Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sassy Sweet: Halloween Black Cats

Toll House was doing a Halloween contest this week.  I didn't get into the "top 10" another black cat did.  However, John and I loved making ours.  I didn't use Toll House refrigerated dough, I just make some cookie dough.  That recipe is coming, I promise.  It's such a good recipe, it just NEEDS its own post! 

I was never the arts and crafts girl in our family, that was always K.  However, I guess I'm learning!  The cats were quick and easy to make + fun for the whole family.  Now you also know why I have so much candy lying around the house! 

Ha!  Aren't they cute?  John really got into it after I was done and had a ball making his own creations with my "leftovers".  They would be really easy for kids to do too once you iced them.  You could use whatever kind of "icing" you wanted, including just plain chocolate frosting.  

Halloween Black Cats
Servings:  6

12 balls of cookie dough
1/3 cup of chocolate chips (or other frosting)
36 M&Ms (12 red, 24 matching colors)
4 Twizzler Pull 'N Peel
48 candy corn (for ears and feet)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the balls of cookie dough in a mini muffin tin and bake for 12 minutes (until golden brown).  Let cool.  Once cool, remove from the tin.  Then, melt chocolate chips for 30 seconds until softened (or use a spreadable frosting).  Spread over the tops of each mini muffin.  Add M&Ms for eyes.  Use Pull 'N Peel and break apart into tiny strands for whiskers.  Top with a red M&M.  Last, add candy corn upside down for feet, and rightside up for ears!  I used some leftover melted chocolate as "eyeballs".

Feel free to decorate this anyway you want!  I think that's half the fun.  Plus, you can make these into whatever kind of creatures you want to!  I am all about using up candy so it doesnt sit in the house.  John couldn't wait to try one too.  When I left the kitchen to check the pictures on my computer, he told me to come back because one had been eaten by a bobcat.
The bobcat was John.

Finishing up my Halloween week on Friday--see you then!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, October 25, 2010

Time-Out: Halloween Bark

I have been on a dessert kick lately!  Not sure exactly why but I think it mainly has to do with Halloween, and the amount of candy I have in the apartment.  I don't love candy; in fact, I have about 25 packs of M&Ms and 20 Milky Way bars in my room.  They've been there for the last week and a half and I haven't touched them.

I was hunting around for M's halloween mailing when I came across this treat.  I had never made bark before, much less Halloween Bark, but I was willing to give it a shot!  M LOVES chocolate so I thought this would be perfect.  It would be even more perfect, though, if I wanted to eat it, and with the Butterfingers and Reese's that was in the original recipe, it would not have been my thing.  So, I completely adapted it to my, M, K, and John's favorites! 


I used my favorite candy bar, Milky Way, and M's favorite candy bar, Twix.  For everyone but my bark, I used Reese's Pieces candy because they fit the theme so well--already orange, yellow, and brown!  I only bought one box though--John has finished the leftovers!  I used pretzel pieces instead of peanuts (that was mainly a cost thing) and bought chocolate covered raisins (to be a little healthy!).  Then, I went through about 12 packages of M&Ms to find enough yellow, orange, and brown ones!  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the red, blue, and green ones, but watch the blog--I'm sure I'll find something!

 
Halloween Bark
Servings:  6 (made about 30 pieces)

2-11.5 ounce bittersweet chocolate chips (we used Godiva because there were no other bittersweet chips at the store)
2 large Twix bars
4-6 "fun-sized" Milky Way bars
1 cup of chopped pretzel pieces
1/2 cup of chocolate covered raisins
1/4 cup of Reese's Pieces
1/4 cup of M&Ms (Yellow, Orange, and Brown only)

NOTE:  This is completely my choice of toppings, feel free to make your own.  I wanted to do an all-chocolate and candy corn one but I hate candy corn and couldn't find anyone to eat that :( so sad. 

Line a 9x13 pan and a 9x9 pan with tin foil.  Chop bars into irregular shapes.  In a double boiler melt the chocolate chips until smooth liquid.  Pour chocolate into each pan, smoothing out to be 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle the Twix, Milky Way, pretzels, and raisins around each pan.  Then, add the Reese's Pieces and M&Ms until chocolate is well-covered.  Make sure that each piece is touching bittersweet chocolate so it sticks.  Put in the fridge for about 30 minutes, until hardened.  Then, using the tin foil, take the bark out of the pan and lay it on the table.  Remove the tin foil and chop the bark into small pieces.  (We used a rolling pin; well, I used a rolling pan; John used his hands.  I tried to use my hands, but it hurt!). 

And thats it!  We've been storing it in the freezer because M's shipment goes out on Monday!  I'd store it in the fridge if you want to eat it.  One more thing, I find it very difficult to tell if my chocolate is 1/4 of an inch thick.  That's why when you look above, its clear that some parts were not even.  But, its supposed to be fun!  Plus, if you melt the chocolate, your kids could easily decorate with their favorite leftover halloween candy! 

More fun Halloween is coming on Wednesday!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, October 22, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Spanish Chicken with Rice

John loves spicy food!  So last night I decided to indulge his tastebuds (and try not to scorch my own)!  The funniest part is that it was still too hot for me, but I didn't want to say anything.  About halfway through he looked at me and was like, wow Danielle made a spicy dinner tonight!  He LOVED it.  I always like feeding those that I love, and to watch him devour this chicken was no exception.

I had all the plans in the world to take pictures of our actual dishes--I had the camera out and everything.  But I was in a rush and John got here late so we were halfway through dinner when I remembered that I wanted pictures.  So, I apologize in advance.

The picture is of my wok.  My mom gave it to me when I moved into this apartment and I wasn't sure I would ever use it but since it doubles as the largest skillet in the house, I use it ALL the time.  In fact, I love it because chicken cooks amazingly quick and it turns any kind of stir-fry into a quick meal.  Spanish Chicken might not be classified as a stir-fry but it is to a large extent; you'll see when you read the ingredients.

Spanish Chicken with Rice
Serves:  4

2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 onion
1 green pepper
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup of instant rice

NOTE:  I have modified this recipe from the back of a "McCormicks Meal"...I like it a lot better than their way.  Besides modifying the steps, I also modified the rice, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

First, combine the flour with the paprika, pepper, and garlic powder.  Set aside. Cut the green pepper into small strips and the onion into chunky pieces.  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Place the chicken into a hot wok (or skillet) that has 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add green pepper and onion, stirring for an additional 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.   Add diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and rice to the wok.  Stir in well and then add spiced flour.  Stir often for the next 15 minutes.  Sauce should be bubbling.  Serve warm.

The reason I love my version is because McCormick has you take the chicken out of the wok.  Why?? I don't understand it, so why waste another bowl, and have to wash it?  Silly, I think.  They also make the rice separately.  I love using instant rice because it soaks up the flavors of the sauce, and it doesn't need to be cooked in another pot.  I'm all about one-pot dinners.  And this is it.  Cut it up, throw it in; let it boil.  Done.  Love it.

Happy Friday!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Pulled Chicken Sliders

I love pulled pork.  In fact, the best pulled pork I've EVER eaten (doesn't it sound like the Food Network show?!) was in the middle of nowhere Georgia where I was sent for my first EVER business trip 3 years ago!  And it was amazing.  I mean, so amazing, that I could have eaten two sandwiches, maybe three, and never eaten anything else ever again.  It was this little hole-in-the-wall place that wasn't on a GPS and didn't really have much of a sign.  I wish I could remember the name of it...

Regardless, pulled pork is always a treat for me.  But, pork is super expensive in my area right now.  Further, you have to cook the pork for a looooong time to get it as tender as I like.  Hence, I invented Pulled Chicken; it's a copy, I'll admit.  And definitely not as good, but since chicken and pork are both white meats, the flavors are comparable.

These pulled chicken sliders are done in less than an hour, and, you can make the filling up to a week in advance!  Heat them up in the oven for 10 minutes and you're all set!  I like to serve them with one pickle slice and a little slice of cheese.  We had swiss, so thats what I used; cheddar is fantastic as well!  Best of all, it uses your favorite BBQ sauce--so there's no way this won't be a hit in your house!

Pulled Chicken Sliders
Serves: 6 (2 sliders each)

4 chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce
12 small rolls
12 pickle slices
12 slices of cheese

NOTE:  I use hamburger buns (as I find them to be cheapest) and cut them to fit the slider size I want.  Feel free to use whatever works for you.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the chicken into a casserole dish and combine with 1/2 cup of barbeque sauce.  Put the casserole dish in the oven for about 45 minutes (chicken should be completely done).  Shred the chicken (use two forks and pull the chicken breasts apart).  Combine with the remaining BBQ sauce.  Put the chicken back into the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, until chicken is fully heated through.  Then, add a quarter cup of pulled chicken into each bun.  Top with a slice of cheese, a pickle, and the top of the bun. 

Serve warm.

I love this recipe so much that I sent it to K last week as an "easy dinner" idea for her and E.  You could easily make large sandwiches out of this recipe for a dinner.  John and I will do that often.  Especially if I have bland cooked chicken as leftovers already!
Monday, October 18, 2010

Sassy Sweet: Raspberry Chocolate-Chip Ice Cream

 
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; being from Long Island, Breast Cancer is a disease that affects one in 9 women, the highest rate in the country.  You can't be from Long Island and not feel passionate about Breast Cancer and the preventative measures that all women should undertake!  One of my favorite bloggers is a Boston girl, who, like me, has a passion for food.  I look forward to her posts and trying her recipes.  So when Jen, otherwise known as the Beantown Baker, challenged bloggers from across the world to participate in her Power of Pink Challenge to make something pink, I knew it was the perfect time to whip up some of my Raspberry Chocolate-Chip Ice Cream.  And, wouldn't you know it, Haymarket had cheap (and delicious looking) raspberries this week!  Woohoo!  I love when the universe aligns like that.

Pop over to Jen's blog (in the link I provided) and check out the contest, as well as her site; she has some gorgeous photography skills that I hope by my 3rd year of cooking and blogging I will be able to emulate. 

Anyway, I am a huge ice cream lover.  I don't make my own ice cream as much as I should because really, if you have an ice cream maker it's extremely easy!  Of course my ice cream maker looks like this:


And was my mom's...and when she got it is still undetermined!!  Maybe I will upgrade to an electric ice cream maker for Christmas.  Hint, hint, mom!  Anyway, if you don't have an ice cream maker, this recipe is awesome because you can put it in a 9x9 baking sheet in the freezer and still get the ice cream perfect.

Raspberry Chocolate-Chip Ice Cream
Serves: 4 (unless you're with me)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup vanilla yogurt (Try to stay healthy when you can right?)
2/3 cup sugar
16 ounces of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract or amaretto
1 cup of mini chocolate chips

NOTES:  You can use 2 cups of heavy whipping cream instead of one cup of that and one cup of yogurt.  Don't use two cups of yogurt, you will get some ice chunks in it, using at least one cup of heavy cream is better!  Plus, you're semi-healthy by trading yogurt!  Also, if you want to substitute the vanilla for amaretto (you know me!) go ahead!  It tastes AMAZING. 

In a food processor, puree the raspberries.  I keep the seeds in because I like them and am lazy.  You can strain the mixture at this point if you prefer.  Combine in a food processor, the cream, yogurt, sugar, raspberries, and vanilla/amaretto.  Stir in chocolate chips by hand.  Place into a 9x9 baking sheet, cover with tinfoil and put in the freezer for 2-4 hours.  When the ice cream is still pliable but solid, I like to transfer it into my storage container.  If this is the way you're going to make the ice cream, wait another 2 hours and then serve.  If you have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture in and use the manufacturer's instructions.  My ice cream maker is so old if I told you its instructions, I'm not sure that would do you any good!!

Also side note - taste the ice cream before it gets frozen.  I love the taste, but sometimes it can be tart.  I find that the chocolate chips balance it out but it's always good to do a taste test.

Thanks Jen for the challenge, I hope you enjoy my PINK ice cream!
And even though my oven wasn't touched this time,

Until the next time my oven is on...


Raspberries on FoodistaRaspberries
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Hot Sausage Two-Cheese Pizza

Pizza is certainly not a new concept, and be certain that my momma makes the best homemade pizza I have ever had.  But, last weekend, I was treated to a night of NO COOKING!  That's right, John made dinner, which was spectacular.  Almost every Friday, we have pizza night.  Trader Joe's has $1 pizza dough (actually $0.99); they have 3 different flavors but we like Garlic & Herb the best.  By the end of the week I always have a dollar in my pocket, and TJs is my stop!  If you don't have one near you though, don't fret!  Local pizzerias will often also give you their homemade pizza dough.  My favorite pizza dough comes from a Brighton institution called Presto's Pizza!  They charge $2 for their dough, so that's a big treat for us! 

But, given the cost of yeast in my area, their dough comes out cheaper than a 4 pack of yeast.  Crazy, I know, but truthful.  And, I'd rather use yeast to make bread and things.  Anyway, John made a Hot Sausage Two-Cheese Pizza.  He was really proud of it so I photographed it, and while we were eating, he asked if it would make the blog.  Blog born.

My favorite thing about pizza is that we could literally have pizza once a week but its always different!  Rather than paying an extra $2 for chicken, or sausage, or bacon, or extra cheese, we're free to use leftovers, vegetables, etc.  It makes a great end of week fridge cleaning activity!  Best of all, kids can so easily do this!  We're pretty professional since my roommate, A, has her own pizza stone, and I have a great pizza cutter, but just separate the dough, roll it out and let each kid decorate their own!  Dinner, done!

Hot Sausage Two-Cheese Pizza
1 Trader Joe's Garlic and Herb dough (or similar 16 ounces of dough)
4 hot italian sausages
1 cup of marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese
1 cup of asiago cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Remove sausage casings.  In a small skillet, brown italian sausage.  Set aside.  Roll out the Trader Joe's dough.  Be careful not to flour the dough too much when rolling as it gets tough.  Put the dough on a greased cookie sheet (or pizza stone).  Spoon on the marinara sauce until it evenly coats the dough.  Top with asiago and mozzarella cheeses.  Then, top with italian sausage.  Cook for about twelve minutes; cheese should be melted and bottom of dough should be crispy.  Cut into slices and serve.

A nice easy dinner to end a long week!!  

Until the next time the oven is on...
Friday, October 15, 2010

Dorm Room Dinner: Buffalo Chicken Fingers with Ranch Dressing

Time for another K and M dinner!  This one is really easy to do if you have pre-made chicken fingers, grilled, or pre-cooked chicken.  It takes almost no ingredients but it takes really good.  It's also a lot healthier than traditional buffalo chicken.  You can put these on a salad, in a sandwich, or serve them as an appetizer with little toothpicks in them!  Possibilities are endless! 

The sauce always makes extra.  I usually will throw it in Buffalo Chicken Dip (along with any extra chicken pieces).  But, this time I just poured it on top of the chicken.  John enjoyed mopping the chicken in it anyways!

M can always get butter and hot sauce in her cafeteria; she probably didn't even know they were the major ingredients to buffalo chicken!  I like to add some white vinegar to mine, but she doesn't have that, so for her I left it out.  I'm still begging her to smuggle a camera into the cafeteria to take a picture of HER dishes; my mom and her think that is a little weird.  I guess I agree.

Buffalo Chicken Fingers with Ranch Dressing
Serves: 4
4 chicken breasts (pre-cooked)
1/3 stick of butter
1 clove of garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce

Cut the chicken into strips.  (If you are starting with uncooked chicken, cut the chicken into strips in the beginning and cook at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes).  In a small microwave-proof bowl, put in butter and garlic.  Heat in microwave for 30 seconds.  Add vinegar and stir well, slowly adding hot sauce.  Stir together.  Let chicken sit in mixture for approximately 2 minutes.  Remove from mixture and place on serving dish.  (If you're like M and using already heated chicken, you might want to microwave them so they are warm).  Serve with ranch dressing.

I prefer ranch to blue cheese sometimes.  Not sure why but they both feel cool against the hot sauce.  I like it.

By the way, Franks is not paying me anything to keep using their product; I just do it.  Getting paid would be nice!  Mr. Frank if you're out there listening...here I am!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Apple Wontons with a Chocolate Mocha Drizzle

Tree Top Apples had a contest a few months back to make a recipe using their products in the "sweet" and "savory" divisions.  My recipe was for Apple Wontons with Caramel Sauce was one of the five sweet finalists.  The prize for this honor was a Tree Top Apples Prize Pack.  I had no idea what to expect, so I tried not to think about it.  When I got home last week, I almost ran into a HUGE box.

I assumed, since it was addressed to me AND I wasn't expecting a big shipment, that it was from Tree Top!  I was also pleasantly surprised by the basket.

Yes, that's a Tree Top apple pen you see there!  Also, I was unaware how much stuff Tree Top produced.  One of my best friends R came to visit and she and I broke out the sparkling apple cider!  Delicious!  John and I had the huckleberry popcorn with movie night.  AWESOME!

Note: this picture was taken from Tree Top's website, when they judged my entry.  I like to make my wontons in triangle shapes...but it was such a pretty picture, I couldn't pass it up!  I also adjusted the recipe here to include chocolate mocha drizzle, instead of caramel, mainly because it's a lot easier, and also because this is John's favorite sauce.  He wasn't feeling good this weekend, so anything he ate was good for me!

Apple Wontons with a Chocolate Mocha Drizzle
Serves: 4
12 wonton wrappers
1 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon skim milk
1 tablespoon instant coffee

NOTE:  Again, here goes me and my dislike of too much nutmeg!  Adjust to your tastebuds!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Combine apple sauce, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Place one tablespoon in each wonton wrapper and using water (or an eggwash, but I use water), lightly brush the outer edges of the wonton.  Seal the wontons shut and place on a greased cookie sheet, keeping about 1/2 inch between each.  Lightly coat the wontons with cooking spray and sprinkle sugar on both sides of the wontons.  Place in the oven for 5 minutes.  While the wontons are baking, stir the instant coffee into the milk.  Heat the chocolate chips for about sixty to ninety seconds on low in the microwave.  Stir in the milk and whisk until smooth.  Remove the wontons and place 3 on each plate.  Drizzle the chocolate mocha mixture over the tops and serve warm.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, October 11, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Cheesy Avocado Beer Bacon Dip

I love avocados.  Anyone who has ever been to my house for a party knows that I make some pretty awesome guacamole!  The hint is to not add too much to the avocado.  I think avocado alone is amazing.  So, I set about trying to do something new, different, and "tailgate friendly".  This dip is for an avocado tailgate contest (scroll to the bottom) by the Hass Avocado Board.  If you wouldn't mind voting right now, I'd GREATLY appreciate it!  The contest is very interesting in that 25% of the score is about how many votes I get; 25% of the score is about it's "viral" meter.  I wasn't sure what a viral meter was; mom wasn't either but we're lucky that she works in a computer department!  She went over and asked the guys she works with but I'm still not sure.  Regardless, I think it has something to do with how many times my recipe is posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and voted on! 

The dip was pretty interesting--first there was too much beer; then there was still too much beer!  That is the one annoying thing about Massachusetts; you have to buy a 6-pack, and you have to buy it from the liquor store.  It made for a pretty expensive weekend of trying!  But, it also made John a pretty happy camper haha!  I love UFO Raspberry but any raspberry or fruity wheat beer (like many hefeweizens) will do! 

Cheesy Avocado Beer Bacon Dip
Serves: 4
2 Hass Avocados
1/4 cup raspberry beer
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsps. pepper
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
6 strips of bacon (diced)
2 small cloves of garlic (minced)
1/2 white onion (diced)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Peel and remove the pits from the avocados.  Cut them roughly into quarters and in a food processor, combine them with the raspberry beer, salt, pepper, lime juice, and red pepper flakes.  Process until smooth.  In a skillet over medium-high heat cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove the bacon taking care to keep the drippings in the skillet.  Stir the bacon into the avocado-beer mixture.  Then, add the garlic and onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent.  At this point, dump the avocado-beer mixture into the skillet and turn the heat to low.  Add the cheddar cheese and stir until the cheddar cheese is melted and well-mixed in. 

I served this warm with tortilla chips and pretzels!  I think it would be good cold, too, and it seemed to keep its color really well (unlike my guacamole which always turns brown in about an hour!).  Please don't forget to vote--its once daily! 

Until the next time my oven is on...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Date Night Dinner: Stuffed Chicken

Stuffed chicken always looks so fancy, right?  I love how its often served at restaurants and everyone is always like ooooh stuffed chicken.  Well, besides being nervous about cooking the chicken all the way through, stuffed chicken is actually extremely easy to make!  If it didn't cook so long in the oven, it would easily be a great weeknight meal!

When K asked me last week to make her and Boyfriend E some dinner, I made stuffed chicken.  The main premise was because instead of cooking it, I wrapped it in bacon and stuck it in the freezer.  Then, when she was ready to make it for E, she baked it for an hour and it was homemade!  She got it with my Microwaved Red Potatoes; the chicken looked so good I could have eaten it raw!  I make this pretty often for John and I, too.  I like feeling fancy on occasion, besides it's great for lunches the next day. The longer the bacon is wrapped in the chicken, the better the chicken tastes!

Chicken Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Spinach, and Craisins Wrapped in Bacon
Serves: 4

4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup of chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup of blue cheese
2 tablespoons of craisins
8 strips of bacon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut slits into the chicken breasts.  Be careful not to cut all the way through.  Combine chopped spinach, blue cheese, and craisins in a small bowl.  Stuff each chicken breast with a quarter of the spinach mixture.  Wrap two pieces of bacon around the chicken breast (one usually covers half the chicken breast so I start the second bacon piece where the first one ended).  Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about an hour.  The stuffing keeps the chicken pretty moist and since I'm always afraid to undercook it, I cook it for an hour.  Always cut through the middle to make sure the chicken is done before serving!!!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Time-Out: Cran-Apple Sauce

Sick of cranberries yet?  I hope not!  I feel like I could continue like this for at least another week.  I won't though, I am almost completely out of cranberries, craisins, and cranberry juice in the house!

A few weeks ago we went apple picking with my family and I still have not used all my apples.  There are a ton of cran-apple sauce recipes out there, and since I think I've overloaded K and John with as much apple sauce as they could eat lately, I figured I would switch it up a bit.

I read a bunch of recipes before starting, but since I don't like to use a lot of sugar in my apple sauce, I omitted most of them.  It's a beautiful color and really interesting taste.  I threw in some cranberries at the end, just to give it a little crunch, like some people put raisins in normal apple sauce. 

Cran-Apple Sauce
Serves: 4
6 large apples
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup Ocean Spray Cranapple juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped cranberries

Note:  I really dislike nutmeg because it often overpowers other flavors, therefore, I put in as little as possible.  Feel free to adjust that to your liking!

Peel and core all the apples.  I chop them into smaller pieces (almost bite-sized) so the apple sauce cooks faster.  Put the apples, water, and cranberry juice in a large pot and cook on medium-high heat.  I try not to turn the heat too high; too high and you will have to constantly stir the mixture or else it will stick (burn) to the bottom.  Leaving it at medium leaves me free to do other things and stir once every few minutes.  After the apples have started to dissolve, I add the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir well so the flavors are well-mixed.   Keep the heat on medium and continue stirring.  After about 30 minutes, add the cranberries (I chop them in a food processor first).  The apples should be dissolved and now are just a soft, well, sauce!  I don't like a lot of lumps in mine, so I stir until the lumps come out.

Cutting apples up into smaller pieces allows you to make this in about 45 minutes (when thinking about peeling, coring, chopping, stirring, etc.).  That's pretty good, and it makes a lot.  We have small pots at home so feel free to double the recipe and make a huge pot!  When I make plain apple sauce, I omit the brown sugar--I feel like apples have enough sugar, but since cranberries are tart, I add it here.

One more cranberry filled day!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Tipsy Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

YAY!  My first dessert posting.  Whether the desserts are fast, complicated, or just plain fun, they're going to be a "sassy sweet".  This is one of my favorite cookie recipes.  I substitute the cranberries for dried cherries or dried apricots and each has adds its own distinct flavor to the cookies.  I am a huge sucker for cookies, I used to love the cookie monster growing up, for obvious reasons!  And, although people make fun, I like making cookies bite-sized (or maybe three-bite-sized) so you can go back for seconds and not feel guilty!

It's Wednesday, and I definitely need some sweets to get me through the rest of this week, I don't know about you but work around here has been CRAZY!  And really the best way to boost our team's spirit is some dessert!  The group loved these and in honor of the fall, I put them on this cute fall plate from my momma.  Thanks momma!

One more quick thing about Monday's post, Ocean Spray has MY recipe on THEIR website, this is a first for me so I couldn't be more excited with a beautiful picture of the sausages from Saturday's event.  Go over and check it out (and maybe rate it if you'd like, that would be a bonus)!  Anyway onto the star of the day, COOKIES!

Tipsy Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Serves: 12 (4 cookies per person)

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons amaretto
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups chopped Ocean Spray Cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time and mix in.  Add in amaretto and stir well.  Add flour, cocoa powder and baking soda, beating well.  (I never have a big enough bowl to do this so I add about a third of each ingredient and beat it in, continuing until all of the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda are all well-mixed in).  By hand, stir in the chocolate chips and craisins.  Place one tablespoon balls (I make the balls in my hand), on a greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake them in the oven for about 8 minutes.  It's hard to know when these are done because, well, they don't get golden brown.  However, if after 8 minutes, you can lighly touch the tops of the cookies and they will spring back, not sink, they're done.  Don't bake them for more than 12 minutes though, they'll dry out. 

NOTE:  After you add the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda, the batter is sometimes still dry.  Don't worry, the cranberries will release their moisture during baking.  Also, I used fresh cranberries mainly cause I had them from the cook-off.  If you don't, use frozen or even craisins (if you use dry fruit you may need one tablespoon more of amaretto to give the cookies more liquid!).  They taste great either way!

Stay tuned for more cranberry craziness to come!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Cranberry Cups

And so the week of cranberries begins!  I promise that tomorrow, I am even going to showcase a cranberry dessert!  I know you're excited...

I love making these appetizers - I am all about appetizers being easy to make, and prepare ahead of time.  You want to have a party to SEE and talk to people; when you're in the kitchen and everyone else is out watching the game or mingling amongst themselves you're the one who misses out on the fun!  And, people miss out on you, and as the host(ess) you ARE the fun!  At least, I am! 

Therefore, fillo mini cups make any appetizer a lot easier.  I stick anything in those cups and they always turn out great.  Because I have a date night dinner planned (later in the week), I had all these ingredients on hand, which was perfect.

Cranberry Cups
Serves: 6
24 fillo mini cups
2/3 cup blue cheese
1/3 cup cranberry sauce
1/4 cup craisins (chopped)
8 slices of bacon (cooked until crispy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Chop the bacon into fine pieces in a food processor.  Mix blue cheese and cranberry sauce together.  Add bacon bits and craisins.  Mix until well combined.  Place two teaspoons into each mini cup until all are filled.  Then, place them on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until cups are golden-brown.  Serve immediately.

It's really easy to make and freeze these cups.  I flash freeze them:  I make the filling, stuff the cups, place them on a baking sheet like they are going to be baked but instead put them in the freezer for about an hour.  Then, I remove them and place them into small baggies with about 2 dozen cups in each.  It's great for parties, but I would not leave them in there longer than a few weeks.  I like to make them the weekend before the party and then just stick them in the oven (for about an extra 3 minutes), that way if people are still hungry, its easy to pop more in (same if you have unexpected visitors!). 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, October 4, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Touchdown Sausages with Chunky Cranberry-Beer Topping

A mouthful!  I had so much fun at the Ocean Spray Cranberry Festival and Cook-off this past weekend.  Huge thanks to Ocean Spray for making it so much fun - besides cooking we got a private tour of Gillette Stadium and got to hang out with celebrity chef Ming Tsei (see him on The Next Iron Chef Sundays on the Food Network) and Steve Grogan (Football Hall of Famer).  I've included some highlights of pictures throughout the blog.  Ocean Spray has also inspired me to use one of their products in EVERY recipe I post this week, so it's CRANBERRY WEEK!  Woohoo!

My family loved my entry--even my mom who hates sausage told me the topping was to die for.  Even though the Ocean Spray people didn't agree and I didn't win the contest, I wanted to share my recipe with you.  It will be posted on the Ocean Spray website as well!  So exciting!

Touchdown Sausages with Chunky Cranberry-Beer Topping
Serves: 4

4 hot italian sausages
4 hot dog rolls
2 cups of raspberry beer
1 cup of cranraspberry juice
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of ketchup
2 tablespoons of worchestershire sauce
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup craisins

On a medium-hot grill, in a large skillet, combine beer and cranberry juice.  Let boil and add brown sugar, ketchup, worchestershire sauce, and pepper.  Stir frequently for 5 minutes.  Then, put the sausages on the grill.  Add craisins into the beer sauce and stir constantly for additional 5 minutes.  The sauce should reduce by half.  Toast the hot dog buns for about 2 minutes.  Then, put the sausage in the hot dog buns and top with cranberry sauce.

It's a great tailgating recipe since I do everything right on the grill.  It was also fun to cook off in front of my friends...my first time was at Beringer but I would do it again in a heartbeat! 




Continue looking this week for more great cranberry recipes (what a great way to kick off autumn!). 
It's Me!
Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, October 1, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Buffalo Chicken Dip

A perfect tailgating appetizer-Buffalo Chicken Dip.  I am a big fan of buffalo sauce - the flavors always get my mouth watering!  This dip is really easy to prepare and bring, basically anywhere!  I don't think there was any "recipe" per se for this.  I have had a few friends prepare different buffalo dips and I got some ideas from each.  Now, this is just all mine!

I love that you can make this in a casserole dish; that means it can easily and frequently be taken to other parties.  Plus, I make it using already cooked chicken or taco meat...this makes it a great use for my weekly leftovers!

Tomorrow, I will be competing in the Ocean Spray Cranberry Tailgating Cook-off at Patriot's Place in Foxborough, MA.  There is a cranberry festival all weekend which is free to get in and should be really fun!  I will be there mostly all day (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and I'm pretty sure we start cooking off around noon.  Come and cheer me on, and check out the festival!  I'm making "Touchdown Sausages with a Chunky Cranberry-Beer Topping"!  It's fast and easy so I'll post it next week for a Weeknight Dinner!

See, there's really nothing that I love more than some good football, and good food while watching it!


Buffalo Chicken Dip
2 chicken breasts (cooked)
1 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Put the chicken (already cooked) in the food processor, and chop until fine.  Add in Frank's Red Hot and dressing.  Stir well.  Next, stir in cheddar cheese and blue cheese crumbles.  Leave some cheddar cheese to go on top.  Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until cheese is hot and melted.  *You can also broil this to get the cheese browned and melted faster.  Serve with tortilla chips, pretzels, celery, carrots...the list could go on and on!

NOTE:  Like I mentioned above, I sometimes make this with leftover taco meat, too.  Any leftover meat, when chopped fine, goes perfect in this recipe!
I'll make sure to post next week about how the Ocean Spray event goes, hope to see some of you there!

Until the next time my oven is on...
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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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