15 minutes to make. A quick and delicious weeknight dinner.

We ended up using rolls instead of English muffins but if I did this again I'd go the muffin route.  I'm not a huge fan of a ton of bread on my burger, especially a Portabello burger, and I like the idea of a crispy English muffin instead. Next time!


July 9, 2012

Pin It Brown Sugar Cookies


Taken From Joy the Baker

Week 28
I'm on my way to DC this week to meet my new niece Sadie, so I thought it was only right that I come bearing treats! I saw Joy's brown sugar cookie recipe and it looked so delicious yet so simple.  She described these as being like chewy sugar cookies, but with brown sugar and just like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.  Well no cookie is complete without chocolate so I added in chips to my batch (something recommended by Joy that would also guarantee the immediate status of "friends for life").

The dough was a little crumbly so I rolled it in my hands a bit after scooping out the dollops. They turned out nicely and were pretty tasty.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, browned
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions (slightly modified from Joy's instructions)

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Set aside.
Place browned butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed until well incorporated.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed for one minute more.

Browned butter, sugar, egg and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients, all at once (I know, this felt weird to me too), to the butter and sugar mixture.  Beat on low speed until the dough begins to come together and the flour disappears.  Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula.  Once all the flour is thoroughly mixed in, incorporate in the chocolate chips, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Dough is a little crumbly but time in the fridge helps.
Place a rack in the center and upper third of the over and preheat oven to 350 F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Dollop tablespoons size balls of dough onto the baking sheet.  

I used my mini ice cream scoop to form my cookies and smoothed them out a bit to make sure they were consistent looking.

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  

These have a slight spiced flavor since there is both cinnamon and ginger in the dough, so if you are looking for something a little different, this might be your ticket.

I think I may have overcooked these a bit.  Since my cookies were fairly small, they probably only needed 8 minutes and I think I cooked most of my batches closer to 10.  Since I prefer my cookies on the verge of raw, these were not my favorite but hopefully my family enjoys them!

July 4, 2012

Pin It Flag Cake

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen


Week 27
Wednesday, July 4th...it just doesn't conjure up the same excitement and celebratory activities as say, Friday July 4th! Or Saturday July 4th! Oh well, you win some you lose some.


Since the 4th was mid-week this year it was a bit more low key than the usual BBQ/picnic all day celebration. We still had a BBQ planned with a few friends so an American themed dessert still had to be made. 


Originally I intended to follow this recipe and make everything from scratch...but then I saw a box of funfetti cake mix in my cupboard and thought "meh, good enough." I figured it's a small group of close friends so they weren't going to judge me for my boxed cake and canned frosting dessert, at least not to my face.  


I wasn't super pleased with how the decorations turned out but that is probably my own fault for not following Smitten Kitchen's instructions.  My first intent was to dust some of the berries with powdered sugar then assemble the cake alternating between my sugared berries and my plain berries.  However, I wasn't satisfied with the little hats of powered sugar that each berry had.  I was especially disappointed with the blueberries (and not just because they are my least favorite fruit).  They were dry and smooth and if you weren't super careful, the powered sugar just slid right off their tops.  


I then decided that I would roll the berries in the powered sugar to get a more thorough coat on each. This wasn't very successful either.  Since the berries were dry, the sugar didn't stick well.  I knew if the berries were wet they would melt the sugar but I got them a little damp anyway.  I rolled the sightly damp berries in the powered sugar and then started placing them on the cake.


This worked out okay.  It was definitely not as pretty as Deb's but what are you gonna do.  If I ever make this cake again I'll try it her way: Place all the berries you plan on dusting (stars and white stripes) on the cake, leaving spaces for the "red" and "blue," then dusting all the "white" berries at the same time. Then place all your plain berries in the spaces you have left on the cake.
Funfetti cake mix: so easy but still so good.
Frosting with canned cream cheese frosting. Yes, I know, the epitome of lazy baking. 
Flag cake, it's waving.
This was not my proudest baking achievement by any means, but it looked okay and still tasted great. 
Should we deem it a success? Sure.