Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sassy Sweets: Gluten-Free Chocolate M&M Cookies

Sister K is now gluten-free and dairy-free which to be honest, puts a bit of a cramp in my dessert style.  It's easy to find things that are gluten-free or dairy-free but both?  Some might consider it a nightmare scenario but I enjoy the challenge of finding recipes that Sister K and everyone else can enjoy.  Take these cookies for example.

They are so deep, dark, chocolatey chocolate that you can't stop eating them.  Well maybe you could.  I can't.  Neither can John.  Which means if I make these for "Sister K" I have to make a double some actually get to her.  You know what I mean, right?

I love the addition of the M&Ms.  They make the cookies look so colorful and delicious, just like Sister K.
Gluten-Free Chocolate M&M Cookies
Serves;  12 (36 cookies)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat together the butter and sugars until the mixture is fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix until well-combined.  Add the baking soda and cocoa powder, mixing until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and M&Ms.  Drop tablespoons of cookie mixture onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the edges just look dry.  Let cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing.  Let the cookies cool to room temperature and store them in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brilliant Brunch: Strawberry Shortcake Stuffed French Toast

As you guys all know, I love a good recipe contest.  But lately due to work and overall craziness in life, I haven't been able to make any time for it.  You could imagine, then, the pleasure I received when I got an email about Arnold Bread's "America's Better Sandwich Recipe Contest" where a recipe maker extraordinaire could win $25,000!  The contest ends August 23rd so get cooking now!

At first, I couldn't stop thinking about ways to enter, and then an even better email crossed my inbox - did I want to work with Arnold's to develop my own recipe and talk about the recipe contest?  To me, the 5 free coupons was way easier than finding the time to develop a $25,000 recipe winner!  Especially with friends like mine...who are truly taste masters.

So, John and I happily took our free coupons to the grocery store and I even let John pick a bread he liked. John, of course had to try their "Everything" sandwich thins, while I chose "Honey Wheat" sandwich thins and then I got to work.  We don't eat a lot of cold cuts so we primarily eat bread in the mornings.  With such luscious berries in season right now and staring us in the face at the Farmer's Market, this was an easy win.  The best part of all?  The sandwich thins and berries totally make this good for you right?!

Strawberry Shortcake Stuffed French Toast
Serves:  4 (4 sandwiches)
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk, divided (I use skim)
3 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
8 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
8 ounces strawberries, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
Arnold Bread Honey Wheat Sandwich Thins*

In a small shallow bowl, combine eggs and 1/2 cup milk with a small whisk or fork.  Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and mix well.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar together.  Slowly fold in the strawberries until they are evenly distributed.  Using an ice cream scoop (or large spoon), evenly spoon strawberry mixture onto one cut side of the Arnold Bread Honey Wheat Sandwich Thins, leaving a 1/2 inch space from the edge along all sides.

Heat a heavy-bottomed non-stick pan over medium heat.  Melt the butter in the pan and swirl to coat all the edges.  Turn the heat to medium-low.

Wet the edges slightly with the egg and milk mixture and press the top down around the edges to form a pocket.  Then, dunk the sandwich into the milk mixture on both sides.  Immediately place into the non-stick pan and repeat with all sandwiches.  Let cook 3-4 minutes, until golden brown, and then flip, cooking the other side 3-4 minutes before removing from heat.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine remaining cinnamon and sugar.  Evenly dust the tops of each Strawberry Shortcake Stuffed French Toast with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Serve immediately.

*Note - I received 5 coupons for free Arnold products of our choice.  We are putting them to good use but everything written here is, as always, my honest opinions.  Now go win that $25,000 people!
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Weeknight Dinner: Farmer's Market Summer Pasta

One of my favorite things about the summer is the farmer's market that sprouts up only 2 blocks from our home.  It's great to peruse the offerings every week with John and find things that we both like.  Since everything is organic, the prices aren't cheap.  But in the middle of the season, things like zucchini are practically a dime a dozen.

I have been thinking about making homemade pasta again for some time now.  I make it probably once in the winter and once in the summer.  It never seems to be enough.  And I knew looking at our calendar over the next few weeks, well, we wouldn't get a chance to make it if we didn't take the bull by the horns this weekend.

I knew I wanted a very fresh pasta, like the Parisian Summer Pasta I made for the blog, and have since repeated in my kitchen often.  Wow, that was 4 years ago, how time flies.  This is a bit more of a grown-up version using everything you can find in your own market.  Quick, easy, but so delicious. A perfect summer dish.
Farmer's Market Summer Pasta
Serves:  2
2 links hot Italian sausage
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon salt
ball of homemade pasta or 1/2 a box of fettucine
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 ounces parmesan, grated fine
1 tablespoon black pepper, freshly ground

Remove the sausage from the casings and place in a hot non-stick skillet.  Cook over medium-heat until some fat has rendered.  Add zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and white wine.  Simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the sausage is fully cooked through.  Add the cherry tomatoes and turn to low, simmering for 5-8 minutes, until the tomatoes render their juices and a sauce forms.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of boiling water.  Add 1 tablespoon salt to the mixture.  Then, add the pasta carefully to prevent sticking.  Cook 2-3 minutes, until pasta is cooked through.  Drain.

Stir the heavy cream into the sauce.  Then, stir in the pasta and toss until the pasta is coated with sauce.  Evenly distribute the pasta mixture into 2 bowls.  Over the top of each, evenly spread the parmesan and black pepper.

Serve immediately.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sassy Sweets: Rocky Road Cookies

Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays.  It's summer, the weather is great and warm, and everyone is happy.  School is out, work is (slightly) more relaxed.  Life is always nice.  Of course, two weeks ago, I got a Europe trip scheduled almost right smack in the middle of Fourth of July.  At first, I thought John might be able to come along so I wasn't too bothered by it.

But then I saw the prices of tickets!!  Wow, with the Euro lower than ever right now, we could not afford for him to follow me as I work my way through the continent.  Oh well.  He is bummed about being home but I finagled my meetings to be back on the third.  Just in time for my favorite red, white, and blue holiday.

Since I've made so many s'mores type treats on the blog, I thought I'd mix it up and go rocky road style.  They are like the grown-up version of s'mores.  Plus, they use up all those mini marshmallows that have just been piling up in the cabinet that you've been desperate for someone to use!  Happy Fourth to you all!
Rocky Road Cookies
Serves:  24 (4 dozen mini cookies)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars together until fluffy and well-combined.  Then, add vanilla and eggs, beating well.  Slowly add the flour and cocoa powder until the cookie dough forms a consistent blend.  Stir in mini marshmallows and almonds.

Drop tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Then, bake 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are set.  Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weeknight Dinner: Spicy Fish Burgers with Homemade Tartar Sauce

After I made one of my now-favorite dishes, Skinny Fish & Chips for the first time, I started thinking about other ways to incorporate fish into fun new inventive ways.  At the end of this week, I am on my way to Europe again for 5 days for work.  So what better time to introduce my spicy fish burgers and homemade tartar sauce than right now?!

The euro being low has had an inverse price on airplane tickets.  My ticket was so expensive, it just didn't make good financial sense for John to come along.  So he will get to hang out at home and I will be back just in time for the 4th.

We are all about the indoor grill pans this month.  Basically, if the oven has to go on, we try to avoid it.  I've even gotten great at making pizza on the grill pan.  Ideally for John, the air conditioning would run 24/7 and keep a bubble around him at a cool 65 degrees F.  Anything above that and, well, let's just say he needs a shower.  So, it's with that in mind that I've been taking some of our favorite oven-meals and making them grill friendly!  
Spicy Fish Burgers with Homemade Tartar Sauce
Serves: 4
Spicy Fish Burgers
1 1/2 pounds white fish (we used halibut)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 jalapenos, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 egg
1 tablespoon pepper
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup breadcrumbs
4 hamburger buns (we used Sandwich Thins)

Homemade Tartar Sauce
Homemade Mayonnaise (or light mayonnaise)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 dill pickles, finely diced

Burgers:  Roughly chop the fish into small pieces.  In a large bowl combine fish, lemon zest and juice, jalapenos, shallot, egg, pepper, salt, and breadcrumbs.  Mix well.  Form into 4 patties and place in the fridge, at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Remove the burgers from the fridge and place on a well-greased grill over medium-high heat.  Cook 3-4 minutes, per side.   Place on hamburger buns with Tartar Sauce.

Tartar Sauce:  In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, lemon, and pickles.  Serve immediately.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Time-Out: Cilantro-Jalapeno Pesto

I love having fresh herbs in the summertime.  My mom has a whole little herb garden in the backyard of their new house.  It's so nice to have fresh flavors around all the time now!  One of the herbs we're still buying at the farmer's market is cilantro.  And cilantro is so expensive I'd hate for it to go to waste over something silly like a late night (or several of work).

Once the cilantro is just on the edge (where you know you should use it but you're too overwhelmed to and OMG it's going to go bad tomorrow), this pesto is the perfect solution.  Some jalapeno puree and lime juice in there and you have the makings of a perfect taco topping, fish marinade, or be like John and just eat it with some tortilla chips.  I won't tell.

This summer I am itching to go away some where but with our work schedules and oh, yeah, the fact that I'm saving every penny (literally) to buy a house that we likely can't afford.  If we ever find a house to buy that is not snatched up by a too-rich New Yorker who can buy a million dollar house ALL CASH, then every penny really does count.  So, we need to make our own vacations right here at home.  This sauce will take you to the southwest in the time it takes to turn on your food processor.  My idea of a perfect vacation!
Cilantro-Jalapeno Pesto
Serves:  1 cup pesto
1 bunch of cilantro (approximately 1 cup)
1 jalapeno, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor, combine cilantro, jalapeno, and lime juice.  Process until chunky and slowly add in the olive oil until a paste forms and the mixture is well-combined.  Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sassy Sweets: Homemade Vanilla Pudding

John is a pudding fiend.  It took a few years for me to figure this out about him.  But lately, since I have had no time to cook during the week, I reserve Friday nights and Saturdays in the kitchen.  The results are a plethora of tasty treats - whatever my mind can think up.  But sometimes after a long week, my brain isn't functioning and I need someone else's brain to come in and take over the honors.

So while I do the cooking, John does the choosing.  It works well for us, especially for him!  Now that he controls his own destiny, I've been cooking up a lot of puddings, which is perfect when the weather is hot and muggy and no one wants to use the oven.  Done completely on the stove and then refrigerated until serving this chilly treat is perfect for summer!

Homemade Vanilla Pudding (adapted from Joy of Baking)
Serves:  4 (4 tall glasses of pudding)
3 1/2 cups milk (I use skim)
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter

In a heavy-bottomed ssaucepan, pour 3 cups of milk and 1/4 cup of sugar into the pan.  Whisk lightly.  Over medium-high heat, warm the milk until the edges are bubbling, but the mixture is not yet boiling.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, eggs, and egg yolk.  Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (5-8 minutes for skim milk).  Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the vanilla extract and milk.

Pour the pudding into 4 large parfait glasses.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap touches the top of the pudding to avoid a skin forming.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.  Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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