Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Pasta Puttanesca

If we like each other on Facebook, then you already know I made this dish for Valentine’s Day for John.  In fact, I even made the joke that cooking a “whore-style” pasta for your boyfriend on Valentine’s Day was probably the most ironic way to spend the "romantic" holiday.  But, it turned out that our Valentine’s Day didn’t happen on February 14th

Oh, it was all planned.  I had made a beautiful menu and set out some candles the night before.  I was all ready to go.  And then I got a call from the HR girl in my office.  You remember – the one who thinks I’m crazy?!  Anyway, it turned out that our company seats for the Rangers game that night were up for grabs and did I want them?  Now I should digress and explain that ordinarily, games were snapped up quickly.  It went in hierarchy and I shouldn’t have to tell you that while I’m not at the bottom, I’m also not at the top…yet.

But I guess Valentine’s Day is a day for romance so a lot of other people had plans.  Our lucky day!  I told John to immediately get his tushie into the city and we enjoyed a very romantic game of hockey punctuated by fights, goals, and inevitably, a loss.  It was a fun way to enjoy the day together, doing something new, in the most awesome seats I have EVER seen.   How pampered were we!  And then, on Saturday, we made up for our awesome Valentine’s Day with a quiet dinner of pasta puttanesca.  Wasn’t so ironic after all.
Pasta Puttanesca (adapted from The New Best Recipe Cookbook*)
Serves:  4
1 pound pasta
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons anchovy paste
1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained - reserve juices
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup parsley leaves, minced
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Drain.

Meanwhile, mix the garlic and water in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil, garlic mixture, red pepper flakes, and anchovies.  Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant (because of the water, this will take 2-3 minutes).  Stir in the tomatoes and continue simmering until slightly thickened (about 8 minutes).  Stir the olives and parsley into the sauce.  Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to combine, adding some of the remaining tomato juice to moisten, as needed. 

Spoon into pasta bowls, top evenly with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. 

*Note:  For Christmas this year, a colleague who knows my passion for cooking gave me this book.  I cannot recommend it highly enough (although it is expensive and I will be cooking more from it).  They start with a basic recipe and tell you all the iterations they went through prior to coming up with the one they are publishing.  They knocked it out of the park with this one so I’ll be sure to try and write about others!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stand Out Sides: Jalapeno Cornbread

I have some vivid memories from my childhood.  I was going to say, you know more than 10 years back when I realized that at almost 27, 10 years back puts me almost at college age.  Ew!  Where does the time go?!  Anyway, back to reality, and my childhood.

While I have a lot of memories of my dad on vacations, or in fun activities, it is my mom who is more prominent in my “every day” memories.  Except for this one.  When I was little, Dad used to go and get breakfast in the morning.  He would always get a bran muffin with raisins; I would get a corn muffin.  Dad would make the bran muffin into little Christmas tree shapes while I would watch in awe and then gobble them all up.  Talk about tricking kids into eating good things. Also, do I have to tell you, to this day, I love a good bran muffin?

But I also love a good corn muffin – when they are moist and crumbly.  I can’t think of a better treat.  Which is why in my adulthood, cornbread really calls to me.  In fact, sometimes I make chili just so I can make some cornbread!  When Mom told me we were having chili on Sunday, I couldn’t wait to contribute.  This jalapeno cornbread combined my love and John’s (of all things spicy).  But everyone gobbled it up, especially Dad! 
Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread (adapted from
Serves:  12
3/4 cups milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup low-fat sour cream
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2 jalapenos, deseeded and minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, beat together milk, eggs, and butter until fully combined.  In a small bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  Pour into the wet ingredients with the cheddar cheese and jalapenos.  Stir until just combined. 

Grease a 9-inch cake pan and pour batter into the pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs and the top is golden.  Cool and cut into 12 slices.  Serve either warmed or room temperature.

Until the next time my oven is on…

Friday, February 22, 2013

Slow Cooking Supper: Hamburger Soup

When I’m talking to someone one-on-one, I often find myself blurting out the most ridiculous things.  Am I the only person this happens to?  In fact, this happens so much, especially at work (since I’m at work most of the time), that I’m convinced all my coworkers think I am nuts.  Some probably think it’s slightly nutty in a good way, others probably think it’s nutty as in I should be locked up. 

Let me give you two examples.  A wonderful accountant was telling me about his fraternity reunion weekend and how he accidentally hit himself in the head (he had a huge bump, it was impossible to hide).  He told his boss he went skiing.  He was like I don’t think people hit themselves in the head.  And I was like, really?  I feel like I hit myself in the head all the time!  John will confirm that I actually DO hit my head when I am gesturing (which is every time I am talking, which is practically every minute of every day).  Add him to the 'nutty and lock her up' column.

Yesterday, I was in the bathroom with one of the HR assistants.  There is this annoying problem in the women’s room where people do not change toilet paper rolls.  However, it’s been quite a boon for me since I want to make this wreath for spring and if we just use the toilet paper rolls from our house, well I wouldn’t have enough.  I explained to the HR assistant how I frequently take them so I can make a wreath.  She laughed, I think with me…but maybe at me.  Then, to make matters worse, I followed up by sending her the link of the wreath.  Yes, add her to the 'nutty and lock her up; column. 

This dish might sound slightly nutty as well – whoever thought to turn hamburgers into soup.  John was skeptical but even he had to admit how DELICIOUS it was!  We, of course, lightened up by using less salt, low-sodium chicken stock (over beef), and less cheese.  But, no matter.  It was still delightful…just like me!
Hamburger Soup (adapted from A Family Feast)
Serves:  6
6 ounces ditalini pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 pound ground turkey
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1-14 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock (or beef)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 ounces baby spinach
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese*

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Cook the onions and celery for 3-5 minutes, until onion is translucent.  Then, add turkey and brown.  Transfer to the slow cooker.  Stir in tomato paste, diced tomatoes, stock, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce.  Let cook over low heat for 4-6 hours.  Stir in the spinach, reserved pasta, salt, and pepper.  Stir 3-5 minutes, until spinach is wilted.  Pour into bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.
*We used the cheese as a garnish instead of stirring more of it into the soup like the original recipe to cut calories.  Sprinkling it on top still gave us that nice taste!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dorm Room Dinner: Sausage, Tomato, and Arugula Fettuccine

It's pretty sad but when a cooking magazine shows up at the apartment, it's a REALLY happy day for me.  In fact, John always gets it and puts it right on the couch so I can't miss it and then I happily spend the evening snipping recipes and filing them into my (ever increasing) binder of recipes. The binder was a really great idea but I wonder if it will ever decrease in size. 

I try to cook from it often enough but it's rare that I find a recipe worthy of the garbage can.  Even if I personally don't like it, I can still draw inspiration from it.  Lately, I've been trying to be better.  If I haven't made the recipe in over a year in the binder, it's get thrown out.  Because that must mean it was too difficult, or had too big of an ingredient list, or was just plain too unhealthy for us. 

But then, I found this one from Cooking Light which has been in my binder for over a year and I couldn't bear to throw it away.  John was, of course, on board since sausage was a featured ingredient!  So I've decided that sometimes it's worth it to keep those old recipes around, you never know when you might find a true gem.  But now I'm also in the market for a new binder!
Sausage, Tomato, and Arugula Fettuccine (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves:  4
12 ounces fettuccine
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces spicy chicken sausage
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 12-ounce can no-sodium diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups arugula leaves
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Remove casings from sausage.  Break sausage into small pieces and cook 3-5 minutes, until nicely browned.  Add garlic, cook an additional 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant.  Drain tomatoes and reserve the liquid.  Add the tomatoes, pepper, and red pepper flakes to the skillet.  Cook 5-12 minutes, until tomatoes start to break down.  Mash tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon to break them up.  Reduce heat to low and cook 12-15 minutes, until thickened.  Remove pan from heat.  Add pasta, tomato liquid, and arugula.  Toss well.  Divide into 4 bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, February 18, 2013

Brilliant Brunch: Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day but oftentimes it just gets overlooked because I'm rushing to catch the train to work.  That doesn't mean I skip breakfast.  I am a firm believer that breakfast really dictates the rest of your day.  A good breakfast means a good day.  But there's only so many times I can have a "good breakfast" that starts with 1 cup of cereal and 1/2 cup of skim milk.

Now that I'm in the midst of my 12-week fitness challenge, I'm realizing how plain boring my morning breakfast actually is.  I started researching easy ways that I could spice it up and found this breakfast casserole!  It is so easy to prepare the night before and you wake up with a growling tummy because you've been inhaling cooking bacon all night.

It's a great weekend brunch item or to make for those special mornings - you know the ones I'm talking about:  Christmas, Easter, birthdays, or family get togethers.  Those times when inevitably you're running late, you forgot the fruit salad to bring to your sister's house, and your hair isn't cooperating.  Or, when people show up and you're still in pajamas (not like that has EVER happened to me)!
Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole (adapted from Iowa Girl Eats)
Serves:  8
2 potatoes, grated (or frozen hash browns)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups peppers, diced
1 cup onion, diced
8 strips low-sodium bacon
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
8 eggs
1 cup milk

Squeeze the potatoes in a dry, clean rag, as hard as you can*.  Make sure as much water is possible is squeezed out*.  Toss with flour; then stir in peppers and onions.  Set aside.  Place the bacon strips in a skillet and cook until slightly crispy, but not all the way browned.  Remove it and let drain.  Then place it at the bottom of the crockpot in one single layer.  Complete the casserole by layering the following:  potato mixture, cheese, salt, and pepper.  In a small bowl, combine eggs and milk.  Pour over the top of the casserole.  Cover the crockpot.  Turn the crockpot on low and cook for 8 hours, overnight. 

*Skip if using frozen hash browns
Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, February 15, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Black Bean & Chicken Mexican Casserole

Last year around this time, my office sponsored a "Biggest Loser" competition.  It was based on a percentage of weight loss and I knew, once looking at the competition, it wouldn't be worth it for me to buy in.  But, that didn't mean I couldn't do my own few months of challenges!  One of my best girl friends, A, was in the competition so it made it easy for me to encourage her; her changes inspired me, too!

Fast forward one year and while we are both a lot healthier, neither of us are perfect.  Okay, who is?  It's always going to be a process but if I'm serious about being MORE in 2013, than I have to focus on every aspect of my life, including my health!  When A approached me about doing a repeat challenge for the two of us, I was all for it!

Starting this week and for the next 12 weeks, we're going to put a renewed focus on being healthy.  Healthy isn't just eating fewer calories but also exercising and making sure we're eating an appropriate amount of fruit and vegetables and drinking lots of water.  We each have different goals, but the important thing is we're doing it together.  And now that I've told all of you, we will be much more accountable to you, to each other, and to ourselves. 

Black Bean & Chicken Mexican Casserole (adapted from Weight Watchers)
Serves:  4
2 cups cooked chicken, pulled
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 can (14 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14 ounces) petite diced tomatoes with chipotle peppers
4 8-inch tortillas
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
4 tablespoons green onions, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Combine chicken, cumin, paprika, and chili powder in a large bowl until well combined.  Add black beans and stir.  Reserve 1/4 cup of petite diced tomatoes with chipotle.  Pour the rest into the chicken mixture and stir.

In a 9-inch round casserole dish, place the reserved tomatoes.  Top with a tortilla.  Layer one-third of the chicken mixture.  Add another tortilla.  Layer a second third of the chicken mixture.  Top with a tortilla.  Layer the remaining chicken mixture.  Place tortilla on top and cover this tortilla with cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, until fully warmed through.

To serve, cut into 4 servings.  Top each with 2 tablespoons sour cream and 1 tablespoon green onions.  Serve immediately. 
Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Light Fettucine Alfredo with Broccoli

Cooking is a lot like love.  You have to expend a lot of time and energy and you're never sure it's going to be worth it.  Food shopping, coupon clipping, menu planning, and that's before you even make the dish!  Then it's the cutting, the sauteing, the saucing.  You have to hope that the end product is worth it (don't worry, this dish is)!

In our kitchen, it isn't always worth it.  Luckily, in our lives, it is!  We choose to celebrate Valentine's Day, but we keep it low-key.  Making a special dinner, maybe a glass of wine (or two), even a candle if one of us remembers.  But honestly, we spend most every other day the same way!  Every night, we take our meal, we sit down at dinner, just the two of us, at our little table and chat about our days.  It's that little moment that makes "us" work.

Valentine's Day is a good day to remember how much you love everyone in your life.  John, my mom, dad, sisters, brother, Awa.  They fill my life with joy.  And for whatever reason, this year, more than any other, I appreciate their input, advice, and support.  I always have, but now I think I can see how rare it is to have a family like ours, and I am grateful for it!  I'm also grateful that together, John and I have carved out a family like that for ourselves.
Light Fettucine Alfredo with Broccoli (adapted from Cooking Classy)
Serves:  2
2 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups greek yogurt
2 tablespoons skim milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
6 ounces fettucine

Steam the broccoli florets by placing them in a steamer basket over a pot with 1/2 cup of water over medium heat.  Steam for about 10 minutes, until broccoli is mostly tender (we like it with a bit of a bite, like al dente pasta).

Cook fettucine according to package directions.  Drain and reserve when it is al dente.

In a large saucepan, add butter and garlic.  Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.  Add greek yogurt, skim milk, lemon juice, salt, and white pepper.  Stir until combined.  Stir in Parmesan cheese and nutmeg.    Let cook for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce comes together.  Toss with fettucine and broccoli florets.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sassy Sweets: Cherry Cheesecake Heart Pies

Every year for Valentine's Day, my mom makes my dad Linzer Tarts.  It wouldn't be Valentine's Day in our house without them.  they are Dad's absolute favorite but since they take so much time and energy, it's hard for Mom to get around to doing them.  She takes the excuse of Valentine's Day to make them for him.  Now, it's tradition.

I often wonder when John and I will start to have our own traditions.  Do you start something in hopes of a tradition?  Or do they evolve?  Do you look back and then say oh this is tradition because we've done it so often?  These are the things I spend my life thinking about.  Why?!  I'm not sure so we should really just move onto the pies.

The best part about these pies?  If you don't want to make your own crust, like I have, you can easily go buy some premade pie dough at the store.  The thought is what counts and if you pull these out of the oven on Valentine's Day, no one will care who made the dough!  Also, feel free to substitute the cherries for berries or any other fruit you desire!

Cherry Cheesecake Heart Pies (adapted from Cake Student)
Serves:  10 (10 pies)
Pie Dough* (adapted from here):
1 1/4 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
*you can buy premade and skip to filling

4 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup cherries, finely chopped

Pie Dough:  In a large food processor, combine flour and sugar.  Add the butter cubes and pulse until the butter is pea-sized.  Slowly drizzle in the ice water, one tablespoons at a time, pulsing well in between.  The mixture will start to clump together.  To test, gather some of the crumbly dough in your hand and squeeze.  If it comes together, and stays together, it is ready.  I poured it out into a big bowl and lightly kneaded / shaped it into one cohesive disk.  Then, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to overnight.

Filling:  To make the filling, beat together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Roll out the dough and using a cookie cutter, cut 20 hearts out of the dough (you may have to reroll scraps in order to get a full 20).  Place 10 on cookie sheets lined with tin foil.  Spread 2 tablespoons of cream cheese filling on each of those hearts, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges.  Mound with 1 tablespoon of cherries.  Place another heart over this one and using a fork, crimp the edges to seal shut.  Prick the top dough to allow air to escape.  Bake 15 minutes, until hearts are fully cooked and lightly browned.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge until serving (up to 1 week).
 Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, February 8, 2013

Sassy Sweets: Cookie-Brownie Double Deckers

What a week, right?!  I cannot believe how many delicious brownie recipes you can come up with when you're stuck in the house with snow swirling all around you!

These brownies come from a literal photocopy of my mom's original.  It is literally a half-page of print without any way to discern a source.  This photocopy has swirled around each of my apartments (4) in the past 5 years.  Somehow I never lose it and that is either a testament to these brownies or my organizational skills.  And considering at this very moment, my passport seems to be MIA, I am going with the fact that these are seriously delicious brownies!

I hadn't posted them until now because, to be honest, it's really hard to photograph them...since they disappear so quickly!  I rarely make a big pan for John and I - it's usually for barbeques, time with my family or John's family, or for friends' houses.  Never a good time to stop a horde of hungry people to snap a few pictures.  Sure, John understands (barely) but most people don't understand the life of poor food bloggers!  Hehe.  Anyway, there couldn't be a sweeter way to end this week.  And, if you missed any, here are all the posts for Brownie Week:
Homemade Brownie Mix
Raspberry White Chocolate Brownies
Dulce de Leche Brownies
Tiramisu Brownies
Cookie-Brownie Double Deckers
Serves:  24
Chocolate Chip Layer:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Brownie Layer:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line a 13x9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil.  The foil should extend over the pan on both ends.

Chocolate Chip Layer:  Melt butter in the microwave or over low heat.  Whisk in the brown sugar until smooth.  Let cool.  Meanwhile, make the brownie layer.

Brownie Layer:  Melt butter.  Whisk in cocoa until smooth and well-combined.  Whisk in sugar, then, once it's fully combined, whisk in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour with a spatula until just blended.  Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Chocolate Chip Layer:  Whisk in egg and vanilla.  Stir in flour and baking soda with a wooden spoon until blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Drop spoonfuls over the brownie batter and lightly spread to completely cover.

Bake 35 - 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centercomes out with moist crumbs.  Be careful not to overbake, they are best when they are fudgy.  Lift the brownie s out of the pan by the tin foil and let cool.  Then cut into 24 bars.  Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sassy Sweets: Tiramisu Brownies

A few months ago I made brownies with Don Tomas' coffee and John LOVED them.  In fact, he might have eaten practically the whole pan, I'm not 100% sure.  And I don't think he'd ever tell me if he did anyway.

So there's nothing better than upping the ante on him and for myself, too!  When we discussed his birthday on Facebook a while back, a lot of bloggers had wonderful suggestions for doing a 'twist' on a traditional tiramisu.  Instead I decided to go ultra-conservative with a real all homemade and delicious tiramisu.  The best I've ever had anywhere.

But providing him a second way to enjoy his favorite dessert really seemed to stick with me and when I realized I had all the ingredients in the house, it seemed silly not to indulge.  In fact, just to help me out, he even consented to taking some pictures of these brownies - and YUM how good do they look?  Since he's the one that consumed them, I'd say the pictures probably do his love affair with all things tiramisu justice. 

And, if you missed any, here are all the other posts for Brownie Week:
Homemade Brownie Mix
Raspberry White Chocolate Brownies
Dulce de Leche Brownies

Tiramisu Brownies
Serves:  9 (9x9 pan)
3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup Don Tomas brewed coffee
2 teaspoons amaretto
6 tablespoons butter (2/3 of 1 stick)
6 ounces marscapone cheese
3 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons coffee

Brownies:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and white sugar.  Mix until evenly incorporated.  Add butter, eggs, coffee, and amaretto.  Mix well until blended.  Pour into a 9x9 greased baking dish.  Cook for 15-25 minutes, until fully cooked through.  When a toothpick is inserted into the middle it should come out clean or just have a few small crumbs sticking to it.  Let cool before frosting.

Frosting:  Beat together the butter and marscapone until fluffy.  Sift the confectioner's sugar over the mixture and then slowly beat in; when the frosting begins to come together add milk and coffee, beating well until thick and fluffy.  Frost the brownies and then serve.

I suggest only frosting what you will eat.  It's best to store the brownies in an airtight container on the counter while storing the frosting in an airtight container in the fridge!
Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sassy Sweets: Dulce de Leche Brownies

Keeping in yesterday's theme, one of John's favorite brownies from our now-shuttered brownie place was Dulce de Leche Brownies.  Everytime I tried to make them, however, the dulce would sink to the bottom.  It wouldn't look but they were tasty.  Most of the time though, John would have to scoop the dulce de leche out and drizzle it over the top.

That's no way to make brownies.  So one of the brownie owner's suggestions was to layer the dulce de leche into the brownies and then also drizzle it onto the top.  It sinks into the brownie mixture but not so much that it makes a mess.  And, the brownies hold their shape a lot better.

I know there's a ton of products out there but if you have a night or two and you want to make your own Dulce de Leche, look no further than my recipe from 2 years ago.  It's easy and takes very little effort!  Plus, I think the rich taste rivals anything you can buy.  Plus, it stores rather well.  But, if you're short on time, buy the products and make the recipe anyway.  You, and your tastebuds, won't regret it. 
Dulce de Leche Brownies
Serves:  9 (9x9 pan)
1 Brownie Mix
1 cup butter, fully melted
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Dulce de Leche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x9 baking pan and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine brownie mix, butter, eggs, and vanilla.  Pour half the brownie mix into the prepared pan.  Drizzle two-thirds (2/3 cup) of the Dulce de Leche over the batter.  Pour the remaining brownie mix over it.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and drizzle the remaining Dulce de Leche over the brownies.  Bake an additional 5-8 minutes, until brownies are fully set.  Let cool and serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sassy Sweets: Raspberry White Chocolate Brownies

John and I visited a few neighborhoods before choosing which was the right one for us.  Forest Hills called to us because of it's beautiful architecture and cute main street right off the train.  It was a mix of national chains (like Victoria's Secret, Ann Taylor, and Aldo) and local stores and restaurants.

Knowing us the way you do, you know the local places called to us much more than the national brands, and, of course, the food called louder than the rest.  That first day we had sandwiches at a cute little cafe.  After meeting with realtors all day (and having zero luck), we walked past a small storefront with a simple sign "Brownies and Cream".  We peered inside and then walked in to have a closer look.  After seeing close to 20 apartments and not agreeing on any of them, we were in need of a pick-me-up.  John got a peanut butter brownie (of course).  But me, I went straight for the raspberry one.

It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious and when I finally found an apartment a few weeks later, I stopped off to get some brownies to "celebrate" with Mom and Dad.  John's first night here we "celebrated" with more brownies.  They were our go-to place for a fun treat.  Well, about 3 months after we moved in, they shut down.  But, being the blogger that I am, I emailed them asking for the raspberry brownie recipe.  And they were kind enough to share it with me.  And now, I'm going to be kind enough to share it with you.

Raspberry White Chocolate Brownies
Serves:  9 (9x9 pan)
1 Homemade Brownie Mix
1 cup butter, completely melted
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups raspberry jam
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x9 baking pan and set aside.  Combine the brownie mix, butter, eggs, and vanilla.  Stir until the batter is fully combined.  Pour half the batter into the prepared baking pan.  Scoop 3/4s of a cup of jam into a small microwaveable bowl and microwave the jam for 30 seconds, until warm and easy to use / spread.  Spread half of the jam onto the brownie layer.  Then cover with the remaining batter.  Bake for 18-25 minutes, until the brownies are fully baked through. 

Let the brownies cool completely.  Spread the remaining jam over the top of the cooled brownies and then top with white chocolate chips.  Let them set for about 2 hours on the counter, covered.  Then, cut and serve.  To store, place in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Time-Out: Homemade Brownie Mix

In honor of next week's Valentine's Day, I thought it was high time that I did another "week" of treats!  If you remember, last year, I did a bunch of recipes for Valentine's Day (most of which you can find on my sidebar).  And in 2011, same thing. 

This year I wanted to focus on an easy dessert that even if you have no time, work long hours, and don't even want to think about being romantic on a Thursday, you can still make and enjoy.  I will reiterate what I always say and that is, even if you don't have a "special someone", use the day to remind EVERYONE, including yourself, how much you love them.  For example, this year we're putting together a small basket for sister M at college.  Just a little way for John and I to say "hi" and remind her how much we love and miss her.

Lately, I've been wondering what to do with all my canning jars.  As the winter goes on, the cans start to empty and they just sit around the apartment.  The very tiny apartment, if I could just remind you of that.  So I've been putting them to work in different, more creative (maybe?) ways!  I have a go-to brownie recipe that I use all the time.  But, premaking these brownie mixes and storing them in mason jars means I can whip up brownies in literally just a few minutes. 
Homemade Brownie Mix (adapted from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures)
Serves:  9 (9x9 pan)
Brownie Mix:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup salted butter, completely melted
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large bowl.  Pour into jars to save for later. 

Or, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Stir the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla extract, into the flour mixture until smooth and well combined.  Pour into a greased 9x9 pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked through (a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean).  Let cool or serve immediately.

Can't wait to show you the many variations of brownies we have going this week.  Tomorrow is an absolute favorite of mine!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fancy Pants Apps: The Best Super Bowl Appetizers

Are you ready for some football?  As promised, I put together some of my favorite appetizers of my own and some friends...regardless of who wins, if you're eating this good, who will care!

I love Snappy Gourmet; she's fun, she's sassy, and she makes some seriously delicious recipes!  All her recipes come from her own head and kitchen which is amazing she finds time to do it all!  This slow cooker appetizer is delicious - spicy sausage and beer cheese dip!

Another favorite blogger is Jersey Girl Cooks!  Her ideas are always inspired and I love how she writes about her life.  This Hoagie Dip idea is genius and something my Italian family would eat up in minutes.  They'd be fighting over that last drop.

If you have one second to check out Savoury Table, you won't be able to stop reading.  The author, Karen, is a wonderful writer.  She has me laughing out loud or alternately, have tears welling up.  You can tell she writes from the heart but she also cooks from the heart as evidenced by this delicious Mushroom, Bacon, and Swiss stuffed bread!

If you want to take your Super Bowl party upscale this year, look no further than Cinnamon, Spice and Everything Nice's Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Galette, the perfect gourmet party appetizer that even the biggest hot dog lovers among us will enjoy!

If you're interested in more delicious appetizer recipes, check out all of mine.  A personal favorite?  These White Castle Burgers, which are fast and easy, and oh so delicious!  Enjoy!
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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