March Menu ~ 2013

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Well, it’s that time again. If you’re one of the few who haven’t yet done the “New Years Diet” then you may be thinking along those lines about now. For me it’s not so much “diet” as “cleanse” and by that I mean a cleansing of the pantry, budget, and body. This month will feature a few fattening yummy favorites (for the boys, of course) but I am focusing mostly on healthier recipes. Along with the links to previous posts there are many new recipes I’ll be working on this month, so stay tuned.

Crispy Cheddar Chicken

Dijon Dill Salmon with Grain Mix

Pasta and Lentil Soup

Spinach Tomato Feta Fritatta

Orange Sesame Chicken with Brown Rice

Black Bean Soup

Ultimate Baked Beans

Oven Baked Tacos

Black Bean Risotto

Potato and Leek Soup

Vegetable Ragu with Grilled Fish

Butternut Cake

No Yeast Cinnamon Rolls

St. Patty’s Day Cupcakes

Recipes I am working on this month:

Mexican Stew

Peasant Soup

Slow Cooker Coq au Vin

Seared Beef Fillet with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Black Bean & Chicken Oven Fried Chimichangas

Creamy Lobster Risotto with Green Peas

Appetizers and Sides:

Antipasto Skewers

Rosemary Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Cheesy Pesto Bread

Smoked Salmon Bruchetta

Desserts:

Pineapple Galette

Plum Crumble

White Chocolate Strawberry Pie

Carrot Cake Roulade

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Thyme & Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

Here’s another recipe I tried from the Take Home Chef- it was amazing! So far this has been my ultra favorite dish that I’ve copied. It is so delish and just absolutely gorgeous. Go on, look at the pictures and tell me if you agree. I’ll wait.

See?! And yes, they tasted as good as they looked 🙂

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Thyme & Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

1 T EVOO

1 tsp thyme, fresh sprigs are best if you have it, 1 good-sized sprig

salt & pepper

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

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1. Preheat oven to 450*. Place a heavy baking sheet into the oven for 5 minutes until hot.

2. Cut the squash lengthwise into 3/4-inch to 1-inch wide wedges.

3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and drizzle with EVOO.

4. Arrange the squash in a single layer over the hot baking sheet and sprinkle with the thyme, salt and pepper. Turn the squash to coat with the oil. Bake for 20 minutes.

5. Using tongs, turn the squash over. Drizzle the maple syrup over the squash and continue baking until the squash is tender and golden brown; about 20 minutes longer.

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Valentine’s Day Yumminess ~ 2013

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Round-ups are a great way to gather many wonderful recipes for a specific event all at once. While I don’t claim to have the absolute best recipes in the blogging world, I do happen to have some tried-and-true (that means approved by the boys) that I’m sure you will enjoy. If you’re looking for some new yummy things to treat your family with, take a look at these. You may just approve them as well.

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Coconut Cream Tart

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Red Velvet Brownies

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Chocolate Strawberry Whoopie Pies

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Chocolate Mousse Napoleon

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Easy Eclair Dessert

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Mud Pie

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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ribbon Dessert

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Caramel Praline Tart

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Gingersnap Lemon Tarts

I know how you love it when I don’t give measurements 🙂 Okay, maybe not, but this is too easy to not be able to do even without a specific recipe.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner but these would make a great addition to any holiday or special occasion menu. They are so flavorful and tart, and you can just pop them right into your mouth. Perfect!

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Gingersnap Lemon Tarts

Take gingersnaps, crumble them, add melted butter, and form them into a mini-muffin pan to make crusts. Add a dollop of  lemon curd and a fresh berry on top. Viola!

Check out last year’s Valentine’s Day Recipe Round Up

Tomorrow begins Gluten-Free February!! Stay tuned to see what my menu will be 🙂

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Crock Pot Hot Chocolate Pudding

More than two weeks since Christmas and I am finally able to post this! Don’t be fooled though- this is a dessert sure to warm you up all winter long 🙂

Want something a little different for your holiday dessert table that still feels traditional? This Hot Chocolate Pudding is just the ticket. And it’s so easy to make because the crock pot does all the work for you.

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Hot Chocolate Pudding

6 eggs, room temperature

4 cups heavy cream, room temperature

1/8 tsp salt

1 lb. semi sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup marshmallow *fluff

In a medium slow cooker, whisk together the eggs, cream, and salt. Add the chocolate chips, cover and set to high for 30 minutes. Whisk until smooth.

Continue to cook on low heat for another 30 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the cooker; whisk the pudding again.

Cook until set at the edges but loose in the center; about an hour longer, give or take. Whisk until smooth again, and hold on warm setting if your crock pot has one. If not, you can turn the cooker off.

Spoon into mugs or bowls. Add a dollop of marshmallow fluff or simply place a marshmallow on top. Garnish with grated chocolate.

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*If you don’t have any marshmallow fluff around, and don’t want to buy a whole jar just for this recipe there is a cheat you can use to make fluff from whole marshmallows:

1 cup of mini marshmallows (or 10 large) to 1 tsp of corn syrup is the ratio. This would be enough for this recipe. Or 4 cups of mini-marshmallows (or 40 large marshmallows) and 4 tsp of corn syrup, which is equal to a 7 oz jar.

Melt in microwave or over double boiler.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Can you believe I’ve never made a cheesecake before? Well, now I can say that I have and let me tell you it’s really not that hard. In fact, this was downright easy and it turned out pretty good for my first time. If you want to make a special dessert for your family, or if you are entertaining guests, this cheesecake is the way to go. Perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

4 pkgs (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin

1 T pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

Gingersnap Crust

38 gingersnaps, finely crushed (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup peanuts, finely chopped

1/4 cup butter, melted

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Heat oven to 325*.

Mix gingersnap crumbs with peanuts and butter; press into bottom  and 1 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended. Add pumpkin, spice and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low-speed after each just until blended. Pour into crust.

Bake 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, or until center is almost set. Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim.Refrigerate cheesecake 4 hours.

Garnish and Toppings:

Pecan halves

Nutmeg

Drizzle caramel sauce over top

Whipped Cream

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Buche de Noel

I am not French, nor do I pretend to be on TV, but Number One does take French in school and since Christmas break is upon us, it seems as though every school celebrates by having class parties. Hence the French dessert, which I thought was a little much for a teacher to ask of a parent (with only two days to prepare, mind you), and then I realized that Number One volunteered his Foodie Blogger Mom because “None of the other moms could do it.”

Thanks, kid.

This was actually pretty easy. As you can see I did not do the little meringue mushrooms and other embellishments, I simply sifted some powdered sugar over it all to make it look like snow. It is what it is, peeps. I think the hardest thing for me is not knowing how it tasted before I sent it out to  be consumed by strangers. But then again, it is a bunch of teenagers eating it. They like everything. Oh, and one persnickity French teacher. Oh well. This is what you get, Mister.

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On a side note: I did not make the buttercream frosting. I’m sorry but the recipe called for 3 cups of butter!  (That’s like 6 sticks of butter?!!) I am including the entire recipe here for you, but just so you know, cheating with store-bought frosting is perfectly acceptable (especially since I’m not serving this to my family anyway.)

Buche de Noel: Genoise Cake Batter

4 eggs, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1 T Grand Marnier (substitute with 2 T orange juice)

2 tsp orange zest

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup *cake flour

Preheat oven to 400*. Butter a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with 1-inch sides) and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

Beat the eggs for 5 minutes (hope you have an electric mixer!) until thick and foamy. Add the sugar, OJ, zest, vanilla, and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes.

Fold in the flour. *If you do not have cake flour on hand you can use this trick. Remove 2 T of all-purpose flour from the measuring cup and replace it with corn starch. Then sift the flour and corn starch together about 5 times to ensure they are combined and the flour is aerated.

Fold flour into the egg mixture slowly by spoonfuls, allowing each addition to incorporate. Do not overmix or the cake with bake up into a tough texture.

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. There will be peaks of batter; gently smooth them, but do not press the batter down. Bake for 10 minutes, until the cake is just set. Invert the cake onto a clean dish towel and peel off the parchment paper. Wait 3 minutes and then gently roll the cake, still in the towel (this means the towel is rolled up inside the cake), starting at the 10-inch end. Allow cake to cook completely.

 Chocolate *Buttercream:

7 egg whites

1 1/3 cup sugar

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

1 tsp instant espresso powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups plus 3 T butter, softened

In a clean, completely dry bowl, beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Set aside for a moment.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and 2/3 cup of water to a boil. Allow it to boil until it has reduced into a slightly thickened syrup. Begin beating the egg whites on high-speed again and pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs in a slow, steady stream. Pour in the melted chocolate, espresso powder, and vanilla into the egg whites and continue beating them until the meringue has cooled completely, about 5 minutes.

Add the softened butter to the meringue. 2 T at a time, while beating on high-speed, until all of the butter is incorporated into the frosting. If the buttercream becomes runny at any time during this process, refrigerate the meringue until it has chilled through and continue the process of beating the butter into the meringue.

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*Now for an excellent cheat! I don’t know about you but that frosting recipe seems a little, oh, what’s the word I’m looking for?….a little bit much? Seriously. Use this cheat.

Go to the store and buy at least 2 containers of whipped buttercream frosting. If you can’t find chocolate, just get the regular and beat some cocoa powder or melted chocolate into it. Viola!

Assemble the Buche de Noel:

Unroll the cake and set aside the towel. evenly spread 2 cups (or desired amount) of the chocolate buttercream on the inside of the cake, and following its natural curve, gently roll it back up. Cut off the ends of the cake roll and reattach them in the center of the cake with a bit of buttercream to fashion a “branch” coming off the main Yule log. (I only cut off one end).

Spread the exterior of the buche de noel with enough chocolate buttercream to cover it and gently pull a butter knife through the frosting to give the appearance of rough tree bark.

Add meringue mushrooms if you are feeling especially crafty.

Chill before serving.

While this recipe appears complicated, truthfully the cake part is a snap, and if you choose to go the buttercream cheat way, you can have a Buche de Noel for your table in no time.

This recipe came from About.com

Peppermint Cupcakes

These are soooooo yummy! You will want these cupcakes for your dessert table, I promise! How can you go wrong with chocolate, cream cheese frosting, and peppermint, I ask? You can’t!!

I used cupcakes that I made from my Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake batter, but any cupcake recipe will do. For the frosting I used my cream cheese frosting recipe but I added some peppermint extract 🙂

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Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

2 blocks (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

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In a mixer, combine cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar and mix until well blended. Add in extracts and mix a few minutes longer. Place frosting into a bag and snip a corner with a pair of scissors- about 1/4 inch wide. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes and sprinkle crushed candy canes over top.

This frosting recipe will frost 2 dozen cupcakes.  Place about a dozen mini candy canes into a small zip baggie and crush with wooden mallet. Sprinkle over the frosting for a festive look.

Too easy!

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Reindeer Cookies

Gifts in a Jar idea

This is my Christmas version of the Cowgirl Cookie Mix in a Jar.  I certainly am not claiming any ownership here because I am sure this has been done before. But what’s so great about this cookie mix is that it is so versatile – all you have to do is change the color of the M&M’s. And lucky for us the M&M Company keeps us all in holiday colors 🙂

Reindeer Cookie Mix in a Jar

1 & 1/3 cup flour (1/2 unbleached & 1/2 whole wheat)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup quick oats

3/4 cup M&Ms

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup white sugar (I used organic)

13 – 1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Combine the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Get your other ingredients measured and ready.

2. Layer the ingredients like this:

First: Flour mixture

Second: Oats

Third: M&Ms

Fourth: Chocolate Chips

Fifth: Brown Sugar

Sixth: Regular Sugar

Seventh: Chopped pecans

2. Make sure you really pack each layer down.  If for some reason it doesn’t all fit, it’s better to leave out the nuts than something essential like sugar. The ingredients should go all the way to the top of the jar.

3. Decorate the jars with a handmade label (or a label made using a desktop publisher), some fabric and ribbon or cord. Here I used some craft paper cut about 6 inches square, some double-sided tape to hold it in place on the lid, and some pipe cleaner garland with Christmas bells. There really is no wrong way to decorate your jars.

4. Make sure your labels include the directions for baking. They are as follows:

Add 1 slightly beaten egg, 1/2 cup butter (melted in the microwave), and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. It’s a tough batter to incorporate all the ingredients at once so you may need to use your hands.

Roll the dough into 1 -inch balls (I use a 1-inch scooper/melon baller). Place on parchment paper-covered baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Yield: about 3 dozen cookies.

So if you have a special occasion coming up or just need a cute gift for someone, consider customizing this cookie mix, layer it in a quart-size bell jar, and wrap a ribbon around it. Don’t forget to include directions because your recipient will need to know what wet stuff to add.

Here are a few ideas:

Pink M&M’s (Breast Cancer Awareness – Usually found around October) for girls birthday, bridal shower party favors

Purple or other dark colors (M&M’s puts out dark colored shells in dark chocolate) for boys birthday, groom’s party favors

Pastel M&M’s (Found around Easter) for baby shower, Easter-time, child’s birthday

Red & Blue M&M’s for 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, or as a gift to someone in the Military (or a Vet)

Red  and/or Pink M&M’s for Valentines Day, Sweetest Day, or an anniversary

Green M&M’s for St. Patrick’s Day

Orange and Brown Reese’s Pieces for Halloween

As you can see there are lots of possibilities and occasions for a gift like this.

Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies with Pie Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

Wow! Did you read that right?  Let’s say that again: Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies with Pie Spice Cream Cheese Frosting. THAT is a mouthful! And your mouth will be full…of these wonderful whoopie pies!

There’s not really anything that needs to be said here…don’t ya think? So without further ado I give you the recipe 🙂

Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

2 1/2 cups flour (1/2 unbleached & 1/2 whole wheat)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 T pumpkin pie spice

1 T cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup organic sugar

3/4 brown sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Brown the butter in saute pan. This is key to giving the batter a caramel-like smell and flavor. You could probably make this with just regular butter, but I promise you won’t be sorry you did this extra step. Allow butter to cool until it solidifies into a semi-soft state.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and salt. Set aside.

3. Cream together the browned butter and the two sugars. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Beat until creamy.

4. Mix in dry ingredients.  Drop onto cookie sheet by tablespoons and flatten slightly. You’ll need wet fingers for this as the batter is very sticky.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Pie Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 cup butter

1 (8 oz) block cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice*

1. Combine the softened cream cheese and butter in large mixing bowl; mix just until blended.

2. Add in vanilla and pie spice. *You could also use cinnamon instead, or both.

3. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, mixing on low speed, until it’s all combined.

4. Sandwich about 1 T of frosting between two cookies.

5. Keep refrigerated.

ENJOY!!