Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mary's Baked Fruit ~ 12.18.11

Mary's Baked Fruit is one of my favorite recipes from home. We have this at many a holiday celebration and it always makes me think of Christmas (well, and Easter, too). It contains a very unique ingredient that doesn't quite taste the way you expect it to taste: curry! Whenever I tell someone it's in there the response is quite often, "I don't really like curry and stay away from anything with it in it!" And then they try this recipe and are sold.

In our family, the peaches and pineapples are the first to go. Poor pears! So, we usually increase the amounts of those in the recipe. I've even increased the fruit in this recipes WITHOUT increasing the "sauce" ingredients.

I will give you one caveat before you proceed, the sauce in this stains. It's ruined a few shirts, but again, it's well worth it and I just give lots of warnings about that fact. My kids LOVE this recipe and it will be around for many years to come. I'm including some photos of my fruit draining process. My mom always used paper towels, but I was trying to be a bit more "green" ;)

Mary's Baked Fruit

Best made the day before or several... the flavors marry together and it gets better!
Increase/decrease fruit amts. per preference

1 lg can cling peach halves (the pics show slices as that was what I had on hand at the time)
1 lg can pineapple slices
1 lg can pear halves
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2-4 tsp. curry powder (we use 2)

1. Drain fruit and dry on paper towels- or use towels (see photos above). Absorb as much moisture as possible.
2. Arrange fruit in casserole dish.
3. Melt butter, then add brown sugar and curry. Spoon over the fruit.
4. Bake 1 hour in 325-350 degree oven.

Serves 4-6--- of course you can double/ triple the recipe! you can also freeze the leftovers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chocolate Blackout Cake ~ 11.15.11

Right, so if you haven't figured this out yet, we LOVE chocolate around here. So, when "birthday season" rolls around, it is usually the most requested kind of cake.

Thankfully, there are so many different KINDS of chocolate cake one can make! I happened upon this lovely recipe last week and decided to try it for my 7 year old's birthday. It's not a quick cake and there are a few steps to get right and all, but it was worth it and birthdays only come once a year, so we should make them special!

The recipe comes from America's Best Lost Recipes, from the editors of Cook's Country Magazine. Chocolate Blackout Cake was a forerunner to Death by Chocolate confections and came from a bakery in Brooklyn, NY called Ebinger's. It has decadent layers of fudgy, chocolate cake held together by a rich, creamy pudding that couples as a frosting! Chocolate Blackout Cake was developed during World War II and is so named after the blackout drills performed by the Civilian Defense Corps.A Blackout was performed so ships when sailing off to battle could not be spotted by enemy planes. City lights were turned off and windows were covered with black material. They had drills like fire drills to practice for the real thing. The cake derived its name from it's intensely dark appearance and some say, the crumbled cake crumbs on top are reminiscent of aciety skyline.

Though Ebinger's never published their recipe, the bakers at Cook's Country tested and streamlined this version that I know you chocolate lovers out there will thoroughly enjoy!

Chocolate Blackout Cake
from America's Best Lost Recipes

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for greasing pans
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
1 cup strong black coffee, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1. For the Pudding: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. (It should have a pudding consistency- mine took MUCH longer than 2-4 minutes and this step is crucial to your pudding being pudding, so make sure that milk is warm enough and you keep stirring until it thickens and the chocolate melts.) Stir in vanilla and transfer frosting to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.

2. For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl, set aside. ( I realized I only had 9-inch cake pans and I used what I had, but 8-inch would be preferable here)

3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.

4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.

5. To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Pick the least ‘good-looking’ cake layer and crumble into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter (I put down waxed paper first in strips so that my cake platter would be "clean" after the crumbles were added) or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and the last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly on the side of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

alternatively, you could just keep the crumbled cake part on the sides and leave the top a smooth pudding layer to write a message!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chocolate Birthday Cake ~ 10.31.11

This year, for my son's 9th Birthday, I decided to make LMLD's birthday cake for all occasions as I had happened upon it the day before I was ready to make his cake! It was a HIT! Rich and chocolately and made from scratch. I made this the day of the birthday party AND I had an open house that same day as well. SO- don't think scratch = extra time in the kitchen. It came together quickly and I just "built" the cake at my mom's house later in the day so I didn't have any "accidents" with this HIGH layer cake on the way there.

Auntie Leila gives such lovely descriptions of her cake on LMLD and I'm intrigued by the way she made her version with a ganache and layer of apricot preserves! She also gives lots of substitutions(like olive oil or coconut oil for the butter) for ingredients on her post about this cake- which can be very helpful!
Since I was not running to the store and had ALL of the ingredients for the original recipe, I made it just this way...

Easy Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
from Like Mother, Like Daughter


2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
optional: fresh whipped cream; strawberries

1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Grease and flour a large bundt or 2- 9" layer pans. I also used parchment rounds on the bottom of my cake pans which I greased as well. Didn't want any mishaps!!
3. Mix the sugar and melted butter together in your mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, vanilla and eggs. One bowl. That easy. Just don't overmix, just until it's incorporated and smooth.
4. Pour the batter into your pans (I use an ice cream scoop and do even amts in each pan until all the batter is used up!) and smooth the top with a spatula.
5. Bake about 30 minutes for layer cakes and 40 minutes for a Bundt. Test with a toothpick in the center to check for doneness.
6. Let cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before inverting. Then let cool completely before frosting your cake.

Easy fresh Whipped Cream
2 pints whipped cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Using a large bowl, add your cream and begin to whisk briskly until it starts to froth and come together- soft peaks.
2. Sprinkle in powdered sugar and add vanilla.
3. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form (if you overmix you'll get butter, so stop before it's too late!).
4. Taste for sweetness.
5. Chill or spread on your favorite cake

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake ~ 10.30.11

I can't help myself- when it comes to pumpkin flavored anything... I'm IN!

I really can't believe I'm about to admit this but it's October 29th as I type this and I have yet to make anything pumpkin-y. I'm not sure if it was my lack of time or my fear that there would be another pumpkin shortage this year or whatever, I just haven't made much in the muffin/cookie/cake/bread department involving my favorite flavor!

Ah, but thanks to my crazy pregnancy cravings- that was all put to rest tonight. I made a delectable Pumpkin Pie Milkshake patterned after one I saw over here.

Oh me.

Oh my.

I do SO love Pumpkin Pie flavored stuff- I have pumpkin spice Hershey kisses (which I ration out through the year) and found Pumpkin spiced candy corn at our Market District GE this year, too!

I can't say a word about those pumpkin lattes everyone is goo goo over, I'm not a coffee drinker at all. BUT I do have a box of decaf Pumpkin Spice tea made by stash that I love! ;)

So, pumpkin beverages are so fun to have this time of year and while I DO love a hot beverage, I'm a sucker for anything ice cream related. I adapted this recipe just a bit by adding gingersnap cookies to it. As I recall, a few years back a local burger place had gingersnap milkshakes that I could.not.get.enough.of- at the time. Maybe I was pregnant then, too. Wait... I was! with the twins! LOL Anyway, give this recipe a try anytime between now and Thanksgiving- after that, we'll all move onto PEPPERMINT flavored milkshakes, etc!!!

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake
adapted from Our Best Bites

To your blender, add:

1/4- 1/2 cup milk- start with 1/4 cup and then add more in the last step
1/3 cup pumpkin
heaping 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice -easy to make your own
dash of vanilla extract
2 Tbs brown sugar

Blend together all of the above, THEN add:

2 cups of vanilla ice cream

Give it a whirl and if it's not whirling well, add 1/4 cup more milk.

Pour into a tall, frosty mug and sprinkle crushed gingersnap cookies on top!

sip slowly and enjoy every minute

Makes ONE generous milkshake!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apple Spice Cake ~ 10.29.11

This delightful apple cake is a snap to put together. Just mix in the ingredients and pour into your greased bundt pan. Bundt cakes (if you grease properly and flour properly) - always come out looking so beautiful and fancy. The aroma that will fill your home as this cake bakes will definitely warm up your taste buds.
Be sure to make some caramel sauce (or buy a jar in a pinch- I love Tastefully Simple Creamy Caramel Sauce). I just happened to have a jar of Aldi's brand in my pantry, so that's what worked out for me the day I made this for our church group.

Once you make this, you'll agree this cake is worthy of a celebration- which was why I originally tried it! For my son's 4th birthday party we made this to go along with other fall treats. But it's just as great for a Sunday brunch, too.


Apple Spice Cake
originally posted at She's a Crafty Pumpkin, Oct. 28, 2006
courtesy Dorothy Mae Brown, via Martha Stewart dot com

1 1/3 c vegetable oil
3 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into half inch pieces (I've used MacIntosh, too)
1 cup assorted nuts (optional)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Caramel Sauce

--Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.

-- Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 
 --In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until lemon yellow. 
--With mixer on medium speed, gradually add in dry ingredients until just incorporated. 
--Add apples and, if desired, nuts, to batter; mix to combine. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated.
--Pour (it's rather thick, so use a spatula) batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes. 
--Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack.
 --Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack, and serve drizzled with caramel sauce.

Serves 10. (I've sliced into several more slices than that before, too)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Creamy Tomato Balsamic Soup~ 10. 24.11

Continuing my trend this week of copying recipes from my other blog and posting them here. Before they're forgotten! Some of these haven't been made in ages.

I may have mentioned my love and affection for all things tomato- and this soup fits the bill. I may need to make it this week! heartburn schmartburn! (ah the joys of pregnancy)

I do use a foley food mill to make my soup. Ever see one of those before? One of my beloved kitchen tools. You can sometimes nab one at a garage sale or thrift store. Or raid your grandmother's cabinets and ask her for hers ;) Mine came from my grandfather and then I upgraded to a less rusty version when I saw one at a garage sale a few years back.
So handy and a  kid can operate it! 
that's Dom making applesauce!

Anyway, this soup does have a bit of wait time with those tomatoes roasting... but you'll be ever so thankful you did that step. House smelling all warm and lovely- tomatoes cooking in a beautiful marinade adding a wonderful depth of flavor to your tomato soup... yep, it's a good thing.

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup

Cooking the vegetables at the high temperature of 500° caramelizes their natural sugars and deepens their flavor; the liquid poured over them ensures they won't burn. Prepare the soup up to two days ahead; reheat over medium heat before serving.

1 cup less-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
Cooking spray
3/4 cup half-and-half
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 500°.
Combine 1/2 cup of broth, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture. Bake at 500° for 50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.

Place tomato mixture in a blender. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and half-and-half, and process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Garnish with cracked black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)

CALORIES 120(35% from fat); FAT 4.7g (sat 3g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 3.8g; CHOLESTEROL 23mg; CALCIUM 120mg; SODIUM 452mg; FIBER 1.7g; IRON 1.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.9g

Julie Grimes
Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2005

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spaghetti Pie ~10.23.11

I did a quick search on this blog the other day and was flabbergasted that I have never shared the following recipe with you here! Shame!
I make this a lot. It's hearty and creamy and delcious. My husband likes it, a lot. And depending on the day of the week, most of the kids like it, too. ;)

I find that you can use a bit more tomato sauce and usually make a little extra to have on the side. I also use light sour cream. Always have in this recipe. Don't usually use whole wheat pasta, but I bet that would be better for us, now wouldn't it?

And once upon a time I actually took pics of this at certain steps, but forgot the best part... the finished product! Guess I'll have to make it again soon and take a photo!

Spaghetti Pie
(Adapted from Cooking Light)

1 pound ground sirloin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 -15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cups chopped green onions
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups cooked whole wheat spaghetti
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
2 ounces fresh grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350

In large skillet over medium heat, cook sirloin until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain and return to pan. Stir in seasonings and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, onions, and cream cheese.

Place spaghetti in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray.

Spoon sour cream mixture over spaghetti and spread evenly. Place the ground sirlion mixture on top. Sprinkle with cheeses and bake, covered, for 25 minutes.

 here it is sans cheese- I wish I had a pic of it in all its creamy glory on my plate!

Uncover and bake 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

** You can certainly freeze this for a new mom or yourself! Just wrap tightly with foil and date and put it in the freezer before you bake it!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Granola ~ 10.13.11

It always amuses me how I end up some places on the web. Just the other day I landed here and found a lovely recipe for Pumpkin Spice Granola. I was intrigued by it because it called for adding sweet potato puree and I just roasted some sweets the other day and had not eaten them yet. Coupled with the fact that I love making granola and haven't for some time- this recipe was sure to hit my oven in less than a day!

And it did! I love a quick recipe turnaround. Print one day and make it the next (or that night!). I did one better by reviewing it for you, on the blog. She has a lot of great recipes, so be sure to visit and try one of the many granola recipes she featured recently.

I was hoping that while it was cooking it would taste as amazing as my house smelled. The aroma was delightful and so comforting. And the taste- delicious. Not too sweet at all, in my opinion-- just right!

I appreciated the idea of letting your granola cool in the oven to let it crisp--- that didn't always happen in the past with other recipes I've tried. So, from now on... cooling in the oven after it bakes!

Pumpkin Spice Granola
adapted from Finding Joy in My Kitchen

4 1/2 cups oats (I used a combo of Steel Cut and Old Fashioned)
2 1/2 cups Rice Crispy type cereal
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice **(I made my own and recipe is at bottom)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1/4 cup applesauce (just happened to have homemade!)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the oats, cereal and wheat germ in a large bowl. Add in the spices and the salt.

In another bowl, mix the sugar, sweet potato, applesauce, syrup and vanilla.

Add the puree to the oat mixture and stir to coat.

Spread onto a large cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper (you could spray with cooking spray) or baking pan. Bake for 30 min at 325 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes.

Let cool in the oven and store in an airtight container or large ziplock bag. Granola will keep for several weeks -- if it lasts that long!

**Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice mixture
(found somewhere on the internet)

To a small glass jar add:
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom*

print out a little label with the date and contents and you have your own Pumpkin Pie Spice!
*I searched high and low in my pantry and somehow was out of cardamom, so, know that it will taste just fine without it in your spice mixture, too. ;)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mexican Pizza ~ 10.1.11

I've been declaring my love for *Pinterest* on my other blog, but really, it has provided the Crafty Cafe patrons a wonderful assortment of good eats over the past 2 months!

Lately, I've been craving Mexican-inspired foods. I haven't stepped foot in or driven through a Taco Bell drive thru in over 5 years and suddenly.... the bean burrito is my new best friend! LOL
So, when I saw this recipe for Mexican pizza using ingredients I almost ALWAYS have on hand... I was sold and knew it would make the list of recipes to try immediately!

But first, a good salsa is not a bad thing to have in your fridge and this homemade restaurant-style version from Ree is a winner! It's been on my to-try list for awhile, anyway, so Mexican pizza and the fact that I didn't have a jar of salsa on hand at all were the perfect reasons to give it a go!

It comes together super-duper fast, if you have a food processor. And Thankfully, I do! But if you don't, I bet a blender would do the trick.

And that wonderful creation goes beautifully inside this next recipe for Mexican Pizza.
Here's the original post that I saw and my take on the recipe! I don't have exact amts b/c it all depends on how many you're making it for. I usually get all the ingredients ready so that throughout the week, I can have mexican pizza whenever I want it!

Mexican Pizza
my version

tortillas- I like whole wheat
1 can refried beans- I choose the one with least amt of sodium and opt for vegetarian - we are going to doctor these up!

couple green onions- chopped
salsa of your choice
couple tomatoes- chopped
shredded cheese- colby jack is good
optional: onion, jalapeno, sour cream, taco sauce

Preheat your oven and line a pan with foil.
Take 2 tortillas and brush them with a little canola oil.
Place in oven for about 10 min.
While the tortillas as warming/crisping-- heat your refried beans in a small saucepan. Add in a 1/4 cup water,  couple Tbs chopped onion (no, thank you), 1 tsp taco seasoning (if none, use a little cumin and chili powder and garlic powder), I added some of my fave- Adobo seasoning and a couple turns of freshly gr black pepper.
Let the beans heat on the stovetop, on low, careful not to burn.
Chop your veggies and grate your cheese- some tomato, green onions and if you'd like more heat- jalapeno

Take the tortillas out and build your pizza!
1. spread a good amt of beans on one tortilla. Add a dollop of salsa- not too much.
2. top with second tortilla and spread a dollop of salsa on that and add some chopped veggies: tomato, green onion and jalapeno
3. Top it all with cheese and put it back in the oven for about 12 min.

Remove from oven, slice and serve! Ole!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies ~ 8.6.11

I have a birthday party to go to this weekend and when I found out that the birthday boy loves chocolate as much as I do.... I knew just what to gift to him. A box of homemade Ultimate Double Chocolate cookies. These are extremely fudgy chocolately. So, if you're a chocolate fan, I recommend you get yourself to the store and scoop up these ingredients in a jiffy! Luckily, I had them on hand and got right to work...

Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies
adapted from

1 bag (11.5 oz) Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 oz)
optional: 1 cup (4oz) chopped walnuts

In a microwave save bowl, dump your bittersweet chips and butter. Microwave in 20 sec increments, stirring after each, until smooth and completely melted. Don't rush, or you'll burn your chips! Alternately, you can do this over a double boiler set up.

In large bowl of electric mixer, cream eggs and sugar until thick; stir in the melted chocolate. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder; add to chocolate/egg mixture. Gently mix in semi-sweet chocolate chips (and walnuts, if using).

Using a large sheet of plastic wrap, pour dough (yes, it's very, very soft) in a log form about 8 inches by 2 inches (eyeball it, k?). Wrap plastic around dough to form a log and place in fridge for 1 hour. I made two logs with this dough.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Unwrap dough and slice into 3/4-1 inch slices- if you like BIG cookies, just place those slices on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Knowing these were rather rich and wanting MORE cookies, I sliced each 3/4 inch slice in half and had 2 smaller cookies.

Bake 12-14 minutes or until shiny crust forms on top but interior is still soft. Cool slightly on baking sheet, transfer to rack or my favorite, brown paper bags.

Enjoy with a tall glass of milk.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

S'mores Bars ~ July 31, 2011

S'mores. They just SCREAM summertime, don't cha think? I love 'em, all the messiness of them, too.

Whenever I see a recipe for something S'mores-y, I gravitate towards it like a bee to a flower. Funny that my only recipes for July are s'mores related!

I think I first saw this on Pinterest (my new love) and I knew I had all the ingredients to make it happen THAT night!

On with the recipe:

 S'mores Bars
adapted from Betty Crocker
1 pouch of Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie dough mix ( 1lb. 1.5 oz)- I had two small batch sized bags that I used
1 cup graham cracker crumbs - I just had that EXACT amt (I was destined to eat these last night ;)
1 cup of butter, melted
3 cups chocolate chips (I may have used a tad mor)
4 1/2 cups mini marshmallows - I had stars leftover from July 4th
2-3 graham crackers- broken into bits

Mix together the sugar cookie mix and graham cracker crumbs.
Pour in the melted butter and mix it all together
Line a 9x13 pan with foil.
Dump in the mix and press to the edges and make it all even.
Bake at 375 for 18-20 min.
Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips on top and let them get melty (I ran and did some laundry and came back for the next step)
Smooth the chocolate all over the cookie crust
Set oven to broil and top the chocolate layer with marshmallows and then dot the in-betweens with broken up bits of graham crackers (my addition).
Broil in the oven for less than 2 minutes (otherwise you'll have what I had up there- burnt marshmallows! DON'T WALK AWAY, not even to the sink to do the dishes!!)

Let cool a bit and cut them into squares. I did the baking part prior to dinner and then as the table was cleared, popped the marshmallow topped bars under the broiler. Perfect timing.... except the part where I left them in too long.... heed my warning!

So delish with a tall glass of milk!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summertime Frozen S'mores ~ 7.1.11

One day last week or so, I was having a hard time figuring what else to schmear Nutella on when my Magic Pop (korean rice cakes) were all gone.

Thanks to facebook and my cousin, Linda (I have gads of smart cousins ;), help was on the way. She told me to put whipped cream and nutella on a graham cracker and then freeze them. BRILLIANT!

I had cool whip. So I went with that. Whipped cream is obviously not fake. So whatever floats your boat.

I set up my graham crackers assembly line-style and smeared on the Nutella, then the cool whip, topped it with another graham cracker and popped them in the freezer. (please note  that I did eat several and licked my fingers many times during this process and I can say, they're GREAT frozen or not).

That's all that's to this.
graham crackers
cool whip

oooo, thinking that marshmallow fluff would be another good option, too!


enjoy our frozen s'mores!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Middle Eastern delights ~ 6.9.11

{corn and black bean salsa (with edamame), falafel and hummus}

Would you take a look at that plate! I mean, wow! Doesn't it all look so delicious? Okay, I'm a total food freak, I know. Who else takes pictures of their lunch? Well, I know a few more.... but still, I had to take a picture so that I could share these fabulous foods with YOU!

The recipes I'm sharing today all hail from Lucinda Scala Quinn's show, Mad Hungry on The Hallmark Channel. I have a link to the blog over there on my sidebar, do take a look. I have another handful of recipes to share with you that I've made in the past few weeks and they are ALL from her SHOW! I made all of the recipes on her Israeli Cooking show: Hummus, Falafel and Israeli Salad. I'm sharing 2 out of 3 of those recipes with you today. That last recipe was eaten so fast I didn't have time to photograph it!

Both of these recipes today start with a bag of dried chickpeas. Sometimes they can be hard to find. I didn't find them with the other dried beans/legumes in the grocery store. Instead, they were in the International food aisle, in the Mexican section. They're my new pantry staple.

I know I've posted a great hummus recipe in the past, but this one takes the cake. The former is great if you're short on time, but if you prep your chickpeas in advance, go with this recipe made from dried chickpeas. WOW. The creamy texture was so amazing and the flavor is subtle perfection.

Mad Hungry Hummus

3 1/2 cups cooked dried  chickpeas ** recipe to follow** or 2 15.5 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbs tahini paste (I love Kyros)
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil

In bowl of food processor, combine chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini and salt. Pulse to a thick paste. With motor running, slowly add water, then oil in a steady stream. Taste and add more salt if needed (mine needed a tad bit more).

Serve with pita, chips, veggies or spread on a sandwich!

This next recipe was not a hit with the family, but I LOVED them!

these are fried vegetarian patties. You can eat them alone or on a pita, served as a sandwich. Drizzle a little tahini over them if you'd like

1 3/4 cup cooked dried chickpeas, or 1 15.5 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup parsley
2 Tbs mint
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbs sesame seeds, toasted (I left those out)
1/2 cup safflower or canola oil
For serving: pita, sliced tomatoes, red onion, lettuce, tahini

Place half of chickpeas in food processor and pulse a few times until chopped, transfer to large bowl.

Place remaining chickpeas in processor with garlic, onion, herbs, spices, baking soda, salt and lemon juice. Pulse to a thick, chunky paste, about 30 sec. Transfer to bowl with chopped chickpeas.

Add egg and sesame seeds to bowl and stir to combine. Cover and chill batter for 30 minutes. (I left mine in the fridge 2 days before frying)

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Form batter into 2 inch wide patties (I got about 10 patties in total). Place in hot oil and gently flatten. Cook, turning once, after the first side is a nice golden brown- about 4-5 minutes total. Transfer to paper towel (or bag) lined plate to drain.

Serve with pita bread, tomato slices, lettuce and red onion. Drizzle with tahini.

Cooked Dried Chickpeas
from Martha Stewart dot com

1 pound bag of chickpeas
1 Tbs baking soda

Soak the chickpeas in water with baking soda for 8 hours (aka overnight!). Drain and rinse. Place chickpeas in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, simmer and cook until softened (about 2 hours). Rinse the chickpeas and use as desired.

One bag of chickpeas is enough for both of the above recipes!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes ~ 6.3.11

Not too long ago, I posted a recipe for Blueberry syrup. This little beaut would go perfectly dressed with that syrup. So fresh. So summer. So delish.

Enjoy. These are a perfect reason to use up that last little bit of ricotta in the container. Keep this in mind.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
(adapted from Everyday Food- originally Orange Ricotta...)

1 3/4 cup park skim ricotta cheese (15 oz)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2/3 cup all purpose flour
canola oil
confectioner's sugar and/or Blueberry Syrup

-In a med bowl, whisk the ricotta, sugar, eggs and lemon zest together. Whisk in the flour until just combined.
--Heat oil in a nonstick skillet or spray a griddle pan over med-low heat.
--Working in batches, add batter, use about a 1/4 cup (or little less) for each pancake.
--Cook until browned, 4-5 min per side.
Transfer to plate lined with paper towels (esp if you used canola oil). Serve hot with confectioner's sugar or blueberry syrup

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crisp High Roast Chicken with Potatoes ~ 5.20.11

Maybe you've figure this out about me, but maybe not. I love cooking shows. I'm a visual learner and when  I see someone make something- it brings the recipe to life and gives me the confidence to approach the recipe! Maybe that's why Ree is so popular? She shows you step by step. Well, that and her amazing recipes.

I digress.

I've always been a fan of Cook's Illustrated and more specifically the PBS show America's Test Kitchen. I find it fascinating to hear all the trial and error they put into testing these recipes. Makes me really believe that this is the best way to cook/bake something.

I thought this recipe for cooking a whole chicken was brilliant and doable. And the first time I made this recipe was back in 2006, right before I left for a week's vacation in California! Why do I find it necessary to try new things 24 hours before a big event? I dunno. It was my VERY FIRST time cooking a whole chicken! seriously! And I'm glad I started with this recipe because it was amazingly moist and those potatoes- WOW!

This time around, I skipped the brining and just split my chicken according to my How to Cook Everything cookbook. Not too difficult, made easier with kitchen shears. As with most of their recipes, there are many steps, but the result is well worth it. Just a lot of explaining. I promise it's not that difficult to prepare. I made this on a soccer night!
Here's the recipe:

Crisp-Skin High Roast Chicken and Potatoes
from America's Test Kitchen

For the brine (optional- but give it a go sometime so you can say, (Oh, yeah, I've brined a chicken")
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole chicken, 3 1/2-4 lbs; giblets removed and reserved for another use, fat around cavity removed and discarded

Dissolve the salt in the sugar in 2 qts cold water in a large container. Immerse chicken and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 1 hour.

2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (use a food processor or a nice, sharp knife)
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
3/4 tsp salt

Compound butter- place in a bowl to schmear your chicken!-- OPTIONAL, but AMAZING addition
2 Tbs softened butter
1 med garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees! HOT, HOT, HOT
Line the bottom of your broiler pan with heavy duty foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Remove chicken from brine (if you brined), and rinse thoroughly under cold running water (be sure to clean out your sink!). Butterfly chicken, flatten breastbone and apply the flavored butter (if using) under the skin of the chicken- all over! Thoroughly pat the chicken dry.
 And place on the top part of your broiler pan.

Toss the potatoes with 1 Tbs oil, slat and pepper in a medium bowl. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the foil lined broiler pan. Place the top of the broiler pan over the potatoes- See picture above. Rub the chicken with the remaining olive oil and season with S&P. Put into the oven.

Cook until the chicken is spotty brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to roast until skin has crisped and turned a deep brown and an thermometer registers 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, 20-25 minutes longer.
Transfer chicken to a cutting board and with pot holders, remove top of broiler pan. Using paper towels, soak up the excess grease from potatoes. Remove foil liner with potatoes and invert foil and potatoes onto a cookie sheet. Peel back foil and scrape off remaining potatoes with a spatula. Pat off remaining grease with paper towels.
Cut chicken, arrange pieces on a serving platter and transfer potatoes right beside them. Voila- dinner is ready.
Serve with fresh steamed green beans or a crisp garden salad!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lemon Spaghetti ~ 5.14.11

 I first made this recipe for spaghetti after watching Giada make it on her food network show. It sounded amazing to this lemon lover and what few ingredients! What a perfect springtime dinner. I made it in 2006 for Father's Day and everyone loved it.

Just this past week, I resurrected this lovely recipe to serve alongside Lucinda's chicken piccata. I had never made chicken piccata but after watching her make it on her show Mad Hungry, I knew it was doable and would compliment this spaghetti perfectly. 
As a note, I only used 2 very large chicken breasts- butterflied them (split them open like a book) and then pounded them thin. It served everyone in my family! I simply cut the breasts into servable pieces before I dipped them in the flour and cooked them. Really great weeknight meal.

Giada DeLaurentiis' Lemon Spaghettti
 I'm going to count this as a 5 ingredient recipe because S&P don't count and you use the lemon 2 ways!

1 pound spaghetti

2/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup grated Parmesan- (use the good stuff, please, not a green shaker jar.... gasp)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon zest (have forgotten this and guess what, it's OK)

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (take it to the next level)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.

**Eat leftovers mixed with a little premade pesto! Delicous!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spinach Pie (Byrek Mi Spinaq) ~ 5.25.11

{my first albanian spinach pie- the edges got a bit crispy, but not a problem, just cut them off!}

So, maybe I've talked about my love for a show on the Hallmark channel called Mad Hungry. Lucinda Scala Quinn, a dear friend of Martha's, hosts this amazing little show. that I DVR everyday. What is it about this show that I love? Maybe it's the presentation, the approachable recipes, the unique flavors she presents, the excitement of guests in the kitchen (love the Albanian recipes show!) or Calder, her son, joining her in the kitchen. Well, it's all of these. Lucinda presents recipes in a simple, straightforward manner. You feel like you're in the kitchen with her and you cannot wait to see what she's cooking on the next show. 
Add to all of that, the fact that my 4 year olds LOVE the show-- especially, Zach. They say things like "mmmm, can you make that sometime?" and "can we watch "the" cooking show?" I know just the one that they're talking about.

 Check this out- she has a cookbook (or two)- thanks Lucinda!

Yet, maybe the best part is that so many of these recipes are REAL, passed down from family and then shared with us. I think that's the part I can relate to the most (that and Lucinda's love for salty pork products ;)). I love hearing the stories behind recipes and seeing the family cooking together- loved when her brother came on and made deep dish pizza dough and light and fluffy meatballs. After that show aired, I knew exactly what I was making for dinner THAT weekend (look for those recipes to come Friday)!

On this particular episode, Lucinda invited her son's friend, Milot, to come into the kitchen and share his family's Albanian Spinach Pie (Byrek Mi Spinaq). I knew I had to make it asap. I even had all the ingredients in my fridge! I had just bought 3 bags of spinach on sale that week and just needed a little yogurt and whipped butter to make this recipe. I even had the phyllo dough in the freezer leftover from the last Spanokopita I had made. Perfect reason to make this recipe and they made it look doable on a weeknight!

Oh and if you're like me and are a bit fearful of working with filo I say, pshaaaw! DO NOT be afraid! It couldn't be simpler, as long as you watch to keep it covered so it doesn't dry out while you work! It's extremely forgiving: read- even if it does try out, just butter it up and piece the broken pieces together, it's all good in the end.

My kids LOVE this recipe, so there's a little butter involved, at least they're eating spinach!!
Now, onto the recipe:

Spinach Pie
(adapted from Mad Hungry, May 2011)

1 8 oz container of whipped butter
1/2 cup canola oil
3 bunches of spinach, stemmed and chopped (I used 3 bags)
1/2 small onion, chopped as fine as you like it
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbs plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs of butter and oil mixture, as per directions
20 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed if frozen (I made it with 1/2 of a box of filo and it worked out just fine- that's what I had on hand!)
optional: a little feta- not true to the Albanian version, but I had a little to use up- so in it went!

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degreees
2. Combine butter and canola oil in a saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Stir to combine. Reserve two tablespoons for the filling
3. For the filling: In a VERY large bowl (get out the biggest one you have), combine the spinach, onion, egg, sour cream, yogurt, salt and 2 Tbs of butter/oil mixture and mix it all well- use your hands if needed. Set aside
4. Using a large rimmed sheet pan, butter the bottom and sides of the baking sheet and lay down 2 sheets of phyllo so that the edges overlap in the middle. Brush with butter. Continue this process for 9 more sheets of phyllo making sure to butter each sheet and the parts that overlap- the butter helps everything to adhere and get flaky and delicious!
[ As a side note, the recipe says to use one sheet, but it barely covered the bottom of the baking sheet, so I adapted and laid the sheets side by side. Once you unroll your phyllo and size up your sheetpan, you'll have an idea of how you need to lay out the phyllo, too]

5. After your 10th sheet is laid down on the baking sheet, top the buttered phyllo with your spinach mixture. Even it out with a spatula. Repeat the phyllo layering process with 10 more sheets of phyllo- don't forget to butter every layer. Butter, butter, butter!
6. Turn up the edges to seal- folding them over towards the top is just fine. Nothing fancy. Think RUSTIC.

7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until top is golden brown. Use a knife to check the bottom to make sure it, too, is nice and crispy. Let cool for 15 minutes (if you can wait!). Slice however you like and serve.
The spinach filling really cooks down!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blueberry Sauce ~ 5.18.11

My family {loves} blueberries and this is a great sauce to make for pancakes, ice cream, coffee cake... whatever! You can use frozen or fresh and I think it would be a tremendous addition to the lemon ricotta pancakes I have lined up for this week!

Blueberry Syrup
from: The Way the Cookie Crumbles

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water + 2 Tbs
pinch of salt
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 cup blueberries
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Bring the sugar, 1/2 cup of water and salt to a boil. Mix until dissolved. Add the Tbs of cornstarch and 2 Tbs of water. Blend.
Add the blueberries and stir. Boil until they POP and syrup turns purple (about 5-6 minutes)

Turn off the heat and add 1/2 tsp lemon juice and a pat of butter.

Serve warm over hot pancakes!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cool 'n Creamy Chocolate Fondue ~ 5.12.11

We love this dip. It is everything the name of the recipe says: Cool, Creamy and chocolatey. Perfect treat on a warm spring or summer day. Especially with fresh fruit!

Cool 'n Creamy Chocolate Fondue
recipe from Pampered Chef

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 container frozen whipped topping, thawed (8 oz)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp rum or vanilla extract- we use vanilla
Assorted dippers- fruit, pretzels, cinnamon pita chips (you can make these easily w/ flour tortillas), your fingers

Place choc. chips and half the whipped topping in bowl and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH, one minute, stirring every 20 secs until chocolate is melted.
Fold in remaining whipped topping, cinnamon and extract of choice, mixing till smooth.
Cover and chill for 30 minutes- it's hard to wait, but you can do it!

Serve with fruit dippers, etc.

yield: 2 cups (16 servings) 80 cal, 5 g fat, 7 g carb per 2 Tbs fondue

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Polish Sugar Cookies ~ 5.5.11

This past Sunday was a special day for me as our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II was beautified in Rome! I wanted to make a special dessert but we had a very busy weekend and I knew that simple would be the only way to go. Friday morning, I whipped these cookies up in no time flat. They are really quick to come together and the only thing that takes a little extra time is the rolling them into balls and into the sugar.
Now, I was bringing these into Max's classroom for a snack after my lesson to the kids on Blessed JPII, so I used vanilla instead of lemon as the original recipe intended. I knew vanilla would be a hit but sometimes kids can be funny about lemon.
The kids loved the cookies and wanted seconds (and thirds)! When I told our boys that I could make them lemon the next time they encouraged me to definitely give that a try. When will I ever figure these boys out?
These are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea!

Polish Sugar Cookies

1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar, plus extra for rolling
3 egg yolks
1/2 t. lemon extract (or 1 t. vanilla)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream sugar and butter.
Add egg yolks and vanilla (or lemon extract).
Add flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.
Mix until well combined -- dough will be stiff.
Pinch off dough and roll into 1-inch balls.
Roll in granulated sugar.
Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake until set, not brown, for 10-12 minutes.
recipe from Catholic Cuisine

Zach with our cookies and "statues" of Blessed JPII!