Monday, October 31, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Root Beer Cake

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!  This is a great cake for the holiday because it is so dark and rich.  I decorated the top with some festive candy corns, but this could be made any day of the week.  It was originally a bundt cake recipe which of course requires a bundt pan!  And, of course, I don't have a bundt pan.  Mom has a bundt pan and I knew these were going to be my Halloween celebration for weeks now.  But everytime it seemed I got close to her, I forgot to ask her about it.  So, this weekend, two days before Halloween, I decided to just modify the bundt to a sheet cake.  M loves her root beer so I promised her we would make this again when we are "roommates" (when we are home for Thanksgiving and for the first time ever, sharing a room).  I think the family will enjoy it as much as John and my colleagues did.

Now that I am a "grown-up", I don't get to go trick-or-treating in costumes (I tried).  It really is depressing.  I don't know if I'm old-fashioned or what but Mom ALWAYS made our costumes, none of the store-bought ones I see all over the place today.  My favorite was when I was a frog.  Yes, a frog.  Green face and all.  Those are some great pictures.  Don't tell John though, there are some things that are better when they stay in the family circle. 

I don't remember having a premade costume until I was old enough to work at Party City and dress up in their costumes (so like at 17).  Even then, my manager was a good friend of Dads.  So, when it came time to picking what I would wear to greet customers, Dad was the one who "approved" my costume.  That meant other girls got a long list of what they could be including the sexy witches and Britney Spears look-alikes (the first Britney of course...I really AM old).  My list had many black magic marker lines over any "risque" costumes and I got to be Dorothy (hair in pigtails with a long skirt) or Cleopatra (long flowing dress).  At the time I hated it, but I do love that story now!  Besides, I could rock Dorothy with the best of them.

Root Beer Cake (adapted from here)
Serves:  16 (9x13 sheet cake)
Cake:
2 cups root beer
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
Frosting:
1/3 cup chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup root beer
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large saucepan, combine root beer, cocoa powder, and butter.  Stir until the mixture is smooth and butter is melted.  Add the sugar and brown sugar.  Whisk until sugars have dissolved and remove from heat.  Break eggs in a large bowl and beat slightly.  Once the chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, slowly beat it into the eggs.  Add the flour and baking soda.  Mix well.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick comes out clean.  Meanwhile, make the frosting by adding the chocolate chips, butter, root beer, cocoa powder, and confectioners sugar to the food processor.  Process until smooth and shiny.  Frost the cooled cake with the frosting.  Top with sprinkles or other candy. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, October 28, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Homemade Halloween Oreos

This Halloween I had the inspired idea of making baskets for K&E, M, boyfriend M, and M&M's two best friends for years...boys that I have known since they were probably 12.  Being away at school stinks sometimes, and this is the worst strech waiting for Thanksgiving.  Sweets always help you get through a bad day, right?

Well, one of my "to-make" treats were these Oreos.  M LOVES Oreos.  What I didn't put a lot of thought into (until halfway through) was that I was tripling the batch to make enough for everyone, have some left over for John and I, and to bring some to my Mom and Dad (mainly Dad, eager to try everything featured on the blog).  That meant I was making 98 Oreo cookies, or 196 cookies, all cut out from rolled dough. 

Sometimes I am just not too bright, and I was cursing my stupid self about halfway through these!  But, I couldn't have been happier with the way they turned out.  I turned the Oreo filling orange with a little food coloring which added to the Halloween spirit.  Am I the only person who loves the orange cream filled Oreos?  I swear they taste better than the real thing.  Anyway, I split these up into two days with the cookies the first day (Saturday), the filling (Sunday), and then put them together Sunday. 
Homemade Halloween Oreos (adapted from here)
Serves:  64 cookies (32 people)
Cookies
6 ounces salted butter, room temperature
7 1/2 ounces sugar
3 ounces brown sugar
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
8 ounces flour
6 ounces cocoa powder (+ more for rolling out)
Filling
4 ounces butter
10 ounces sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 drops yellow food coloring
4 drops red food coloring

Cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar.  Add the baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla extract, beating to combine.  Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.  Sift together the flour and cocoa and add it to the mixture.  Using a wooden spoon, combine the dough (the mixture is very stiff*), mixing until uniform.  Knead the dough into a ball and flatten it into a circle.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift some cocoa powder onto your work station.  Roll the dough out into a large, thin (1/8 inch) sheet.  Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter (I used a shot glass...what can you do?), cut as many circles as possible.  Re-roll the scraps and make more circles.  Transfer the circles onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Cool completely.

To make the filling, cream together butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.  Beat for about 5-8 minutes until the mixture is very white and fluffy.  Add the red and yellow food dyes.  Beat for an additional 2-3 minutes until the color is evenly distributed. 

To make the Oreos, take a completely cooled cookie and on the flat side, drop 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle and top with another cookie (flat side down).  Press evenly to distribute the filling.  Repeat with each pair of cookies.

*Funny story: the last time I tried to mix a very stiff batter with my electric mixer.  I heard a loud POP, saw some sparks, smoke, and that was the end of him, my little electric mixer.  I finally got my Mom's old one, so when I saw how stiff the batter was I decided to mix it by hand; just to avoid any mishaps!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Bloody Brains, Meatball Eyes, & Breadstick Bones (aka Halloween Spaghetti and Meatballs)

Just because John and I have no kids, and with his foot really can't celebrate Halloween this coming weekend, didn't mean we couldn't get into the spooky spirit!  In fact, I have long thought how much fun it would be to rent some kids to take trick or treating.  I was lucky in college to nanny many families, and many would include me in their Halloween celebrations.  I would always dress up, too.  After all, being under five feet sometimes I could still pass for a kid, right?  No?  You'd be surprised...

When I saw the many posts that Mel at Mel's Kitchen Cafe had posted about Halloween I started out making a spooky Halloween night menu.  The nice thing about this is you can make it as simple or as complex as you want.  You can buy premade meatballs, premade sauce, etc. and put this meal together in just a few minutes.  Or, you can make the meatballs from scratch which is what I like to do (recipe below)! 

Of couse your bloody eyes and brains are only part of the meal.  Mel posted these breadstick bones that I was loving!  In fact, the breadsticks can be made the day before and re-heated in the oven, that's what I did (I used half a batch of dough on my Mummy Dogs and half on these bones).  You could even do the spaghetti sauce in the crockpot, add the cooked meatballs to cook while you trick-or-treat on Monday.  Then, make the spaghetti and heat up the "bones" when you get home from trick-or-treating.  This is a ghoulish treat that your kids will love to eat (ooh I'm even rhyming)!
Bloody Brains, Meatball Eyes, & Breadstick Bones (adapted from here) Serves:  4
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
24 pieces of mozzerella (cut into one-inch cubes)
1/2 batch of dough from Monday
2 tablespoons flour
24 olive slices
1 box thin spaghetti
3 cups spaghetti sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a big bowl, use your hands to combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, and egg.  Make into 24 meatballs.  Press your finger into the middle of each and fit a piece of mozzerella into it.  To bake, line up the meatballs on a greased cooling rack.  Place the cooling rack onto a large cookie sheet.  Bake 25 minutes, until fully cooked through.  Then, carefully press the olive slices into the mozzerella to look like eyes.

Meanwhile, roll out remaining dough.  Cut into 4 strips and carefully knot the ends.  Sift two tablespoons of flour over the dough.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes, until slightly golden brown. 

Finally, make the spaghetti according to package directions and toss with 2 cups spaghetti sauce.  Plate the spaghetti and add a few meatball eyes to each plate, covering with additional spaghetti sauce.  Top with a breadstick bone and enjoy!

Now don't think I've forgotten about the Halloween desserts--Friday is a very special one!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, October 24, 2011

Fancy Pants App: Mummy Dogs

I really got into the Halloween spirit this year.  Actually, maybe I really do get into the Halloween spirit every year.  Remember my Halloween Bark?  Or Black Cats?  This year instead of focusing JUST on sweets (although there will be some of those, I promise you!), I have also made two delicious savory recipes.  These mummy dogs are the first and are my featured appetizer (perfect for any picky kids or a great Halloween party addition).  My second one is a great dinner you can make Monday night for the family without breaking the bank or taking up too much precious trick-or-treating time.  I can't wait to show you that one Wednesday.

I like my dogs with mustard, but John prefers ketchup.  Serving them that way makes them look like bloody mummys!  Perfect for the scare factor!  These came from Mel's Kitchen Cafe where Mel has posted an immense amount of Halloween treats for grown-ups and kids alike.  Are you ever too old to stop celebrating Halloween?

I'm not sure...I remember my cousins used to have a GIANT Halloween party at their parents house when they were probably around my age.  All I know is I was always too young to attend, and by the time I got old enough, they had kids and crazy Halloween parties were no longer their style.  Isn't that always the way.  Although I wouldn't mind being home in NY next week and helping the kids trick-or-treat.  There is something really fun about holidays that involve every American regardless of religion like Thanksgiving or Halloween.  And what better way to celebrate a holiday then with food, right? 
Mummy Dogs (dogs adapted from here; dough adapted from here)
Serves:  4
3/4 cups warm water
1/2 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 hot dogs of your choice
Mustard and Ketchup for serving

Mix warm water, yeast, sugar, flour, and salt with an electric mixer until well combined.  Knead for three to five minutes. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Then, use half of the dough for Wednesday's recipe (keep in the fridge) or make them into plain breadsticks.  Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the breadstick dough about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick and cut into thin strips with a pizza cutter. Starting at the top of each dog, use a strip of dough and wind it down the hot dog.  Repeat with a 2nd strip of dough per hot dog and then place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes until the dough has completely cooked through (it will puff up but don't let it turn golden--it should still look like a white mummy)!  Dot mustard or ketchup "eyes" on the mummy dogs and serve.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, October 21, 2011

Sassy Sweet: Strawberry Shortcake Truffles

Every year in October, perhaps this year more than ever, we remember Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Everything from fountains to NFL Football Jerseys turn pink; in fact, when we were in Kansas City, the city of fountains, everywhere I turned was pink water.  It was beautiful! 

But, of course, Breast Cancer is more than just pink fountains and a month that only comes once a year.  For all of us women, we should be constantly taking preventative measures; you can't choose to have breast cancer, but you can do your best to catch it early!  This month is a great reminder to encourage girlfriends, family members, and siblings to get checked and do make sure you are checking yourselves, too. 

Just like last year, Jen over at Beantown Baker, has provided her fourth annual, worldwide Power of Pink Challenge.  When I made the strawberry shortcake cupcakes (Monday), it was by special request.  But when I realized I had leftover strawberries and cupcake middles, it seemed like I was being led to enter the challenge once again! 
Strawberry Shortcake Truffles
Serves:  12 (24 truffles)
1/4 cup frozen strawberries, thawed
2 cups yellow / butter cake*
2 tablespoons vanilla frosting
1 cup chocolate chips

In a blender, combine thawed strawberries, cake, and vanilla frosting.  The mixture will turn pink.  Using a 1/2 tablespoon measure, roll out 24 truffles and place them on tin foil.  Then, place them into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.  After the truffles have hardened, place the chocolate chips in a bowl and microwave them for 2 1/2 minutes on power level 5.  Stir every minute with a fork, until the mixture is completely liquidy with no lumps.  Roll the truffles in the chocolate mixture until fully covered on all sides.  Return to the tin foil.  Place into the refrigerator until serving (at least 30 minutes so the chocolate hardens). 

Here is the pink center:
*The nice thing about this recipe is you could do it with whatever leftover cake you have on hand.  I used the cupcake innards and 2 cupcakes that smushed.  That got me 2 cups.  But you could also make it with leftover pound cake, or other cakes (like Angel Food). 

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month! 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Although summer is over, it doesn't mean you have to deny yourself strawberries!  In fact, the stores have had them on sale here lately (not sure why...maybe its the last of it).  But, during the summer when we have a glutony of strawberries, I often hull them and freeze them.  I put them cut side down onto a cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer for about 2 hours.  Then, I remove them from the cookie sheet and place them in an airtight container.  We can have strawberry dishes all year round that way!

If you think it is odd that I'm making strawberry shortcake cupcakes halfway through fall, I did too!  For the past few days I have been asking people in the office to vote for my recipe so I can get to the Philly Cook-Off!  Please feel free to vote if you have a few minutes to register--there are great prizes to be won for voting as well. 

In return, I agreed to make a couple of treats for the office.  Doesn't this always backfire on me?!  The first thing the guys decided they wanted was "something with strawberries"!  Don't they know that season has passed?  Lucky for me those summer strawberries were just chilling (literally) in the freezer...then I had the brilliant idea of incorporating my leftovers from these cupcakes into Friday's post.  It's for a great cause (I think you will agree) and it satisfied everyone--coworkers and their cupcake obsession, and John who got the re-made leftovers.  If only every week was this easy!
Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes (cupcake batter adapted from here)
Serves:  24 (24 cupcakes)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup skim milk*
1 cup strawberries (frozen or fresh)
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar about 2 minutes, until light and foamy.  Gradually pour in the butter and vanilla while mixing constantly.  Slowly add half the dry ingredients stir until just combined.  Add all of the milk mixing until just combined.  Last, add the rest of the dry ingredients being careful not to overmix.  Spoon the batter into greased cupcake tins (or tins lined with cupcake liners).  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the centers of the cupcakes are clean when poked with a toothpick.  Let cool.
Meanwhile, let the strawberries come to room temperature if frozen.  Either using a food processor, or a sharp knife, cut the strawberries into very small pieces.  Top with 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside. 
When the cupcakes have cooled, use a sharp knife to cut a cone-shaped hole down into the cupcake, removing the center (being careful NOT to cut the bottom).  Continue with each cupcake.  Fill each cupcake with the strawberry mixture and place in the fridge until serving (do not let the cupcakes sit longer than half an hour because the juices will soak right through). 
Using an electric mixer, mix the whipping cream and sugar until soft peaks form.  Top each cupcake with the whipped cream and serve immediately. 

*The first seven ingredients can be substituted with a yellow/butter cake mix.  Likewise, the whipped cream can be substituted for store-bought whipped cream.  That makes these as fast and easy as you need them!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, October 17, 2011

Slow Cooking Supper: Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches

A few weeks ago, back in September, our local Shaw's ran a great special.  Buy one carton of ice cream, get One Free.  Now, this is a typical special but what made this one great was that if you bought two cartons, you also got two free A&W sodas.  I am always up for a good deal (as you know).  Unfortunately, in our new location, the supermarket is just not that easy to get to.  We had always planned on using John's car to go grocery shopping but now that John is out of commission, it involves a train and a half mile walk to the supermarket.  It's not bad, it's just difficult to carry all the groceries by myself.

But for free ice cream and free soda I would make an exception!  I thought it was a cute idea for root beer floats and to be sure, we had lots of them.  In fact, we finished the diet root beer and one carton of vanilla ice cream (over a few weeks naturally) doing just that.  But then there was another two liter bottle of root beer.  What to do with it?  Well luckily for me,  Just Jenn is a huge fan and has tons of recipes involving root beer!  The one that stuck out to me was (duh) root beer pulled pork.

I had another great pulled pork idea in mind but put it aside to make this; and I was so glad I did!  I loved the sweetness of the root beer with the spices we slathered on the pork butt (whenever I say pork butt John giggles and repeats it: "pork butt"--is every man 5 years old?!  Just wondering out loud over here).  The pulled pork is tender and delicious and completely a keeper!  If you want to know what we did with the rest of the root beer stay tuned because it is featured in a heavenly (really heavenly) dessert perfect on Halloween!
Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches (adapted from here)
Serves:  4
1-2 pound pork butt / pork shoulder
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 cups root beer
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
4 sandwich buns, toasted

Pierce the fat of the pork butt / pork shoulder.  Combine brown sugar, salt, cumin, paprika, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder.  Adjust to taste.  Cover the pork butt / pork shoulder and in the piercings with the spice mixture.  Grease a skillet and place it over medium-high heat.  Sear the pork butt on all sides in the skillet (about 2 minutes per side).  Then, place the pork butt into the crockpot on low.  Add root beer and red pepper flakes.  Cook 6-8 hours, until the pork easily pulls apart.  Pull the pork apart with two forks and serve on toasted sandwich buns.
Also you may have noticed I have FINALLY made a new category on the blog--slow cooking suppers!  I have re-labeled any dish that includes the slow cooker and you can find them all in the Category Index.  It's my goal this fall and winter to focus a lot of weekend dishes on the crockpot.  They give me more time to spend with John and to fix up the apartment that I just wasn't getting before.  I've already made a bunch of delicious slow cooking suppers for us, and we're on tap to have a few more coming up as well!  Stay tuned!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, October 14, 2011

Fancy Pants App: White Castle Burgers

I remember the first time John and I went down to Long Island to see my family.  We had a half day to hang out ourselves.  We drove around to some of my favorite places and then I asked him where he wanted to eat lunch.  I had all sorts of ideas but his one suggestion stopped me in my tracks "White Castle".  I said, really?  But, as he reminded me, we don't have White Castle in New England.

John, growing up in Connecticut, used to love White Castle but since they moved to Maine when he was 9 years old, he feels like they are a special treat.  A few weeks ago, I was going through my pictures (I am still trying to decorate this apartment) and one of them was John at White Castle with a huge smile on his face.  I immediately began brainstorming a way to make my own White Castle. 

When I came upon this copycat recipe, I loved how easy it was, and how much it really did look like a White Castle Burger!  When I surprised John with them, he couldn't have been happier!  It was the perfect game day appetizer.  Also, the only square buns that I could find were potato rolls; I realize they aren't exactly White Castle, but they did taste good!
White Castle Burgers
Serves:  3 (9 sliders)
1 onion, diced
2/3 pounds ground turkey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
9 slices cheddar cheese
9 dinner rolls
9 slices of pickles

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray the bottom of a 9x9 pan with cooking spray.  Add the diced onion to the bottom.  Top with turkey (use your hands to get it all the way to the end in an inch-thick patty).  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until turkey is fully cooked.  Place the cheese slices on the bottom of each bun.  Cut into square patties.  Use a spatula to pick up the patty (and the onions underneath) and flip it onto the bun.  Top with a pickle and serve.

I bought a large cheddar cheese block and cut the slices to fit the buns.  I also bought a large dill pickle (the ones that age in the wooden barrels near the deli section of your supermarket).  I just sliced that into thin slices (or not so thin, since I love pickles!).

These also would have been heavenly with ketchup which we don't have currently because I am still trying to replenish the condiments that we left at the old apartment.  It didn't hurt the taste though; they really were INCREDIBLE.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Veggie Fried Rice

Remember that plain old white rice you saved from Monday's dinner?  Or, really, any leftover rice at all?  Well, now you have the perfect start to an easy delicious dinner!  Fried Rice is one of John's favorite dishes when we go out to a Chinese restaurant.  Of course, who doesn't like fried rice?  It pretty much is just delicious.  Making it at home, though, you have the opportunity to cut out a lot of calories, and since I made mine vegetables only, it's a great light dinner!  You can even serve smaller portions as a side dish if you prefer.

The recipe inspiration comes from Edible Perspectives.  I saw it, loved it, and immediately bookmarked it.  But it was Jennie of In Jennie's Kitchen, another blog that I have been following for some time, that was smart to suggest premade rice.  Jennie has been going through some tough stuff lately, and while she is devestated, her writing has been tremendously inspirational.  In fact, I often talk to both John and my mom about what she writes, and it reminds me to be so thankful for the people I have in my life!

John said he would basically eat this every night for dinner if I wanted to make it.  He quickly said he "loves" my other dinners but that this was "excellent".  He didn't even know it was good for him!  Plus, I cut up the mushrooms so small he ate them without complaint.  Dani: 1, John: 0.  Also, because of our new location, the grocery store is a trek.  I am sure more complaints will be forthcoming but I bought a veggie "stir-fry" pack at Whole Foods. I didn't have to cut anything up and it had some great veggies including asparagus, carrots, and peppers already sliced for us. 

Veggie Fried Rice (adapted from here)
Serves:  2 (for dinner; 4 for a side dish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups rice (precooked)
2 cup vegetables (assorted)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

I use my wok for this but you can use any large skillet.  Make sure you have enough room though!

Add one tablespoon olive oil to the pan.  Add the rice and toast the rice for about 3 minutes.  Set aside.  Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and add the vegetables (I used mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, peas, and peppers).  Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the rice back to the mixture and then add the soy sauce, mixing well.  Push the mixture to the sides of the skillet, leaving a hole in the middle.  Crack the two eggs and let them cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.  Once they are fully cooked, mix them quickly into the rice/veggie mixture.  Place on two plates and top with sesame seeds.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, October 10, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Burritos (Chipotle Style)

If you haven't noticed yet, John and I love Mexican food.  When we used to live in Brighton, there was a Chipotle right around the corner from us.   My roommates frequently ate at Chipotle and while I love their burritos, I was shocked to find out how high in calories they were!  Granted, I could never finish a whole burrito (okay, maybe I could...just not always), but still!  That should be like my only meal of the day!

So, when we moved away from Chipotle (and every other Mexican restaurant ever), and into the Little Italy of Boston (aka the North end) I figured it was time to make these myself.  John loves getting to pick his toppings so on the countertop I set up "stations".  Each was basically a bowl of whatever I had on hand.  Think Mozzerella versus Cheddar, and homemade pico de gallo instead of salsa. 

After we're done putting our toppings on them, comes the rolling part.  We have serious issues when it comes to rolling our burritos.  Actually, the problem might arise with the fact that we like to stuff the burritos to epic proportions.  Then, we try to roll them; stuffed.  It just never works out!  Make them tonight with some extra rice for Wednesday's recipe.  It's going to be GREAT!
Burritos (Chipotle Style)
Serves: 2
1 cup rice (I use brown and white)
2 tablespoons cajun seasoning (or taco seasoning)
1 cup vegetables (I like to use a pepper mix and mushrooms)
1/2 pound meat (chicken, pork, or steak)
1 cup shredded cheese
2/3 cup salsa
1/3 cup guacamole
4 tortillas

Cook rice according to package directions but add one tablespoon of seasoning to the boiling water.  Cook until the rice is finished and set aside.  Cut the vegetables (I usually use 2 peppers and a handful of mushrooms).  In a small pan, saute the vegetables over medium.  Once wilted, add the vegetables to a bowl.  Cut the meat into small strips and add it to the pan with seasonings.  Cook on low until warmed through (about 5 minutes), stir often.  Add the meat to a second bowl.  Place condiments like cheese, salsa, or guacamole into individual bowls.  Give each person a tortilla and let them fill their tortilla with their choice of rice, vegetables, meat, and then condiments.  Roll and serve.

Start with the rice, just like Chipotle does!  That gives the burrito the type of layered feel that their burritos have.  It also helps when you roll it up, the condiments get smushed in the middle.  So delicious!

Save that rice for Wednesday!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, October 7, 2011

Field Trip: Kansas City

So I have been holding in the details of John and my trip since we got back on Sunday!  I had such an amazing time and the whole Gnarly Head team was incredible to work with.  If you follow my blog at all, you know how John is on crutches right now and it is a lot for him to move around.  We worked with the airlines and hotels to get him wheelchairs whenever he needed and the Gnarly Head team was always keeping a good watch on him as well.

Unfortunately, that also meant that we weren't able to do as much as we would have liked to.  Especially at the American Royal which is definitely an event I would go back to Kansas City for!  It was fun that our competition was in the midst of one of the biggest (and arguably best) bbq contests in the country!  So, of course, what did we eat?!  Barbeque!  We started off Thursday night with a VIP Party hosted by Gnarly Head. So nice and so fun! They even had a shuttle for us so we could enjoy the wine without worrying about driving. 
Friday when John and I woke up, I had packed small granola bars for us.  I wanted us to be hungry because we were going to lunch  early!  We went to one of the most iconic BBQ restaurants in Kansas City, Oklahoma Joe's!  Guy Fieri has been here on Diners Drive-ins and Dives and Anthony Bourdain also listed the restaurant in a gas station (I'm not kidding), as one of the 13 places to eat before you die!  Neither of them were wrong either.  John got a Jumbo Combination Sandwich with brisket and pulled pork and I got a Jumbo pulled pork sandwich which was delicious and their sauces...to die for!  If they would have made it through security on our carry-on bag, we might have taken a whole shelf home with us.  I can honestly see why so many people make a fuss over this place.  I read that the line starts to form around noon which is why I wanted us to be in by 11.30.  With John and his crutches, standing would not have been pleasant. But even at 11.30, we had to wait about 15 minutes to order.  They work fast there.  By the time we were leaving though, the line was out the door!
We then headed uptown to the Money Museum.  This was the perfect stop for us as we both find museums like this thoroughly entertaining and interesting.  We spent about 2 hours there!  I couldn't believe it!  They also had wheelchairs which we requested on arrival so John wasn't in pain (much pain anyway). 

We stayed at the historic Raphael Hotel which is part of the Country Club Plaza, the first plaza in America to be built for automobiles!  How cool!  They ALSO had wheelchairs so we really got to see the plaza.  John enjoyed not having to crutch but did not enjoy how I constantly rammed his foot into seemingly every wall, elevator, curb, or hill that I could find (I really wish I was kidding).

Saturday after the competition, we walked to Plaza III Steakhouse which was a nice 5 minute walk from the hotel.  John has just asked me to amend this because it would be normally a 5 minute walk but with crutches took us about 8-10 minutes.  But once we got there it was worth it.  You'd think being around BBQ all day would have made us crave something besides red meat, but we were still going strong! I forgot my camera after the long day but John had the prime rib and I had the filet mignon; both were excellent and it was fun to dine at a Kansas City favorite!

Finally, it was 1 o'clock on Sunday and we were heading to the airport.  A whirlwind trip for sure, but one that was so amazing.  Besides meeting lots of other contest cooks, we really got a chance to explore Kansas City.  Somewhere neither of us have been before, but someplace we both want to go back to!

I hope you guys enjoyed our little recap!  I was much better at posting pictures this time! 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Chicken Paprikash

I had heard of Chicken Paprikash, but never realized how easy it was to make!  This beautiful post from Elise's Kitchen really got me thinking about how great it would be to make!  John loves paprika (incidentally, so does my Dad).  And we had sour cream already which made this meal an easy one to whip up for the two of us!  It was all coming together beautifully for Saturday night.

John happened upon the recipe (which I left laying out--should have known better) and said in a surprised tone, "This isn't Chicken Paprikash".  In a just AS surprised (maybe slightly angry) tone, I replied, "You KNOW what that dish it????".  Turns out his aunt who passed away from cancer just a few months ago, used to make the dish all the time and it was one of John's favorites.  Well, I knew I was on the right track with the paprika thing. 

That being said, although he (of course) liked his aunt's version best; he loved this version too!  I added a bit more spice into it than the original recipe from Elise's Kitchen but, it was delicious all the same AND much healthier for us both!  John doesn't remember much about his aunt's recipe except that it used a "lot of heavy cream".  For a fact, this was much healthier!  Although, I did tell him we will start looking into getting that recipe from one of his cousins or his uncle. I'd love to be able to keep one of his family favorites alive for him.
Chicken Paprikash (adapted from here)
Serves:  2
1 slice of bacon
2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup peppers (I used red and green)
6 tablespoons paprika
12 ounces lite sour cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
6 ounces egg noodles
12 ounces fat-free sour cream

First slice the bacon into thin strips and cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks.  Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a large saucepan.  Add the bacon strips and cook 3-5 minutes, until fat has rendered.  Add onions and cook about 5 minutes, until translucent.  Add the chicken to the pan and brown the chicken on all sides.  Stir in the mushrooms and peppers and cook until peppers have wilted.  Add the paprika.  Cook for one minute more, taking care not to burn the paprika.  To the pot, add chicken stock (or water) and salt and pepper until it almost covers the chicken and stir thoroughly.  Let the chicken simmer until completely cooked about 30 minutes.  In the meantime, make the egg noodles according to package direcitons.  When the chicken is completely cooked, whisk sour cream, slowly, until the sauce is creamy.  Cook a few minutes more over low heat. 

Serve the chicken over the egg noodles with plenty of sauce. 

This is another dish that really is hard to capture on film.  Elise did a beautiful job and makes it look so appetizing (which is one of the reasons the recipe stopped me in my tracks in the first place!). 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, October 3, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Baked Apples

I remember growing up that baked apples were "the thing" to make in the fall.  I think it started as a diet thing?  I can't really be sure because, well, I was young.  You put diet soda over cored apples and baked them and they came out delicious and sweet.  I know for a fact Mom never gave us diet soda, so she must have used regular old Coke or Dr. Pepper (my favorite). 

These days when Mom makes them, she omits the soda thinking that it is sweet enough.  Plus, she doesn't like to eat extra sugars where she can help it (which is where I get it from, I guess).  These baked apples are perfect for brunch or even a snack.  I send a few home with John each week because I know that they are healthy and yummy to eat.  He loves them, so really, I can never make enough.

Our family has some great apple stories, and this is one of my favorites!  When K was a freshman in college, her crew team was having a potluck.  Having just been apple picking K had a number of them in her room and offered to make dessert.  Well, her schoolwork took over (that happens at MIT) and she only had a few hours in which she had to make an apple dessert.  She looked around her room and saw granola bars (we love those Nature Valley bars).  She grabbed some brown sugar and cinnamon from the dining hall, tossed it with the apples, and sprinkled brown sugar and crumbled bars over the top.  She baked it, brought it, and it was a hit!  She was who I thought of when I told John I'd make him Baked Apples!
Baked Apples
Serves:  4
4 apples
2 granola bars (I used Nature's Valley Honey&Oat)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Core the apples almost to the bottom.  Crumble the granola bars and mix with cinnamon, raisins, and brown sugar.  Stuff each apple base with the granola bar mixture.  Bake for 20 minutes, until the apple skins start to wrinkle and the inside is soft.  Remove.  Serve warm or cold with a topping of vanilla yogurt.

This is the perfect recipe for a nice relaxing family brunch, but also nice enough to serve to guests!  Mom likes to serve it with some vanilla ice cream.  Of course then, I GUESS, you should consider it dessert!

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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