Monday, March 31, 2008

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake!

I had SO much fun with this month's Daring Baker's Challenge! This month's challenge was hosted by Morven at Food Art and Random Thoughts, and you can find the recipe HERE . The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours.

I was thrilled when I found out this month's challenge was a cake. That's without a doubt one of my favorite things to make. It is a wonderful cake with raspberry preserves and whipped cream between each yummy layer....plus a fresh lemony taste! To top it all off, it includes a divine buttercream icing (made from scratch, of course!).


I got creative with it by dying the shredded coconut green and placing candy eggs on the top. I ended up with an Easter Egg Hunt cake, which I took to our Easter celebration. The thing that made my cake extra special was the golden, candy egg hidden inside the cake. We gave a prize to the person that got the piece with the golden egg...fun, huh?? It was such a big hit, that I think it will become an Easter tradition.

Here are some pics!



Ingredients!


I used "Bonne Maman" fresh raspberry preserves...they were so good!



Here's the golden egg...hidden inside!


Look at those layers!



Close-up of one of the candy eggs...they looked really pretty on the cake.



I added a flag to the top to announce the "egg hunt."



I made two cakes!


A slice of yummy-ness!


This is also my entry for the Easter Cake Bake...check out the blog event HERE!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Honey Mustard Chicken with Almonds


***This was another one of those nights where I had to take stock of what was in the pantry and get creative. This dish turned out to be a new favorite! The flavors all blended wonderfully. I simply whipped up some homemade honey mustard sauce and sprinkled the chicken with sliced almonds.***

Ingredients:
4 Chicken breasts
2-3 tbsp. E.V.O.O.
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. dijon mustard
Sliced almonds (I used Italian Parmesan flavored almonds)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place chicken in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with E.V.O.O. and season with salt & pepper. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, or until juices run clear and chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, mix together honey, dijon mustard, and a dash more of salt & pepper.

Drizzle cooked chicken with honey mustard mixture. Top with sliced almonds. Serve immediately!

Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Rice


***This has to be one of the simplest side dishes ever. All I did was cook a batch of white, long-grain rice. Once it was ready, I added a few tablespoons of Amore brand Sun-Dried Tomato paste and stirred it together. I seasoned it with salt & pepper and then topped it off with dried basil...simple as that! It's such a great way to jazz up plain ol' white rice. My mom makes it by adding stewed tomatoes to white rice...another variation that's also very good.***

Oven Baked Tilapia with Lemon


***Wow...it's been over a week since my last post...I apologize! It seems like I've been making several of my tried and true recipes for dinner this past week. I made the Lemon Butter Grouper, Oven Roasted Chicken & Pasta, among a few others. I even made a second batch of the fresh French Baguettes....YUM. I'm also extremely excited about this month's Daring Bakers Challenge. I cannot post anything about it until March 30th, so I guess I'll have to keep quiet until then. I will only say that it was a huge hit on Easter...I can't wait to share it!***
***But, now on to the recipe at-hand....
There's a recipe on the side of the Bisquick box that I've used before called "Oven Baked Chicken." I remembered it being really good, and the other night I was looking for something quick and easy to do with tilapia. I saw this recipe and thought, "Why not?!" I jazzed it up a little bit by adding lemon juice, since I was working with fish. The end result was quite scrumptious! Brad enjoyed it too. You can't beat it for a super simple dinner.***

Ingredients:
4 tilapia fillets
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2/3 cup Original Bisquick mix
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 lemons

Directions:
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in an ovenproof baking dish in the oven.

Stir together Bisquick mix, paprika, garlic salt, Italian seasoning and pepper; coat tilapia. Place in heated dish.

Bake approximately 10 minutes, and then carefully flip tilapia. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until fish easily flakes. Drizzle freshly squeezed lemon juice on the top of eash fillet. Serve immediately!

Friday, March 14, 2008

"You Make My Day" Award =)


I was so surprised when I opened up Blogger today and saw that I had been given a "You Make My Day" award! I was so excited. Sarah, thank you so much for seriously making my day today! =)
Please be sure to check out her blog, Sensible Suppers and Decadent Desserts . She's got some amazing recipes, including her Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars ....they look simply divine!
I hope everyone has a great weekend, and thanks for reading my blog! =)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Bake



***It's amazing how relaxing cooking can be. After a long day at work, I really look forward to getting into the kitchen and creating something new, and this recipe fit the bill tonight....it definitely qualifies as comfort food, in my opinion. It's simply cheesy goodness, if you ask me....LOL. I served it with the Parmesan Mashed Potatoes listed below and some butter & parsley drop biscuits.***

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Bake
Cook's Country magazine

Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs.) (I only used 2 since it's just Brad and me)
Salt & pepper
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 lbs. broccoli, florets chopped, stems peeled and sliced thin (I used a 16 oz. bag of frozen broccoli)
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (I used finely shredded cheddar/mozzerella cheese)


Directions:
1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.

2. Add remaining butter and onion to empty skillet and cook until onion is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth, cream, and sherry and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. Return chicken to skillet, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to broiler-safe baking dish.

3. Meanwhile, microwave broccoli on high power, covered, in large bowl until bright green and slightly softened, 2 to 4 minutes (a little longer if using frozen broccoli). Add broccoli and 1 cup cheese to skillet, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper and pour broccoli mixture over chicken. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top and broil until browned and bubbly, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve.

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes


***I got this great recipe from a fellow nestie. I had never thought to add parmesan to mashed potatoes, and let me just say that this recipe was fantastic! Thanks for sharing, Annie!***

Ingredients:
3 large baking potatoes
1/4 c. (or so) mayo
1/2 c. (or so) milk
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
Garlic Salt to taste
Parsley to taste
Grated parmesan to taste
Course Ground pepper to taste

Directions:
Scrub and peel potatoes. In a large pot, fill halfway with water and heat on med/high.

Roughly chop potatoes into 2" or so cubes, put into water with a handful of salt. Boil until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Strain and return to pot. Mash to desired consistency.

Add butter, milk, mayo, parmesan, garlic salt, parsley, and ground pepper a little at a time until flavored to taste and has reached the desired consistency. The texture should be light, fluffy, and creamy, and the potatoes should hold their shape. Be careful when adding the milk, because it can dilute the potatoes and make them runny.

Source: Annie's Blog - "Full Hearts, Full Tummies" @ http://dg-in-training.blogspot.com/

French Chicken in a Pot


***I came across this recipe in a recent issue of Cooks Illustrated. It sounded wonderful, and it was an excuse to use my new Dutch oven! ;) Let me just say that this chicken was tender enough to cut with a butter knife! It was also very moist. However, if you're looking for a beautifully crisp and brown bird when you pull it out of the oven, this one isn't for you. It makes a much prettier presentation carved and on a platter. Don't judge a book by its cover though! It was delicious!***


French Chicken in a Pot
Cooks Illustrated magazine


Ingredients:
1 roasting chicken (4 1/2 - 5lbs), giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under back
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped medium (about 1/2 c.)
1 small stalk celery, chopped medium (about 1/4 c.)
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
1 bay leaf
1 medium sprig fresh rosemary (I used dried rosemary)
1/2–1 tsp juice from 1 lemon

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary (if using) around chicken. Cook until breast is lightly browned, about 5 mins.

Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird, flip chicken breast-side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6 to 8 mins. Remove Dutch oven from heat; place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven and cook until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 80 to 110 mins.

Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest 20 mins.

Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from pot through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about 3/4 c. juices). Allow liquid to settle 5 mins, then pour into saucepan and set over low heat. Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan. Stir lemon juice into jus to taste.

Serve chicken, passing jus at table. (I sprinkled the chicken with thyme before serving.)

Garlicky Bean Enchiladas



Garlicky Bean Enchiladas

Everyday with Rachael Ray mag


***Hola! This is probably the first vegetarian dish that I've ever really made, and these weren't Brad's favorite for that very reason. He said that they would have been much better if they had chicken or beef in them...oh well. There's always next time! On the other hand, I thought they were really good. I added salsa and sour cream to jazz them up a bit. Even though they don't have any meat in them, they really do fill you up!***

Ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Two 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
1/3 cup chicken broth
Salt
Twelve 6-inch corn tortillas
2 cups store-bought salsa verde
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beans and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the chicken broth. Season with salt and cook, mashing the beans, until softened, 7 minutes. Let cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 cup oil. Fry each corn tortilla for 3 seconds on each side, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet to drain.

3. Place about 1/4 cup mashed beans on 1 tortilla and roll up to enclose; transfer to an oiled 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Repeat with the remaining beans and tortillas.

4. Pour the salsa over the filled tortillas. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake until the cheese is melted and the salsa is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce

***If you had asked me what saffron threads were about 2 weeks ago, I would have said, "I have no idea!" I saw Giada make this dish last week, and I was curious to find out exactly what they were. I had no idea that they were so rare or expensive until I tried to find them for this dish. I had to go to several different grocery stores, and I finally found some at The Fresh Market. I lucked out and bought the last jar they had. The saffron added the prettiest orange color to the sauce. The flavor was great without being too powerful....Brad and I both really loved this recipe. I've got some additional information about what exactly saffron is at the bottom of this post.***

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chicken cutlets (scallopine)
2 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Sliced Shallots


Directions:
Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until golden and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the chicken to serving plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Turn the heat to medium, add the shallot and the garlic and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the chicken broth and saffron threads, bring to a simmer and reduce for 10 minutes. Add the cream, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and simmer for 1 minute to blend the flavors. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Source: Giada DeLaurentiis - http://www.foodnetwork.com/

*****************************************************

SAFFRON THREADS: DID YOU KNOW?



"Saffron, the yellow-orange stigmas from a small purple saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), is the world's most expensive spice. That's because each flower provides only three red stigmas, and it takes approximately 14,000 of these tiny threads for each ounce of saffron. One ounce of saffron equals the stigmas from approximately 5,000 crocuses. It takes an acre of flowers to produce a pound.

The tiny red threads of saffron must be handpicked from the center of the crocus flower. They leave behind the yellow stamens which have no taste. This spice comes either powdered or in threads (the whole stigmas)."

Crocus Flower

CLICK Photo Contest - March - Metal

Contest Entry


Here's my very first submission for the monthly CLICK food photography contest. This month's theme is METAL. You'll find more info about the contest here:

http://jugalbandi.info/2008/02/click-march-2008-the-theme-is/

This is a shot of my new spice rack. I thought is would be a good subject for this month because of the way the colors of the spices contrast with the metal of the rack.

I took it using my Nikon D50 DSLR and the 18-55mm Nikkor lens.

The photo below is just another shot that I thought was pretty neat. It shows the spice rack in motion...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Twice-Baked Potatoes

***I got this recipe from my dad....he's such a great cook!***

Ingredients:
3 large Russet potatoes
3-4 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded; plus more for garnishing
1/2 cup sour cream
4 scallions, chopped
4 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and finely chopped (you can also use Bac-Os)

***Also, none of these ingredients are exact measurements. I just eyeball most things like this. So, please feel free to play around with the amounts.***

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place potatoes in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for approximately 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Carefully cut each potato in half....be careful, they will be hot! This is the tricky part - Scoop out the potato from each half, making a bowl or shell out of the skin. Be careful not to scoop too close to the skin...this will make the shell too weak. Place the scooped portions into a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher. Add butter, sour cream, and cheese; stir until well combined and butter is melted. Next, add scallions and bacon pieces. Stir again.

Now, spoon a heaping amount of the potato mixture back into each potato skin shell. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the tops of the potatoes just begin to become golden brown and potatoes are heated through. Remove from oven and sprinkle with more shredded cheese. Place back into the oven just until cheese is melted.

Serve hot!

Coconut Shrimp with Dipping Sauce


***Here's another wonderful recipe from Paula Deen. I was craving coconut shrimp, and I saw her make these recently on "Paula's Home Cooking." I got started in the kitchen pretty late last night, but these were totally worth it. The orange marmalade dipping sauce was the perfect addition. The red pepper flakes added just the right amount of heat.***
Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup orange marmalade
4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Shrimp:
Peanut oil, for frying
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup water
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 pound medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Directions:
Add all dipping sauce ingredients to a pot on a low temperature. Heat for 10 minutes, making sure you stir ingredients every few minutes.
In a large, heavy pot, heat 2-inches of the peanut oil to 325 degrees F.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the water and whisk until smooth. Let the batter stand for 15 minutes.
In a wide, shallow bowl, toss the coconut and bread crumbs together. Put the shrimp into the batter. Remove the shrimp, 1 at a time, and dredge in the coconut mixture, pressing to help the coconut adhere. Fry the shrimp in batches in the hot oil for 1 to 2 minutes or until brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Serve the shrimp with the dipping sauce.
Source: Paula Deen - www.foodnetwork.com

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Baked Pita Chips

*** These are SO incredibly simple to make, and they're very good....almost like mini pizzas, hah. You can alter this recipe to make as many servings as you need! I served them as a side to the Angel Hair Pasta with Chicken & Herbs posted below, so we only ate 3 pita chips each.***

Ingredients:
1 large piece of pita bread
1 - 2 cups mozzarella or cheddar cheese, shredded
Dried oregano

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut pita bread into 6 triangular-shaped pieces. Place pieces on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and oregano.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until pita chips are crispy and cheese is melted.

Voila!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Angel Hair Pasta with Chicken & Herbs



***A few nights ago, I was trying to come up with something to eat, and this is what we had. It was one of those nights where I had to take stock of the pantry and use my imagination. It actually came out really yummy...we had the left-overs the next night. I served this dish with baked pita chips sprinkled with cheese and oregano (I'll post those later!). I'm excited that I'm finally getting to the point where I don't have to really follow a particular recipe. I can just get in the kitchen and be creative!***

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, E.V.O.O.
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 pound angel hair pasta
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. dried parsley
2 tbsp. dried oregano

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken in an oven-proof baking dish. Drizzle with EVOO and season with salt & pepper. Bake chicken for 40 - 45 minutes, or until cooked through and juices run clear.

Drizzle remaining EVOO in a large skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, 15 - 20 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Pour 3 ladlefuls of the pasta cooking water into the cooked onions and stir. Drain the pasta and add to the onions. Add the cheese, parsley, oregano and chicken, then season with pepper and toss.

Voila!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ultra Crunchy Baked Pork Chops



***These pork chops are wonderful! They are from the Feb. 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated. The ultra-crunchy outer layer is very flavorful. It's also a plus that they are baked...not fried. These are definitely worthy of my favorites list...I'll be making them again!***

Ingredients:
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1 inch pieces
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tbsp)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup plus 6 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley.

Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined; add remaining 6 tbsp. flour and whisk until almost smooth, with pea-sized lumps remaining.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour, shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.

Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of chops registered 150 degrees, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.

Source: Cooks Illustrated magazine; February 2008

Grilled Pork Chops with Herbs de Provence



Brad and I went shopping the other weekend, and a new cast-iron grill pan and some Herbs de Provence were among my new goodies. I wanted to try them both out, so I ended up with these pork chops. They were so good, and I was really impressed with the grill pan. It did a wonderful job. This is such a simple recipe, but the pork chops were packed with flavor:

Ingredients:
2 Pork Chops
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Herbs de Provence
Moore's Original Marinade

Directions:
Marinate the pork chops for about 45 minutes in Moore's marinade.

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. You'll want the pan to be completely heated when you add the pork chops. This will help sear the meat and lock in the flavor.

Coat pan with cooking spray. Drizzle both sides of the pork chops with E.V.O.O. and sprinkle with the Herbs de Provence. Next, place the pork chops in the pan. Let cook for 8 - 10 minutes.

Flip the pork chops. Let them cook an additional 8 - 10 minutes. If needed, keep flipping the pork chops until cooked through, drizzling with a dash of E.V.O.O. each time. Drizzling with the olive oil will help keep the pork chops from getting dry in the gril pan.

Serve immediately.