Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mexican Chocolate Brownies

For months now I've wanted something rich and chocolate-y but nothing has managed to satisfy that craving until I made these brownies.

You really can't go wrong with a homemade brownie with a hint of spiciness from the cayenne pepper.

I actually made these in time to share with you for Cinco de Mayo but I never got around to actually blogging them before that. And there went my streak of having holiday foods ready for you before the holidays! :(



Mexican Chocolate Brownies
Source: Food Network Magazine
Servings: 16
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Ingredients:
for the brownies:
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp.cayenne pepper
for the whipped cream: 
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne
optional additions:
caramel or dulce de leche
vanilla ice cream
chopped almonds/cashews/peanuts
shaved chocolate

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil, leaving extra to hang over the sides. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium saucepan, add the chopped chocolates and butter. Stir frequently until both are completely melted and no lumps remain. Remove from the heat and whisk in the brown sugar and sugar until no lumps remain.
3. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla and almond extract until combined. Slowly add in the flour until combined, then add in the cinnamon, salt and cayenne. Stir until the batter is smooth.
4. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Transfer to a wire rack to allow to cool.
6. Prepare the whipped cream by beating heavy cream and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer until soft peaks form. Add in the cayenne pepper and stir until just combined.
7. Use the overhanging foil to remove the brownies from the pan. Cut into squares.
8. Serve, topped with whipped cream and any additional toppings.



The original recipe calls for baking this into a 8x8 baking dish for 30 minutes. I initially poured the batter into the dish and realized these were going to be very, very thick brownies and there was absolutely no way they were going to cook in 30 minutes. Instead of baking them for an hour or more, I transferred the batter to a 9x13 dish and baked them for 40 minutes to ensure the center was cooked through. (At 35 minutes in my oven it was barely gooey.)

I served these brownies with a caramel sauce only because we didn't have vanilla ice cream on hand to add to them as well.

The semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate totally hit that rich, chocolate-y craving I had!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Paleo Breadless BLT

I didn't realize it until nearly a year later, but one of the things I missed the most while keeping to a Whole30 and Paleo lifestyle was a sandwich. The first time I had ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mustard between two slices of bread I nearly died of happiness. Seriously, I totally forgot how delicious something as simple as a sandwich could be.

However, I got that same euphoric feeling when I had this "sandwich" as well even though there is no bread involved. You could easily make this much heartier and filling by adding in sliced turkey or ham, even canned tuna. Or maybe some slices of avocado? Anyway, for a simple sandwich with just a few ingredients and sans bread, this surely made my taste buds happy campers.



Breadless BLT
Source: Our Paleo Life
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
3 romaine lettuce leaves
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 roma tomato
1 tbsp. mayonnaise*
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Spread the mayonnaise onto the three lettuce leaves. Slice the tomato into 6 slices.
2. Add two tomato slices onto each lettuce leaf. Add one piece of bacon to each, season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Tessemae's offers mayonnaise that is made with all natural ingredients and is approved for Paleo and Whole30 lifestyles. You will need to chose the overnight delivery and ship it to your work if someone won't be home to bring it inside right away (it needs to be kept in the fridge).


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Asparagus, Bacon and Egg Salad

I have this habit of making an ingredient one way (especially vegetables) and never really branching out into anything else. When I saw this salad recipe, I knew I really should give it a chance. It's very rare for me not to have bacon and eggs in the fridge so it wasn't hard to pull this recipe together. 


Asparagus, Bacon and Egg Salad
Source: Skinnytaste
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
2 cups asparagus, chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender crisp. Transfer the asparagus to a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
2. Divide asparagus into serving bowls. Top with crumbed bacon and hard boiled eggs.
3. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar and dijon mustard. Drizzle over the salads and season to taste with salt and pepper.



Monday, May 11, 2015

SRC: Cheddar BLT Quesadilla

I am so glad that I didn't chose a recipe from my Secret Recipe Club assigned blog as soon as I received it because then you would have missed out on this delicious concoction and that is just not fair to anyone.

Backing up a minute, for this month I was assigned to Amy's Cooking Adventures. Amy started blogging back in 2010, not long after me and has quite the variety of recipes and an ongoing recipe bucket list that includes many of my own to-make items. Of course, pierogi stood out to me on her bucket list more than anything else. Not because I'm Polish, but because those little buggers have evaded me more than once. However, I'm supposed to have a kielbasa and pierogi making event with my aunts this summer (if that doesn't sound Polish, I don't know what does!) and I'm hoping to learn the secret. (Amy, if I do, I'll be sure to let you know!)

Anyway, back to the bacon. Literally. I chose a recent (well recent at the time I made this) recipe of Amy's that combines two delicious recipes. Quesadillas + BLT.



Cheddar BLT Quesadilla
Source: Amy's Cooking Adventures
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 2 flour tortillas
    • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • 3 slices beefsteak tomato 
    • shredded lettuce
    • 1/4 fresh avocado, sliced 
Directions:
1. Preheat a grill, panini press or large skillet, Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Arrange cheese, bacon and tomato slices onto one tortilla. Top with the other tortilla and place into the pan/onto the grill/panini press. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the tortilla is golden brown. (If cooking in a skillet, cook 2 minutes then flip and cook 2 minutes more or until golden.)
3. Slice the quesadilla and top with shredded lettuce and avocado slices.

So, uh. Making just one of these is a bad idea. A really bad idea. You're going to want to eat at least two of them. I totally promise not to judge if you have a third or fourth. ;)




Sunday, May 10, 2015

Weekly Menu 5/10 - 5/14

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! I hope you're enjoying your day!

The weather is supposed to be crazy here this week. On Wednesday it's going to be 90 degrees and then Thursday it's going to drop down to the low 70's again. I love warm weather more than anything, but it does make dinner planning a little bit difficult. Even with the air conditioning on, we're on the third floor and turning on the oven on Wednesday is just not going to happen unless we want to get a free sauna. :)

I also gave myself a bit of a challenge this month and decided that all the recipes I was going to make were going to come from the cooking magazines that I receive each month. So far it's going pretty well and I'm finally going to make a dent in that pile of recipes that I keep adding onto!

I think the challenge for June will be to make recipes only from the cookbooks I have and then July's will be to make them only from recipes I have pinned. That way I can finally get through this massive pile of recipes that I have saved. We'll see how it goes!


Sunday: chicken and savory waffle sandwiches with fries and cucumber salad

Monday: Swedish meatballs 

Tuesday: tacos al pastor with cucumber radish pico

Wednesday: spice-rubbed flank steak with corn poblano salsa and avocado cream

Thursday: pierogi with ham and broccoli 

For breakfast this week I'm having coconut pecan breakfast bars and lunch will be pineapple burgers with pineapple salsa and arugula salad.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Sweet Chili Cream Cheese Dip

If you're in need of an easy appetizer to take to your next gathering, look no further. This is seriously the easiest dip recipe I've ever made, considering it only uses two ingredients. Three if you count the crackers to dip into it.

Sometimes it really is the easiest things that you can make that everyone loves. This was scarfed down in just a few minutes when I served it on Easter.



Sweet Chili Cream Cheese Dip
Source: Frank's Red Hot
Servings: 10
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. brick cream cheese, softened 
    • 1 cup Frank's Red Hot Sweet Chili Sauce
    • crackers, for dipping
Directions:
1. Place softened cream cheese on a plate. Pour sweet chili sauce on top. Serve with crackers.



Like I said, it is the easiest appetizer/dip recipe that you could ever make. I mean, seriously, it's going to take you longer to run into the store and pick up a pre-made appetizer than it is to make this one.




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Green Tomato Salsa Burger

For a few brief days Spring came to visit and I took full advantage of cooking warm-weather foods and buying warm-weather produce. Like burgers and green tomatoes. Hence this recipe!


Green Tomato Salsa Burger
Salsa Source: Food Network
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
for the green tomato salsa:
1 green tomato, diced
1 red tomato, diced
juice of 2 limes
1/2 a jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp. of sugar
pinch of kosher salt
for the burgers:
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
pinch each of salt and pepper
to assemble:
4 slices cheddar cheese
1/2 cup prepared guacamole
burger buns

Directions:
1. Prepare the salsa by combining all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Preheat a grill. Meanwhile combine burger ingredients together a medium bowl and form into 4 patties. Grill burgers for 5-7 minutes or until they reach your desired level of doneness. Melt cheese on top.
2. Spread prepared guacamole on the bottom of each bun. Place the burger on top, followed by a heaping tablespoon of the green tomato salsa. Top with the bun.



I went a little too heavy-handed with the guacamole on these burgers and that took away from the salsa flavor a little bit, but I still found these to be awesome and the perfect burger for summer! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lemon Curd Squares

During Easter, when I served the Lemon Curd Meringue Nests, I mentioned that I had no idea what to do with the rest of the lemon curd I had recently transferred to my freezer. My aunt suggested that I use it to make lemon squares. (I don't know why I didn't think of that!)



Lemon Curd Squares
Source: A Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 16 squares
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups lemon curd
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    for the crust:
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted 
    • pinch of salt 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar and salt. Pour in the melted butter and mix together with a spatula until fully combined and no lumps of flour remain and a soft dough has formed.
3. Transfer the dough into the prepared baking dish and press in evenly and up the sides. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Spread the lemon curd evenly over the crust and return to the oven for 20 minutes or until the curd has set within the crust. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
5. Slice into 9 squares and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.



I wish these kept better in the fridge because I'm pretty certain I would keep them on hand ALL of them time!


Friday, May 1, 2015

Tuscan Parmesan Asparagus

Asparagus has definitely become one of my favorite vegetables. I can eat it lightly sauteed, roasted, grilled, steamed or baked. It doesn't matter to me.

My standby is always to roast it with a little garlic powder and crushed red pepper on top but I wanted to branch out a bit and find something new.



Tuscan Parmesan Asparagus
Inspired by: A Taste of Home
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 pound fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
    • 1 Roma tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds 
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
    • fresh cracked black pepper 
    • kosher salt 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish or baking sheet with non-stick spray.
2. In a medium bowl toss together the asparagus and tomato slices with the olive oil and garlic powder. Arrange asparagus and tomatoes into the baking dish.
3. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



Honestly, this could be a meal for me. I don't even need a protein or starch to go along with it, just a big ole plate of this and I'll be one happy camper.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Scotch Eggs

When we were at Universal Studios we decided to eat lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. I chose the Ploughman's lunch, only recently having heard of one on an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, and Tom had fish and chips.

I was trying to recall the episode and explain to Tom what each of the items were on the plate. The item that stood out the most to me was a Scotch egg, or a hard-boiled (or soft boiled, as some prefer) egg wrapped in well-seasoned sausage and then breaded and fried.

Then I thought it was going to snow in Florida because Tom (who doesn't like hard-boiled eggs) tried the Scotch Egg and said it was really good. I knew I'd need to make them at home again soon to make sure it wasn't just a fluke.

I decided to follow a Jamie Oliver recipe for Scotch Eggs, figuring if anyone knew how to make one right, it would be him.



Scotch Eggs
Barely adapted from: Jamie Oliver
Servings: 10
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Ingredients:
    • 10 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and shells removed
    • 1 package mild Italian sausage (5 links)
    • 3 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
    • 3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup bread crumbs
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 cups vegetable oil 
Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the sausage, chives, parsley, mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg together. Form into 10 balls.
2. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Roll each egg into the flour and shake off excess. Flatten the sausage ball and press gently around the egg until the entire egg is coated. (Try to keep the sausage coating at 1/8th of an inch in thickness or less.)
3. Repeat with all eggs and place onto a plate.
4. Place the bread crumbs into a shallow dish and place the eggs into a third shallow dish. Whisk the eggs together.
5. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven to approximately 300 degrees. Line a plate with a paper towel. Set aside.
6. Dip each sausage-encased egg into the flour, then egg mixture, then bread crumbs. Shake off excess. Return to the place and repeat until each egg is coated.
7. Lower each egg into the hot oil with a slotted spoon and fry for 4-5 minutes, turning with the spoon until all sides of the egg are golden. (I fried the eggs in 3 batches -  3,3,4.)
8. Place the fried eggs onto the paper towel to absorb excess grease. Allow eggs to cool slightly, then slice in half and serve.

These were delicious! I was a little concerned about the sausage not fully cooking and followed Jamie's suggestion of popping them into a 350 degree oven for a few minutes afterward but I'm not sure it was completely necessary. Next time I make these, I'll cook the eggs to a soft boiled state before moving forward with the recipe.



It wasn't a fluke, Tom ate one of these again and said he really liked it. I made these eggs for Easter and still had leftovers. I found they were good even cold so I think I'll be adding these into my breakfast rotation soon!