Friday, February 28, 2014

Parmesan Balsamic Chex Mix

Chex mix is a glorious thing.  There are about a zillion recipes online and all can be made in minutes.  Or if you're made of money you can buy a bag at the supermarket.  Seriously, why is Chex mix so costly?  The price per ounce versus any other chip product is outrageous.  Who can afford such luxuries these days?  Not me, so I made my own at home.

Parmesan Balsamic Chex Mix

4 cups Chex cereal, any flavor you desire
5 cups popcorn
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Italian seasoning, I just sprinkled in oregano, basil, and garlic
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese

1. Mix oil, vinegar, and seasonings in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Pour over Chex in a large bowl, gently mix to cover.  Add in popcorn and stir.
2. Microwave 2 minutes, stirring after each minute.  Sprinkle with cheese, microwave another minute.
3. Spread onto a large baking sheet, lined with wax paper to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Sure it's missing those delicious pumpernickel chips that are so perfect in store bought Chex Mix, but this is whole new ballgame flavor-wise.  It also probably costs half the money for twice the mix.  Can't beat that!

Looking for a sweet Chex Mix?  Check out my red velvet Chex Mix.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pizza with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Olive Tapanade, and Goat Cheese

That title is a serious mouthful, I know it.  But I just had to make sure you were aware of all the incredible ingredients I topped this pizza with.

 For starters we oven roasted roasted the tomatoes. To make: take grape tomatoes, cut in half, drizzle with olive oil, throw in salt, pepper, and minced garlic, cook at 250 for 3 hours.

That alone was a delicious accomplishment and were much more palatable than sun dried tomatoes.  I love a good sun dried tomato, but let's do some straight talking here: you can't bite them.

For the sauce portion we chose an olive tapanade and for the cheese we went with a combination of goat cheese and mozzarella.

The result: the most beautiful pizza in the world!  It was cooked on a pizza stone which I have an awesome tip for, if you need it.  The problem with a pizza stone is that it needs to heat in the oven before you can cook the pizza on it.  This means you can't stretch the dough out on it like you would when cooking in a metal pan.  The solution: prepare the pizza on parchment paper on top of an upside down cookie sheet.  Then when the pizza and the stone are all ready for cooking, you can just slide it onto the stone!  This moment of brilliance is all thanks to Lidia Bastianich and it has changed our lives.

The flavor combination on this pizza is so glorious and I highly recommend you try it.  If nothing else, oven roast some tomatoes for yourself.  You'll be glad you did it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dunkin Donuts Review

I bit the bullet and taste tested Dunkin Donut's latest donut creations: brownie batter and cookie dough.  It was a tough sell, but I did it for you guys.  These appear to have been created specifically for Valentine's Day, but I will let you in on a little secret.  I went to get these donuts a week and a half after V-Day and they still existed.  In fact, they had a ton of them.  This was a pleasant surprise because I'm fairly certain anytime there is a new donut flavor, I can't seem to get my hands on it.

The brownie batter filled donut is topped with colored sprinkles. The cookie dough filled donut comes with chocolate chips on top.

The filling on both of these successfully tasted as advertised.  Unlike the cookie dough Oreo debacle, seen here. I would say I liked the brownie batter one a bit better, although its filling distribution was pretty embarrassing.  Why can't they ever make the filling even throughout? My donut partner in crime was partial to the cookie dough flavor because it seemed a more impressive feat.

Overall, I would not turn down either one of these donuts.  They are a welcome change from the usual donut flavors.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Vinegar Chicken

Chicken with vinegar sauce is another recipe from the great and powerful Cook's Country Magazine. The original recipe calls for bone-in chicken pieces and lots of stove top to oven and chicken in and out of the pan transfers.  I attempted to simplify the recipe by using boneless chicken breasts and cooking everything on the stove top. 

Vinegar Chicken
Adapted from Cooks Country Magazine

1 tsp corn starch
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
2 lbs chicken breast
1 tbsp oil
1/2 red onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh thyme

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large measuring cup until cornstarch is dissolved.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large skillet.  Cook chicken in skillet until browned, about 8 minutes.
3. Remove chicken from the pan. Add onion and garlic, cook until fragrant.  Whisk broth mixture to redistribute cornstarch, add to skillet.  Bring to a boil and add chicken pieces.  Cook until chicken is no longer pink and sauce has thickened
4. Place chicken on a serving platter.  Finish sauce by adding butter and thyme, pour over chicken and serve.

I served the chicken with oven roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts.  No leftovers this night, the chicken and its sauce were absolutely delicious!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pear Dutch Pancake

There was no pancake mix in the house and that could not have worked out better for us.  This beautiful creature can be called a Dutch pancake, a Dutch baby, a baked pancake...and that's probably all its names.  It will start your day off on a good note regardless of what you decide to call it.

Pear Dutch Pancake
Adapted from New Best Recipe

2 eggs
1/4 c half-and-half
1 teasp vanilla
1/2 teasp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 c flour
1 tbsp butter
2 pears, cored and sliced
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
caramel sauce or maple syrup for serving

1. Preheat oven to 500. Combine eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, salt, sugar, and flour in a mixing bowl. Whisk until blended, set aside.
2. Add butter to a large skillet, heat over medium heat.  Add pears and brown sugar, cook until pears soften and start to brown.
3. Place pears in a small, greased, casserole dish.  Pour pancake batter on top of pears.  Sprinkle with cinnamon. Turn oven down to 425 and cook for 15-17 minutes. Serve with caramel sauce or maple syrup.

The pancake puffs up and gets nice and brown on the edges.

Just look at it covered in caramel sauce!  This Dutch baby is delicious and it would be a lovely addition to your weekend breakfast.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day

I'll admit I am not a lover of Valentine's Day.  I think flowers are useless and I have no interest in some dumb little thing from CVS (if you haven't watched the SNL video, hop to it).  I do however, love any excuse to cook up a storm!

I gifted some tasty red velvet Chex mix.  This recipe covers Chex cereal in melted chocolate, then rolls it around in red velvet cake mix.  It's festive, and delicious!

I gave it a little extra chocolate drizzle and red sprinkles to give it a little extra pizzazz.

But wait there's more!

Our Valentine's Day celebration occurred outside normal dining hours due to work schedules so I put together a little late-night snack fest.

For the savory portion, creamy lobster crock pot dip.  This recipe came from my latest cookbook love affair Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2, by America's Test Kitchen.

For the sweet ending, red velvet cake batter dip.  This was really good and I apologize I took such terrible photos of it.  There was just no way I could figure out how to make this dip look good.  But trust me is is really simple and really does taste like cake batter which is fantastic.

And finally I shall brag shamelessly that I got homemade samoas for Valentine's Day!!!! Holy crap you guys have no idea how freaking good they are and I feel so sorry for you.  I am a very lucky gal.

Hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day filled with hating on everyone's "look at these flowers I got" Facebook statuses.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cheese Enchiladas

I'm just going to hit the ground running with this post.  I made my own enchilada sauce! How cool is that?  The recipe called for dried ancho chilis and blending ingredients in a spice grinder, and I did it! I followed all the directions! Amazing!

Here are some unattractive photos some ingredients and the finished sauce.

Who the heck set up this nonsense? Oh yea, that would be me.

Check out that nice homemade red enchilada sauce!

Now things are looking good, right?  These enchiladas only have cheese and onion in them, but you could surely add meat or vegetables if you'd like.

Cheese Enchiladas
From Cook's Country Magazine

2 dried ancho chiles, seeded, stemmed, and torn into pieces
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 teasp dried oregano
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
2 c chicken broth
2 teasp white vinegar

12 corn tortillas, 6 inch
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 c Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 c cheddar cheese
1 onion, chopped fine
cilantro for garnish

1. Toast chiles and cumin in a 12 inch skillet until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Grind in spice grinder with garlic powder and oregano to a fine powder.
2. Heat oil in the same skillet.  Whisk in flour, salt and pepper, and spice mixture.  Cook until fragrant and slightly deepened in color.  Slowly whisk in broth, reduce heat and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in vinegar and turn off heat.
3.  To assemble the enchiladas:  Preheat oven to 450. Brush both sides of tortillas with oil.  Stack on a plate, cover with a damp dish towel, and microwave until warm and pliable, about 1 minute.
4. Spread 1/2 sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking dish.  Place about 1/4 cup of cheese and 1 tbsp onion in each tortilla.  Roll and place tortillas seam side down in dish.
5. Pour remaining sauce on top of tortillas.  Sprinkle cheese and onions on top.  Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
6.  Garnish with cilantro and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

I served these alongside some saffron rice.  I did not miss the meat this evening and thought these we amazing.  I was also worried that the chiles would be frighteningly, but they had a pleasant spice. 

In case you were curious, the dried chiles are in the produce section of your local supermarket and that whole bag seen about cost $2.

Make yourself some enchiladas from scratch, it's definitely worth it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Chocolate Stout Cake with Pretzels and Peanuts

What to make for a man for his 60th birthday? A cake with beer, pretzels, and peanuts of course!

I used a recipe from, of all places, Snyders.  The only change I made in the recipe is that I baked it in a 13x9 inch pan instead of a spring-form pan that it calls for.  Not sure what requires something to be made in a spring-form pan, but it worked just fine in a regular cake pan.

For the frosting, I microwaved some store bought frosting and poured it over the cake to make a thin glaze.

I will say it was a successful birthday all around.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cookie Dough Oreo Review

There's been a lot of buzz on the net about these Cookie Dough flavored Oreos.  I kept an eye out for them to arrive at Stop and Shop and snatched up a package as soon as I laid eyes on them.

The bar was set pretty high in my mind on these cookies so it was no surprise when they didn't live up to my expectations.

Just a heads up, they taste nothing like cookie dough.  The only flavor I taste is sort of a maple syrup and coffee flavor.  Does it taste bad? Not really, but it sure as heck doesn't taste like cookie dough.

Sorry kids, I know this will break some hearts to hear, but cookie dough Oreos just don't cut it.  I would prefer a regular Oreo any day.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dip

Yes, yes kids.  This dip tastes like peanut butter cookie dough.  It's also jam packed with chocolate chips and mini Reese's peanut butter cups.

Good God.  I know, pick your jaw up off the floor.  Let's get down to business.

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dip
From Sugary Sweets

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
8oz cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
8 oz Reese's mini peanut butter cups, or regular ones chopped

1. Heat butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan, stir until sugar dissolves.  Set aside and allow to come to room temperature.
2. In a mixing bowl mix cream cheese, vanilla, peanut butter, and powdered sugar. Add brown sugar mixture and mix until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips and peanut butter cups.
3. Serve with sliced apples, graham crackers, and/or pretzels.

This dip will blow your mind.  It really is incredibly delicious and super simple to whip up.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Shrimp Pad Thai

I was gifted a fabulous magazine subscription this Christmas: Cook's Country.  For those of you who may not know, I have a deep affection and appreciation for Cook's Country and America's Test Kitchen.  They are the best cooking shows and cook books I have ever laid eyes on.  If you have not experienced the glory of America's Test Kitchen on PBS, I suggest you change that asap.

Or you could just make this recipe, it's from their magazine.

Shrimp Pad Thai
From Cook's Country Magazine

8oz rice noodles
1/3 cup lime juice, about 3 limes
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
8oz bean sprouts, I used snap peas
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

1.Soak noodles in hot water until softened, about 15 minutes.  The package will have instructions.  Combine lime juice, brown sugar, and fish sauce in a measuring cup.  Pat shrimp dry, add to oiled and heated skillet along with garlic.  Cook until shrimp is pink, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

2. Place drained noodles in the now empty skillet on medium heat.  Cook for about 2 minutes until some of the excess moisture is removed. Add lime juice mixture to skillet and cook until thickened slightly.  Add sprouts (or snap peas) and shrimp, cook until heated through,  Serve in bowls topped with cilantro and peanuts.

I made mine with double the noodles and double the sauce because my noodle packet was quite large.  This is certainly not necessary unless you are feeding a small army.

This was so simple and delicious, and just requires a few odd ingredients that you can find in the international section of your supermarket.  Don't be afraid of fish sauce, and don't substitute it.

Go experience the joys of Cook's Country, and cook yourself up some shrimp pad thai!