Monday, August 17, 2015

Honeydew Peach Green Smoothie

Are you sick of fruit smoothies yet? Think about how I felt...I had to eat all of them in one week!

Actually, it wasn't that bad. It made for quite the varied breakfast each morning. This was the morning that I made my cats very angry however. 

See, for a while there, they were getting a little bit of wet food every day. But then I quickly got tired of the fact that they only ate the expensive kind (Wellness brand, over $1 a can) and they didn't even actually eat it. They licked the gravy off the chicken and left the chicken pieces. So I stopped buying it and they didn't seem to miss it all that much. 

Until this morning of this smoothie. I actually planned in advance for this one and found it online the night before. I knew I had all of the ingredients and we were good to go the next morning. fresh peaches weren't ripe enough to put into a smoothie so I had to resort to the canned variety. Which, isn't terrible, except canned peaches come in a can with a pull tab. Just like wet cat food. 

So I opened the peaches and found two balls of fur at my feet looking up at me. Oops?

When I explained that I didn't have cat food, Gidget cocked her ear and walked away. (This is her version of giving you the finger.) Itty, on the other hand, expressed her anger at me with raspy mew noises. (She doesn't meow, she mews.) Gullible human that I am, I stopped making my smoothie, apologized to the cats and immediately went to Amazon to order them some wet food. 

Honeydew Peach Green Smoothie
Adapted from: All Smoothie Recipes
Servings: 1

    • 1 cup honeydew melon
    • 1 cup peaches, diced 
    • 1 small banana 
    • 1 scoop protein powder
    • 1 handful kale
    • 1 tbsp. honey 
    • 1 cup ice 
1. Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. 

The smoothie was great, better than I even expected but of course the cats guilt-tripped me into feeling badly about enjoying it. 

(Their food arrived two days later - thank you Prime! - and all is well in the household again.)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Watermelon Strawberry Smoothie

As I mentioned last week, I was overloaded with rather ripe fruit and no real plan in sight to make it go away. My mom gave me nearly three cups of watermelon. I ate as much of it as I could, but even though it was one of the few things I could eat at the time, I was getting tired of it.

Watermelon is definitely not something I think of to use in a smoothie, but I was out of ideas and decided that good old Pinterest could easily swoop in and save the day. I typed in "watermelon smoothie" and the first one that came up showed watermelon and strawberries.

Sold! I didn't even bother to click the link and read the recipe, I just went directly to the kitchen and pulled out my trusty Vitamix.

Watermelon Strawberry Smoothie
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 1
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    • 1 cup seedless watermelon
    • 1 cup strawberries
    • 1 tbsp. honey 
    • 1/2 cup ice
1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

I realized after I named the photo and started typing out the recipe that there isn't much to make this a smoothie. Typically a smoothie includes some form of dairy, whether it's milk or yogurt. This is just fruit, honey and water. So it's a...frozen fruit drink? I dunno. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Peach Pie Crumb Bars

Peaches are in season! This is by far my favorite part of summer. I probably have something like fifty different peach recipes pinned that always try to get through in the short season that we have them. It's kind of ridiculous.

This recipe has been in that list, like forever. I have no idea why I never made these before. Peaches + other simple ingredients = big time flavor. You need these bars in your life.

Peach Pie Crumb Bars
Source: Macaroni and Cheesecake
Servings: 16-24, depending on cut
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for the crumb mixture:
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp. baking powder 
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 tsp. salt 
    for the filling:
    • 4 large peaches, peeled and diced (about 3 1/2 cups)
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 4 tsp. cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper. Spray the parchment and up the sides with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and baking powder.
3. Cut the butter into tiny pieces. Add the butter and the egg to the large bowl and cut with a pastry cutter or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
4. Press half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the peaches and toss to coat.
6. Pour the peach mixture over the crumb mixture and then top with the remaining crumb mixture, pressing it gently down.
7. Bake for 45 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool (or refrigerate after cooling to room temp) to cut into squares.

I knew I couldn't have something like this lying around the house or I would inhale them all in a matter of days (hours). So I split the pan in thirds. One third went to work with me, one third went to work with Tom and another third stayed at home with us. Tom said they were only on the plate a few hours at his work before they were gone. Same thing happened to me.

If that's not proof that you really need to try out this recipe while peaches are still in season, I don't know what is! 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What's Baking: Smore's Pot de Creme

Yesterday was National Smores Day. Of all the food-related holidays that exist in the world, I really do like this one quite a bit. Smores are one of my favorite desserts. In case you couldn't tell:

That list is just going to keep growing. I didn't want to have two posts in one day so I opted to share this with you the day after the holiday and to keep my Secret Recipe Club post on it's own. This recipe kind of happened as an accident. The other weekend I was making the macarons I shared with you yesterday and I was left with 6 egg yolks. What in the world does one do with 6 egg yolks? I started looking up recipes to use them up and I found pot de creme. Then I just happened to click back to my email and was reminded that the theme for this month's What's Baking is Baking with Smores.

And the idea of a smores pot de creme was born!

Smores Pot de Creme
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 8
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    • 6 oz. good quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 6 egg yolks
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 2 cups graham crackers, crushed
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cup mini marshmallows, divided
    • Hershey's bar, broken into pieces 
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place 8 equally sized dishes (ramekins, 4 oz. mason jars, etc.) in a baking dish. (You might need two baking dishes.) Pour enough water into the baking dish(es) to cover halfway up your ramekins/mason jars.
2. Combine heavy cream and whole milk together in a medium saucepan and heat over medium high heat. When the mixture begins to simmer, remove it from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Once the chocolate has melted into the cream/milk mixture, slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking to ensure the eggs don't scramble.
4. Once the chocolate and egg mixture is combined, strain it into a measuring cup to discard any solids. Fill each of your ramekins or mason jars with 1/2 cup of the chocolate mixture. Cover each with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and once the chocolate filled dishes are cool enough to touch, cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
6. While the pot de creme is chilling, increase the oven temperature to 350. Add the graham cracker crumbs to a medium bowl. Melt the butter and pour over the crumbs and stir, until they are damp enough to stick together.
7. Liberally spray a cupcake pan with non-stick cooking spray. Press the graham cracker mixture into 8 of the cups, pressing up the sides and using the back of a spoon to create a hole in the center. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until just set.
9. Set the oven to broil. Divide the mini marshmallows between the graham cracker cups. Broil for 1-2 minutes until just toasty.
10. To serve, gently remove the graham cracker cup and place it on top of the pot de creme. Garnish with a section of the Hershey's bar.

In the photo, I used 4 8 oz. mason jars, but Tom and I both agreed, you need one serious sweet tooth to eat that much rich chocolate custard in one sitting, so I revised the recipe above to serve 8 instead. If you're a huge chocoholic, go for the serving of four, but you better not tell your dentist I said that! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

SRC: French Macarons

It's been a long time since I've tasked myself with the challenge of "go big or go home" for the Secret Recipe Club. My first ever post was probably one of my biggest challenges; I made a croquembouche!

This month I was assigned to Smells Like Brownies which is written by Melissa. She has a great collection of recipes, not just all baked goods either. I really debated on making something like crock pot dulce de leche, but figured it was too easy. (I will make it, just not for the SRC) Then I debated on coconut macaroons which ended up being a really strong contender until I found the macarons.

Macarons had been on my to-make list forever but always ended up getting bumped in favor of something else. Well, that was about to be no more, I was finally going to make them. I wasn't terribly intimidated to start out. I've been baking for a while now. I've made meringue and I've worked with almond meal so I felt like maybe I had a leg up in this challenge.

French Macarons
Source: Smells Like Brownies
Servings: about 35 sandwich cookies
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    • 212 grams almond meal, finely ground 
    • 212 grams powdered sugar
    • 82 grams + 90 grams egg whites, separated and at room temperature
    • 236 grams sugar + 1 pinch 
    • 158 grams water 
    • optional: powdered food coloring 
    • filling - ganache, buttercream, etc. 
1. Adjust an oven rack to be in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees.
2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw 2-inch circles on the parchment, 1 1/2-inch apart. Flip the parchment over.
3. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal and powdered sugar, whisking until no lumps remain. (If your almond meal is not very fine, run it through the food processor first. You do not want lumps.)
4. Make a well in the center of the almond meal and sugar mixture and add the 82 grams of egg whites. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you get a paste-like consistency.
5. Combine the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Attach a candy thermometer to the side. Heat over medium high heat, watching the thermometer. When the temperature gets to 200 degrees, combine the remaining egg whites with the pinch of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed until soft peaks form.
6. Continue to carefully watch the saucepan. When the temperature reaches 248 degrees, immediately remove it from the heat. (If you get soft peaks before the temperature is reached, reduce your mixer speed to low/medium-low as to not overmix the egg whites)
7. Increase the speed of the mixture to medium-high. Drizzle a slow but steady stream of the sugar water mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix until the egg whites are glossy and stiff peaks have formed. (If you are adding food coloring, now is the time to do so.)
8. Gently fold 1/3 of the meringue batter into the almond meal batter. Continue to add and mix until all of the meringue is used or the batter runs off the back of a spoon in thick ribbons.
9. Transfer the batter to a large pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip. Carefully pipe the circles, following the template on the parchment paper. Tap the baking sheet on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles.
10. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookies have grown "feet". Allow them to cool for 2-3 minutes on the parchment paper before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.
11. Once the cookies have cooled, match them up in evenly sized pairs. Spread ganache, buttercream or your filling of choice on the flat side of one cookie and press the flat side of an equally matched cookie to it.

I debated not sharing this recipe with you and choosing another one, but food blogging has become so much about the perfect picture, the perfect recipe, that I feel like can sometimes make the typical home cook think their food is terrible because it's not as pretty. And that's not true! Sure, we all eat with our eyes first, but even if something isn't worthy of a front page of a magazine doesn't mean that it isn't delicious.

As you can see from my pictures, I didn't get very many cookies sandwiches that turned out perfectly, but I'm okay with that. My second batch didn't grow feet at all and they all ended up cracking. But macarons have not bested me yet. I plan on going over all the tips for how to get them to come out perfectly and trying again until I get the perfect batch.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Ham and Cheese Gnocchi Skillet

Sometimes you just need to make a recipe laden with heavy cream and cheese. It's not often I do this, but I've been on a mission to clean out the deep freezer and I had a package of gnocchi in there. I also had made another recipe using 1/2 cup of heavy cream and had another half cup remaining. It seemed recipe fate was knocking on my door with that one. 

Ham and Cheese Gnocchi Skillet
Source: Cheesecurd in Paradise
Servings: 4-6
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    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 2 cups ham, diced
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 16 oz. package gnocchi
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
    • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
    • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
    • salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and slightly browned. Add the ham to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes more, just until the ham starts to get crispy.
2. Add the water, gnocchi, frozen peas and heavy cream, stirring after each addition. Allow to cook for 6-8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
3. Sprinkle the mozzarella and sharp cheddar over the dish and place the skillet under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, rotating if needed, until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
4. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cantaloupe Smoothie

A few weeks ago my mom had a big pool party and most of our family from the eastern shore came up as well. If you know anything about me and my family it's that we have about three times the amount of food we need to for the people we've invited.

It's apparently our trademark or something.

So, someone brought one of those huge fruit trays that you pick up at Costco. As usual (at least in my experience) the strawberries and pineapple were devoured, leaving the cantaloupe, honeydew and a huge pile of grapes behind. I told my mom I would take "some" fruit home.

Somehow "some" fruit turned into nearly two cups each of cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon. Knowing I couldn't possibly eat that much fruit before it went bad, I decided to get creative and put it into smoothies. This actually worked out really well since I was still have trouble eating solid foods.

Cantaloupe Smoothie
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 2
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    • 1 cup cantaloupe, cut into chunks 
    • 1 large banana 
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
    • 2 tbsp. honey
    • 1 scoop protein powder, optional 
    • 1/2 cup ice
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth.

Cantaloupe ranks pretty highly on my least favorite fruits list so I was really unsure of if I was even going to like this or not. I ended up pleasantly surprised. The banana takes away from some of the cantaloupe flavor, but I found that I really liked it in pureed form. Who woulda thought?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken

There are probably thousands of variations of honey sesame chicken recipes out there, especially ones made in a crock pot. This is actually the third or fourth time I've made the recipe. For whatever reason, it never really turned out before. The chicken was overcooked and stringy or there was too much sauce and it just look terribly unappetizing so I'd save you all from that particularly ugly blogging photo.

But finally, I found another recipe and decided to give it a go on a Sunday when I was home to watch the crock pot. Which is a bit ironic. One of the biggest selling features of a crock pot is that you're supposed to be able to set it and forget it. Not for honey sesame chicken apparently!

Oh, and guess what I realized after making the dish. It's actually honey garlic chicken. Which is fine and I figured I'd just add in sesame seeds on top. But I forgot to do that before taking a picture!

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken
Source: Creme de la Crumb
Servings: 4
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    • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
    • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
    • 2 1/2 tbsp. garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp. Sriracha
    • 1 tbsp. cornstarch + 2 tbsp. cold water
    • 2 cups cooked white rice
    • 2 green onions, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, soy sauce, hoisin, garlic and Sriracha.
2. Place the chicken into the crock pot and pour the sauce on top. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
3. Transfer the chicken to a plate or bowl and shred.
4. Pour the liquid from the crock pot into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Once the liquids from the crock pot are boiling, stir in the cornstarch slurry and stir until the sauce has thickened.
5. Plate chicken on top of rice. Add sauce and sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

The biggest difference with this recipe as compared to others I have made is taking the sauce from the crock pot and putting it on the stove and thickening it. It adds less than 10 minutes more to your mealtime preparations, but it makes a complete difference in the overall recipe. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Weekly Menu 8/2 - 8/5

Alright now summer, I'm going to need you to pull back on those reigns and really slow down. It's already August! That means I only have 6 more weeks until my pool closes! The one really good part about it being August though, is I am finally going to the beach.

I haven't got  to sit on a beach since 2012 when my friend Shannon and I had a girls weekend at my aunt's house. We went back last year but never actually made it to the beach. Sadness. But this Thursday I'm headed down with my cousin and we have two goals in mind: be beach bums and shop at the outlets.

As for food this week, I seriously can't tell you how amazing it is to be able to eat 98% percent of the things I want to without pain. It's been nearly a month since my wisdom teeth came out (next Sunday) and while there are still some foods that don't go over so well, I've had my beloved popcorn and some chewy candies.

This week and next week will be eating all of the things I have missed in the past three weeks and then I think I need to do a hardcore Whole30 straight through until October for my cousin's wedding. I have a decent amount of weight to lose and I need to factor in time of finding a dress.

Sunday: buttermilk fried chicken on cream cheese biscuits with peach habanero sauce and asparagus

Monday: beef wellington tarts with asparagus

Tuesday: hawaiian pork meatballs with bell peppers and pineapple over rice 

Wednesday: queso burgers

Thursday will unfortunately be something unhealthy and picked up on the way to the beach. I plan to eat as healthy as possible while I'm there but I'll probably end up eating nearly my weight in cheese and alcohol, so you never know.

Breakfast for the week will be peanut butter banana protein smoothies and lunch will be cobb salads.

In other news, we have vacations planned for the next two years and I am thrilled about it. We're going to the Outer Banks next summer (well, September) with hopefully a big group of both of our families. Then the March following that (2017 ugh!) we're going on a cruise that includes Belize and Honduras. My goal is to maybe sneak a long weekend to NOLA into next year, but we'll see.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Bread

There's something about using coconut oil in breads that makes it extra delicious. I don't know why or how this works, but I'm more than okay with it.

A while back, I had brought muffins into work, thinking that my coworkers would eat them. Even after telling people there were muffins in the kitchen, there was no dent in the bag of muffins. I won't lie, I'm used to bringing in food and finding it to have disappeared quickly. Not long later, I informed the guys that we all were going to be doing inventory and make the dreadful task easier, I'd make breakfast. (Seriously, inventory was not that bad.)

They didn't believe me at first, so I sent them on over here to see the recipes I'd made. Apparently visual proof of a food blog convinces people that you can actually cook and bake. Who knew? ;) Anyway, they decided on muffins, which I'll share with you next week, and since I was feeling extra ambitious, I also offered to make a bread. They gave no suggestions but said they'd eat it.

I wanted something healthy but still really tasty. There are times where whole wheat flour can leave you with a really dense and dry bread and I was crossing my fingers that the large quantity of mashed bananas plus the coconut oil would avoid that desired results. And it did!

Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Bread
Source: Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
Servings: 2 loaves
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    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup coconut oil
    • 2 eggs
    • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
    • 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 2 9x5 loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine the sugar and coconut oil. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to combine the mixture together into coarse crumbs, then stir in the eggs until well combined. Add the bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, just getting rid of the large lumps, but not over-mixing. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and shredded coconut.
4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pans and slicing.

This bread can easily be wrapped in plastic wrap and foil and frozen for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw to room temperature before serving.

It turns out they liked the bread more than the muffins they chose. I only had a small slice that morning and even I was impressed with just how tasty it is. The chocolate chips add a decadence you don't usually expect in a relatively healthy bread and honestly, overall, you'd have no idea this was made with whole wheat flour and coconut oil vs. all purpose flour and a canola oil.