Monday, May 28, 2012

Marshmallow Brownies

OhmygoshIlovedthesesomuch!  A fluffy marshmallow layer sandwiched between chocolate-y frosting and fudgy brownie studded with milk chocolate chips?  You've got to be kidding me!  Worth every darn calorie and then some.  If you want to rocky road them just add nuts to the brownies.  I kept it simple since I was taking them in to a family with several young children, and we all know how most kids are about nuts.  Personally I think nuts would send these into the stratosphere.  Such a keeper.

Marshmallow Brownies
{Recipe only slightly altered from The Sister Cafe}

1 cup butter
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 t vanilla
1 cup walnuts or pecans (or in my case milk chocolate chips)
1 lb mini marshmallows

Melt butter and chocolate.  Remove from heat and add sugar, then one egg at a time, beating after each addition.  (I did this in the kitchenaid.)  Add salt, flour, vanilla, nuts and/or chocolate chips.  Mix well.  Bake in a 12x15 inch well-greased pan (I used my cookie sheet with sides) at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven just long enough to sprinkle liberally with mini-marshmallows (you want the top to be all but covered with marshamallows).  Return to oven for 3-minutes until marshmallow are super soft, but not browned or crusty.  Gently press down on marshmallows to fill in any possible gaps.  Let cool completely then frost.

1/2 cup butter
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup milk, cream, evap. milk, or half-n-half
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
dash of salt

In medium sauce pan, melt butter, chocolate, and milk product of choosing.  Stir powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth.  You want it runny enough to easily spread, but thick enough to set-up quickly and not pool.  (Think texas sheet cake, if you're familiar with that).  Pour over cooled brownies and spread as necessary.  Let frosting set and come to room temp before cutting.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Grilled Chicken Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Salads are yummy and main dish salads are even yummier.  To be honest we ate this quite awhile ago, I've just been lazy with the cooking blog, but looking at it now that we're into full-on summer, I know how desperately I need to make it again.  Grilled chicken, toasted almonds, flavorful red onions, crispy bacon and the world's best poppyseed dressing make this a most satisfying warm weather meal.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
{Recipe from The Sister's Cafe}

Spinach leaves
Chopped romaine
Grilled chicken, seasoned with lots of lemon pepper (or your fave marinated grilled chicken)
Red onion, thinly sliced
Crispy crumbled bacon
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Toasted (in oven) or sugared almonds-about equal amounts sugar and sliced almonds cooked in skillet over medium heat until sugar melts and almonds are well-coated and golden.

Poppyseed Dressing:
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 t salt
2 t dry mustard
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 T sweet onion, chopped or grated
2 cups canola oil 
3 T poppy seeds

Mix first 5 ingredients in blender, then slowly add the oil, blending until thick.  Stir in poppy seeds.  This makes quite a bit of dressing.  And I like to add a couple drops of red food coloring to get that pinkish hue.

Mix all salad components together, there are no "amounts", just add however much you would like of each item.  Can either dress salad and serve or serve dressing on the side.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

South of the Border Open-Face Sandwiches

We are big fans of toasty sandwiches so naturally we were big fans of these.  Fresh tomatoes and avocado, roasted turkey, mexican spiced sandwich spread, and melted cheese = yummy.  I was a little leery of "cooked" avocados but it totally worked.  I'm so looking forward to the leftovers for lunch today!  Also these would be an easy way to feed a crowd and quickly.

South of the Border Sandwiches
{recipe originally from the Lion House}

1 loaf french bread, 1/2-3/4 inch slices
1/2 cup olives, chopped (i omitted these)
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup mayonaise
1/3 cup lite sour cream
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1 lb sliced turkey
2-3 tomatoes, sliced
2 ripe avocados, sliced
3/4 cup colby jack cheese, grated
3/4 cup monterey jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 and arrange bread slices on a cookie sheet or 2.

In a small bowl, mix seasonings with mayo, sour cream, green onions, and chopped olives (if using).  Liberally spread a tablespoon or so of mixture on each slice of bread.  Top with 2 or so slices of turkey, 2 slices of tomato, and some avocado.  Sprinkle each sandwich with the grated cheeses.

Bake in oven 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and sandwich is warmed through.  Serve!  (8ish servings)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

One of our favorite dishes at PF Chang's is the lettuce wraps.  They are so flavorful and refreshing, we can never get enough of them.  This homemade and entirely different recipe is just as flavorful and refreshing.  We all (kids most definitely included) scarfed them down and then wished there were more.  What I loved most about these was how simple they were to prepare, there's really only about 4 main ingredients and chances are you probably have most of them on hand.  I'm sure there far more than that in a PF Chang's knock-off.  Which means this version is a totally doable last minute week-night meal.  Perfect, fast, and healthy for busy summer nights.  Enjoy!

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps
{Adapted Recipe from She Wears Many Hats. com}

For stir fry sauce:  (which I doubled and didn't regret one bit)
2 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t ground ginger (fresh would work well also-maybe 2 teaspoons worth?)
1 t sesame oil (I'm not a huge fan of sesame oil, so I only do a couple drops)

For Cashew Chicken:
2 chicken breasts, diced
3 T veggie oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t soy sauce
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup water chestnuts, diced
optional: shredded cabbage
Several leaves of greenleaf (our pick) or iceburg lettuce

For sauce:  Mix all ingredients making sure to dissolve brown sugar.  Set aside.

For cashew chicken:
Heat oil in pan over med-high heat.  Add diced chicken and brown (4-5 minutes).  Remove chicken from oil.  Add onions, garlic, 1 t soy sauce to pan (and shredded cabbage if using); brown.  When mixture is brown and tender, add stir fry sauce, browned chicken, cashews, and water chestnuts.  Saute a few minutes.  To serve:  Spoon chicken mixture onto individual lettuce leaves, may add some hot sauce (sririachi), more cashews, and maybe even some cilantro is desired.  Roll up and eat--kind of messy, definitely awkward, but oh so worth it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Caramel Banana Pecan Muffins

Yet another muffin recipe to share today.  This one might not look like anything to write home about but it most certainly is.  It starts with a banana and cream cheese laced batter then adds crunchy pecans, banana slices, and (hoo-boy!) caramel bits.  Sprinkle it all with some cinnamon sugar, bake it up, and voila--muffin-induced coma.  Yes please!
Caramel Banana Pecan Muffins
{recipe source:}

1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 T sugar
1 t cinnamon

1 3oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 medium very ripe banana, peeled and mashed (approx. 1/2 cup)
1 t vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt
Kraft caramel bits (found mine at wal-mart by the choco chips. etc.)

1 medium ripe banana, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T butter melted

Line 12 cup muffin tine with liners.  Spray with cooking spray.  In small bowl combine chopped pecans, 2 T sugar, and 1 t cinnamon.  Set aside.

In mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and 2/3 cup sugar until creamy. Add the egg and mix to combine.  Beat in mashed banana and vanilla just until combined.

In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add flour mixture to bowl/wet mixture one spoonful at a time while mixer is stirring on low just until combined.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the pecan mixture.

Spoon about a Tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup.  Sprinkle on some caramel bits and a slice or 2 of banana.  Spoon another Tablespoon of batter on top.  Mix remaining pecan mixture and 1 T of melted butter together.  Sprinkle some over each muffin cup.

Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes.  Cool in pan for a few minutes before removing.  (Can add a caramel drizzle to each baked muffin if you want.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rustic Rosemary Bread (a la Macaroni Grill)

Anyone who's had the pleasure of dining at Macaroni Grill has had the experience of this bread. They bring the hot fragrant loaves straight from the oven to your table endlessly. Imagine my delight when I realized how easy it was to recreate at home! Yeast breads can be a bit daunting, but for the most part I would consider this a fool-proof recipe.
Chock full of rosemary, chewy soft on the inside and buttery brown on the outside, the only way to top that is to tear off a piece and dip it in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and cracked black pepper. Serving it on the side of this dish makes my life complete.

Rustic Rosemary Bread
{Recipe from Mels Kitchen Cafe}

1 T instant yeast or 1 1/2 T active dry yeast
1 T sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 3/4-3 1/2 cups flour (I was good at 3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1 1/2 T dried rosemary, chopped
1/2 t garlic powder
2 T butter, melted
coarse salt for sprinkling (kosher or sea salt)

Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in the bowl of mixer. Let stand 5 minutes. With paddle attachment on low, add salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix for 2 minutes. Add dried rosemary and mix. Add remaining flour, a little at a time, until a soft dough that clears the sides of the bowl is formed. The dough should be a little tacky while still being smooth and soft. Knead dough using dough hook for another 4-5 minutes. You may add a little extra flour as needed during this time.

Allow dough to raise in a lightly greased and covered bowl until doubled in size, between 1-2 hours (mine was ready at 1). Once doubled, gently deflate the dough and divide into 2 equal parts. Shape each dough ball into a round loaf and place on a silpat lined baking sheet, side by side with plenty of room in between. Using a brush, slather the 2 T of melted butter equally over each loaf. Continue brushing until butter is gone, the loaves will be saturated. Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to rise until nearly doubled again, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Carefully remove plastic wrap from loaves and sprinkle each loaf with a little bit of coarse salt. Bake loaves for 14-20 minutes until browned and baked through. Remove from baking sheet and serve warm with a mixture of equal parts extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and some fresh ground black pepper for dipping. We like to just tear chunks off our loaf to dip, but you could always slice it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chicken Scallopine

Question: Have you discovered the amazingness of capers in your life? If you have you will automatically love this meal and if you haven't this, in my humble opinion, is the best dish to expand your horizons. Capers are delightful little flavor bombs. A little salty, a little pickle-y, and downright wonderful. Add to them golden crispy chicken, tender noodles, a little cream, a little garlic, and a lot of lemon and you have easily one my top 10 meals. Food is a glorious thing is it not?

Chicken Scallopine
{Based on a Pioneer Woman recipe}

4 chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded thin
Garlic Pepper
Black Pepper
Olive oil

1 cup chicken broth (or white wine)
1/2 cup cream
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional-you'll see I didn't have any on hand in the above picture, but they are yummy)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 generous T capers with a little of their juice
1/2 a lemon+, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

hot cooked linguine noodles
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Note: the above amounts are rough guesses, I generally just throw things together and taste as I go until it's how we like it. good luck with that!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Get noodles going.

In large heavy skillet over med-high heat, heat a few Tablespoons of olive oil. After chicken is halved and pounded thin generously season both sides with garlic pepper and fresh ground pepper. Lightly dredge each piece in flour and brown in pan. You want a nice golden crust, so don't move the chicken around once it's placed in the skillet. Leave it alone for 3-4 minutes and then turn over for the same amount of time. Place browned chicken cutlets in a baking dish and pop uncovered in the oven to finish cooking through while moving onto the sauce.

Splash a little chicken broth into browning skillet to start the deglazing process and stop the little bits from burning. If needed add a little more olive oil and then quickly cook garlic (approx 30 seconds) until fragrant, being careful not to burn. (If using mushrooms, now's the time to saute those for a couple minutes). Add remaining chicken broth and scrape the pan to loosen up any bits. Add cream, capers, and lemon juice. Let cook down for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust adding more seasoning or lemon juice or capers until it's flavored to your liking.

Once noodles are cooked and sauce is ready, remove chicken cutlets from the oven. Plate some noodles, top with 1 or 2 chicken cutlets, spoon some sauce over, and sprinkle grated parmesan over all. Take one bite and die of bliss!