Monday, March 29, 2010

Favorite Spring Salad

OK, this is a recipe my friend Kat concocted. I LOVE it and have served it often. My kids and husband even love it. It is light and delicous and perfect for spring.

Honey Lime Vinaigrette
1/2 cup oil
2 TBS vinegar
Juice of 2-3 limes
1 clove garlic peeled
1/8 cup honey
1 handful of cilantro (I just twist off a handful of the bunch they sell at the store)
1/2 tsp salt (maybe more)
1/4 tsp pepper (maybe more)

I throw all of these ingredients in a blender (or you could use a food processor) until it's smooth and green. Then I taste it to make sure I love it, which I always do. After drizzling a little bit over my salad I put the rest in an enclosed container and it stays well in the fridge for a few days. Its flavor is really bold so you don't need a ton.

The rest of the salad is pretty standard. Pan seared chicken breast pounded thin and seasoned with some s&p and garlic powder. Spring mix greens and a little extra spinach for good measure. Sliced strawberries, feta and some chopped pecans. Ta da! SO easy. Really I promise. And if you don't feel like cooking chicken and that whole mess the salad is just as outrageous on it's own. (One more side note here. If I go to the trouble of cooking chicken I always pound out and cook two breasts at a time. That way I only use a half of a breast on my salad and have 1 1/2 for leftovers of any kind.) Go for it! Try it! You'll like it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

ganache pie

i'm a concept cooker. tell me what your fovorite flavors are and i will concoct something in that blessed kitchen of mine. i did the desserts for a bridal shower last week. the bride loves chocolate, thus, ganache pie was born. at this shower i attended no one knew what ganache was. (insert a gasp) ganache, said ganosh, was one of my first frosting encounters as a beginning cook. i made these fabulous little chocolate cupcakes from ina garten, then turned them into marshmallow filled cupcakes topped with ganache and i never, ever looked back. the concept of a ganache is to break down the chocolate with cream just enough to achieve a high gloss and when it cools, it will firm up. it is a beautiful addition to any cake or pie in this case.

i started with these cute mini graham cracker pie shells. at my local wal mart they are in the cooking isle by the pre made pie shells. Keebler makes 6 for $1.42, you can't beat it.

to make your ganache, remember 2 to 1. two parts chocolate to one part cream, heavy cream. for example, 1 cup chocolate chips to 1/2 c heavy whipping cream. it depends on how many pies you are making, so use your judgement here. i know, i know, people hate when i concept cook and concept recipe give. i'm sorry, i can't get these things to a science. i am a tasting dessert cooker. sorry. on the stove over low heat, put your chocolate and cream together. i usually add these ingredients to the pan before the heat is on. one burned chocolate morsel and the whole thing goes down the drain. over low heat, whisk these 2 ingredients together until you get a beautiful glossy chocolate sauce. immediately take it off the heat once that is achieved. i got a little spoon and coated the bottom of these pie shells with the chocolate sauce and then set them in the fridge to set up for about 10 minutes.
in my kitchen aid i took a brick of cream cheese that had been left to room temperature (or you can put it in the microwave for 8 second intervals, turning after each, 2 times is great for me) and put that in the mixer with the whisk attachment. i slowly added powdered sugar until i achieved the sweetness i was looking for. slowly add some ganache to the cream cheese mixture. it is all how chocolaty you want it. you can see below, my cream cheese mixture is a medium brown. set aside chocolate cream cheese mixture and beat some heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. sweeten your cream as you go. gently fold the whipped cream (about half and half) into the chocolate cream cheese mixture. fill your sweet chocolate pie crusts with the chocolate mixture and top it with whipped cream cheese. i fanned some strawberries on these ones below. for the shower i topped some with raspberries, and others with a cashew, coconut, chocolate sprinkle mixture. the picture below is a birthday present i did for my bestie brooke for her birthday, the plate being the gift.
sorry for non recipe haters. i just don't do well with cooking inventions. if i ever do a cook book it would be called the book of concepts, hence a failed cook book!:)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chocolate Caramel-Almond Tart

This, my friends, is a dessert to remember. It is definitely a labor of love, but so so worth it. The bittersweet chocolate went so well with the whipped cream and sweeeeet caramel. Perfect! A big thanks to Fine Cooking magazine for the recipe. Also, chocolate and nuts are perfect for a late winter dessert, so hurry up and make it before spring! There are a few steps in the recipe that may be a bit difficult for beginning baking, but why not try it and practice some skills? Enjoy!
Cooking tip: Don't be afraid of anything when cooking and baking! Just dive right in. If it's a complete failure, chalk it up as learning something and know that you will be better next time. Also, don't EVER apologize for your cooking and baking - it makes people feel uncomfortable.
Now go to and have fun while doing.

For the Crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
3 Tbs granulated sugar
pinch of table salt
6 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

For the caramel-almond layer:
3/4 cup blanched whole almonds
1cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp table salt

For the chocolate layer:
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Make the crust: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal with some pea-sized butter pieces. Sprinkle 2 Tbs ice-cold water over the flour mixture and process until the dough just begins to come together in small, marble-sized clumps. Don't overprocess; the dough should not form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a thick 4-inch-diameter disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm enough to roll, about 1-2 hours.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11 inch circle, lifting and rotating often, while lightly dusting the work surface as needed. Transfer to a 9 1/2 inch fluted tart pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough. Lightly prick the bottom with a fork. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350
Line the dough with foil and pie weights or beans. Put on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Lift the weights and foil out and bake the crust until golden brown, 13-17 minutes. Cool completely. Raise oven temp to 375

Make the caramel almond layer: Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. Let cool briefly and then chop coarsely. Make caramel by stiring the sugar, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of cool water together in a heavy-duty saucepan. Brush down the sides of the pan with water to wash away any sugar crystals (keep doing this throughout the whole process). Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture starts to color around the edges, 5-8 minutes. Gently swirl the pan once to even out the color and prevent the sugar from from burning. Continue to cook until the sugar turns med amber, about 30 seconds more. (Or use a candy therm. like i did!)
Immediately remove from heat and swirl in the cream. Add butter. Whisk in vanilla, salt, and almonds and coat the nuts completely. Pour the hot mixture into the cooled pie crust. Let cool 30 minutes and then refrigerate for about one hour.
Make the chocolate layer: Put choc and cream in saucepan over low heat and stir until choc is melted. Add the butter and stir until melted. Stir in the vanilla. Pour over the caramel layer and tilt the pan as needed to smooth the chocolate into an even layer that covers the caramel. Refrigerate until choc is set, at least one hour and up to one day. Serve with whipped cream (I piped some on and made a pretty design). Now go and eat this lovely dessert!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

s'more sandwich cookie

taste of home is what i learned to cook on. i love that magazine and you can bet the pictures of the cooks match the recipes. this was a cookie contest winner. the contests are my favorite part of taste of home, they test a bazillion recipes to come up with a winner. when ever i take these cookies to someone i always get the "husband loved them" comment. so they automatically qualify as dude food, which ranks high.

3/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 TB milk
1 t vanilla
1 1/4 c flour
1 1/4 c graham cracker crumbs (about 20 squares)
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/8 t ground cinnamon
2 c semisweet chocolate chips
24-28 lg. marshmallows

in a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. beat in egg, milk and vanilla. combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; gradually add to creamed mixture. stir in chocolate chips.

drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in apart onto a greased baking sheet. bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. remove to wire racks to cool.

place four cookies bottom side up on a microwave-safe plate; top each with a marshmallow. microwave, uncovered, on high for 16-20 seconds or until marshmallows begin to puff (don't overcook). top each with another cookie. repeat.

i love these for camping with a nice camp fire marshmallow in the middle!

outstanding easy fettucine alfredo

my neighborhood did a little cook book and i was quite taken with the contents. i wouldn't say my area thrives on cooking, most of my neighbor friends hate cooking. so i was quite pleased with some gem recipes i have gotten from it. i did switch things up a bit, but i fell head over heels for this recipe. the flavor must be so awesome because of the constant cooking you do to the cheese, anyway. i combined a recipe from my bestie brooke, and that is where the italian dressing addition comes in. i serve this with addie's non bakers bread (superb) and call it a night. i have also found you can double this, store what you don't use of the sauce in a container in the fridge or freezer for a good 10 days. i make this in large batches and love having it on hand.

fettuccine alfredo

1 pt. heavy cream
1 stick butter
2 TBSP cream cheese
3/4 c. kraft parmesan cheese ( i tried to save .20 one time and bought an off brand, not worth it, tasted like plastic, must use kraft!)
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 TBSP prepared italian salad dressing or 1 tsp. dry italian dressing mix, i used good seasons.

1 pkg fettuccine noodles

cook fettuccine in a large pot of boiling water. if you add a tsp of olive oil it will prevent sticking and boiling over.

in a sauce pan combine butter, heavy cream, and cream cheese. simmer until all is melted and mixed well. add the parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Simmer for 10 -15 minutes stirring constantly.

you can also make this with chicken, cooking the chicken in italian dressing makes for a delicious dinner.

spoon sauce over noodles or put into containers to store in fridge or freezer. to reheat i just warmed over the stove on medium heat.