Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sassy Sweets: Copycat Vanilla Frostys

There's something about the summer that makes you feel, more alive.  I'm not sure that's the right wording but maybe you know what I mean by that.  I'm not working less hours but we're staying up later and waking up earlier, and somehow feeling ready to go every minute of the day.  Needless to say, there is a lot getting done in our house and at my office, too!

The one thing we've been avoiding lately is the car.  It's just too nice to spend a long time driving anywhere.  But without a car, we're back in our neighborhood grocery stores that are, let's just face it, totally overpriced because most people don't have a car and they have a captured audience.  As you could imagine, it makes some purchases very tough.  Like ice cream. I know, the building block of my existence, hasn't been in the freezer since before we left for Alaska. 

We've been craving soft serve ice cream as of late so no one was more excited than I was when I found a recipe for a copycat Wendy's Frosty!!!  They had chocolate frostys but I wondered if we could make vanilla (to appease that picky man who lives in the house).  We have been making them almost every night since (thank goodness for the two ice cream bases, right?  You take one out of the freezer and use it and stick the second one in there for tomorrow).  They're so easy, it's hard to resist!
Copycat Vanilla Frostys (adapted from Dine and Dish)
Serves:  2
1/4 cup Cool Whip
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1 cup skim milk**
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar

In a small bowl, whisk Cool Whip and sweetened condensed milk until fully combined.  Pour into your ice cream maker, already on.  Then, in that same bowl, add skim milk, vanilla extract, and sugar.  Whisk until fully combined and add to the ice cream maker.  Let the ice cream maker run for 12-15 minutes, until the mixture is fully frozen and at soft-serve consistency.  Serve immediately!

**Substitute the skim milk, vanilla extract, and sugar for an equal amount of chocolate milk and make chocolate Frostys instead!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weeknight Dinner: Chopped Cobb Salad

This is the perfect summer meal.  Our kitchen is so small that when it gets to be this hot and humid out, just standing there to fix a sandwich is torturous.  John and I have been loving easy and simple dishes that require little to no cooking.  It's almost sacreligious of a food blogger to say that, isn't it??  But the truth is, I don't know anyone who wants to sweat making dinner.  It's just unseemly and a great way to lose your appetite.

Now that I've talked all about sweat, let's talk about this dish (if your appetite is still holding on).  A cobb salad is one of my absolute favorite salads. We have a cute little tavern right around the corner from my office that I literally take everyone that I meet for work and for personal life to lunch.  They have this delicious kale salad that I get because I'm trying to be good (ugh).  But, every few times I go, I make it a point to get their cobb salad.

Everything is chopped perfectly and tastes delicious.  In fact, I'm practically drooling while I think about it.  Let's be honest, the salad is practically an afterthought after all the tasty ingredients that go into it.  But it's one of those perfect salads that can really fill you up for dinner, especially if you're good about not adding too much bacon!
Chopped Cobb Salad
Serves:  4
1/2 pound chicken breast
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, diced
4 slices bacon, crumbled
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Grill 5-7 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.  Dice and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Spoon into 4 bowls.  Top each bowl evenly with bacon, avocado, diced chicken, blue cheese crumbles, and blue cheese dressing.

Serve immediately.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time-Out: Light Blue Cheese Dressing

Incidentally, they do not make "light blue" cheese.  There is just blue cheese, but lightened up.  Every time I read this post back I confuse myself so I thought I needed to make a disclaimer right at the very top.  Now you can continue...blue cheese dressing is a favorite of mine.  Or, it used to be before I decided to pack away these 5 extra pounds.  Now, it's the enemy and must be avoided at all cost.  Or so I used to think.  Isn't it funny that sometimes dishes you know you can't have makes you want them all the more?  That's the way it is with me, I've decided.

I threw out all the creamy dressings in our house a few months ago when I decided to start exercising and losing weight for real.  None of that fake "oh I'd love to lose some weight, now excuse me while I sit on the couch and eat bonbons".  I've never eaten bonbons but I bet they are tasty.  Anyway, a few weeks ago I was craving some salad with blue cheese dressing.  Weird, I know, but also true.

Of course, a quick little search told me that others had also had this problem and you could actually make a light blue cheese dressing that, while missing the mark a little bit, was still delightfully tasty and very close to the real thing.  And there you have it, a light blue cheese dressing was available and after I had it that one time, my craving went away.  Now if we could only figure out a similar fix for ice cream.

Light Blue Cheese Dressing (adapted from SkinnyTaste)
Serves:  8 (1 cup dressing)
1/2 cup blue cheese
6 ounces fat-free greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl, combine blue cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Stir until the mixture is uniform but the blue cheese is still chunky.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Date Night Dinner: Cuban Stuffed Pork Chops

This is what I like to call a Sunday night Special!  Since we're at Mom and Dad's every Sunday, I rarely make something that's in-depth and delicious.  I'm not complaining.  After all, who could complain about a free meal, right?!  But, sometimes it is nice to take the weekend for ourselves and relax.

Knowing we'd be in ALASKA this week, I took the weekend before for ourselves to chill out which I almost feel guilty about, until something like this comes out of my kitchen.  Ostensibly, we were supposed to be packing in advance of the trip but instead it was more like a sitting on the couch, reading a book, cooking a lot, and doing laundry type weekend.  John and I have fallen into a terrible habit about packing.

Quite simply, we just don't pack until the day before we need to leave somewhere.  This usually causes very late nights, very grumpy people, and inevitably, something that we were supposed to remember which ends up sitting on the couch while we are off doing whatever we are supposed to be doing.  This Cuban Pork Tenderloin is similar - it sounds sophisticated and grown up but in reality, you likely have most of the ingredients in your fridge right now.
Cuban Stuffed Pork Chops (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves:  2
2 boneless center cut pork chops
4 tablespoons dijon mutard
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
2 dill pickles
4 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices ham
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Slice the pork chops lengthwise, stopping when it is almost fully cut through.  Pound out the pork chops so they are thin and rectangular in shape.  Spread dijon mustard evenly over each pork chop.  Add cilantro, pickles, 2 slices of Swiss cheese, and 1 slice of ham to the middle of each pork chop.  Carefully roll the pork chops up and put them rolled side down, side by side, in a baking dish.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pork is fully cooked through.

Alternatively, you can do these on the grill.  Just be sure to secure the chicken rolls with twine so they do not come undone on the grill.  Grill 15-20 minutes in total.

Serve with Cuban Rice & Beans.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Stand Out Sides: Cuban-Style Rice and Beans

I'm interrupting this blog for a big announcement - we are actually in Alaska!!!  Yes, that's right.  Talk about a mixture of cultures - Cuban and Alaskan all in one day.  We have talked about this trip with my sisters and their husbands (husbands to be) and my parents for a long time now.  It seemed like it would never get here.  But, now we're off and away!

Whenever we go away, I always find myself desperate to use up everything and anything in the fridge.  Please tell me I'm not the only crazy who does this.  Even if we're going away for a weekend, I do this which I know is somewhat pointless because if we were going to be at home, I wouldn't likely touch the groceries during that time.  But, what can you do.

In an effort to make a simple meal before we left, I turned to this side dish which uses almost all pantry staples and is extremely filling.  And any leftovers can be easily repurposed.  We like to use them in burritos for lunches the next day.  Or, if we're feeling adventurous, we'll make a couple of eggs for the top of it.  Instant brunch!
Cuban-Style Rice and Beans (adapted from SkinnyTaste)
Serves:  6 (4 cups)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rice (we used long grain wild and brown rice blend)
15 ounce can black beans, undrained
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon cumin
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the peppers, onion, and garlic.  Saute until softened, 4-5 minutes.  Then, add rice, black beans, water, cumin, bay leaf, and oregano.  Let the rice simmer until the water only just covers the top of the rice.  Then, cover and steam for 20-25 minutes until the water has been absorbed.  Remove the bay leaf and stir in salt and pepper.  Divide amongst 6 plates and serve immediately.
Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sassy Sweets: Milk Chocolate & Caramel Skookie

For as long as I can remember, I've coveted those heavy cast iron deep dish skillets.  It seems crazy since 1. we could go out and buy one at any time and 2. I never told anyone I wanted one so no one ever purchased it for me.  But then, I was in Marshall's with my mom and wouldn't you know it, they had a Lodge Cast Iron deep dish 9-inch skillet.  Just like I'd always wanted.

Let's backtrack for a minute though - am I the only woman that goes into Marshall's and heads straight for the back where the housewares section is?  Please tell me I'm not.  Who cares about clothes?  Pots and pans fit anytime!  Anyway, back to my beloved skillet.  Mom encouraged me to buy it even though it weighed 100 pounds and I had to carry it on the train and then all the way home.  But since she encouraged me, of course I did it.

I knew I wanted to make something special with my skillet.  Something exciting; something John would take notice of and say "WOW".  And so, I made a skookie.  A cookie in my skillet.  I didn't want to make a regular chocolate chip cookie though.  It was my coveted cast iron pan, the one I had dreamt about for years.  I needed to go big.  And the milk chocolate caramel version of the skookie was born!

Milk Chocolate & Caramel Skookie (adapted from here)
Serves:  8 (1 9-inch cookie)
6 ounces butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups caramel chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.  Add the flour and baking soda and beat on low until just combined.  Stir in the milk chocolate chips and caramel chips.  Pour the mixture into the cast-iron skillet (mine didn't need to be greased beforehand) and spread it out evenly.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the edges are a dark golden and the top is a light golden brown.  The skookie will continue to cook in the pan even after it is out of the oven so it is better to undercook it than overcook it.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.  And, if you're anything like me, you're going to need some ice cream on top!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sassy Sweets: Plum and Rhubarb Crumble

Take two of John's favorite fruits, throw them together with some sugar, lime juice, and ginger, top it with a buttery oat crust and stick it in the oven.  It's these types of dishes that cause John to proclaim me "the best girlfriend ever".  I will reluctantly admit that there are plenty of other times he proclaims me something else entirely.  So, whenever I can get that label, I'm thrilled.

Which is probably why in the past 6 weeks, we've had this crumble on three separate occasions.  I am nothing if not consistent and when I get in trouble, this is the first recipe I pull out.  The rhubarb is slowly fading from our farmer's market.  Whereas every stall used to sell it, now only 2 do.  Saddened, I picked up as much as I could and started to freeze it so when John has rhubarb cravings I can, once again, be the best girlfriend ever.

Even if you're not a girlfriend, you, too, can be the best ever just by making this crumble.  I love crumble for a lot of reasons.  Most importantly, you can use whatever you have lying around in the fridge or on your counter.  That almost on the bad side of ripe is perfect for a crumble!  We always have fruit leftover from the week before so our crumble always changes.

Plum and Rhubarb Crumble (adapted from Betty Crocker)
Serves:  9 (9x9 pan)
2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cups plums, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 lime, zested and juiced
Crumble Topping:
1 1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Filling:  Combine rhubarb, plums, sugar, cinnamon, ginger,, lime juice, and lime zest in a large bowl.  Pour into a 9x9 baking dish; set aside.

Crumble Topping:  Combine oats, flour, and sugar in a small bowl.  Cut the butter into the mixture until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly.  Spread evenly over the filling.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling around the sides of the crumble and the crumble is a light golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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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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