Chocolate Turtle Cookies

December 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

The time has come, the reveal of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Exchange! This is my first year participating and I am so in love with the idea, I hope to do this for years to come. The premise is simple: sign up to send 1 dozen cookies anonymously to 3 other food bloggers you are randomly assigned. Three other secret bakers have you. Ship the cookies out and then on the same day (today) everyone posts their cookie recipe! Very fun and very festive. I can’t tell you what a treat it is to come home to a surprise package that you know is full of sugary goodness.

Shipping Out

I chose to try a new endeavor  Chocolate Turtle Cookies. The idea of something that involved caramel overtook me and through the magic of Google and blogs, I came upon this post and I pretty much wanted to dive in the pictures. I knew I had to try it.

BITE

Ingredients from Pixelated Crumb (I doubled the recipe to ensure I had enough but this recipe should make about 30 cookies)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped fine
  • 14 soft caramel candies
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and salt in bowl.

Dry Mix

In a separate large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

Dough

It should resemble… insert your own description here.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk egg whites in bowl until frothy. Place pecans in another bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, then roll in pecans. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

This is best done with a stationed set up like so since it is a pretty messy process.

This is best done with a stationed set up like so since it is a pretty messy process.

Balls sans dent

Using 1/2-teaspoon measure, make indentation in center of each ball.

I kept thinking they resembled little birds' nests. I made an initial dent with the 1/2 tsp but wound up molding them with my fingers too.

I kept thinking they resembled little birds’ nests. I made an initial dent with the 1/2 tsp but wound up molding them with my fingers too.

Bake until set, about 15 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream in bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

Adding calcium to caramel

Once cookies are removed from oven, gently re-press existing indentations. Fill each with 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture.

Lick any leftover caramel

Cool 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Then enjoy! Or if you’re participating in your own cookie exchange, pack ’em up and ship ’em out. These things are rich (this coming from someone who stuffed a good ole chocolate chip cookie with Nutella) so don’t over-do it kiddos. Have a happy if not healthy holiday season!

Cooling

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Couscous

December 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

I know what you’re thinking – lemony, garlic shrimp in December? Preposterous. But seeing as how the temps this week reached 70°, I thought what the hey. So I made it and it was delicious. Very basic flavors, very simple to do. Sometimes it’s nice not to over-think things.

Now because I was working with precooked and deveined shrimp, this was a super fast start-to-finish cook time. Step 1 was to get the couscous going. Someone in my home is a very big fan of Israeli or pearl couscous. I normally just buy the Near East boxed kind but thought I should know how to make my own by now. So I went for the tri-colored.

Couscous

Cook your couscous per instructions.  I added 1 cup couscous to 1 and 1/4 cup boiling water with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp butter. Simmer for 10 minutes

shrimpMy shrimp still had some ice so I ran them under water for a few seconds. Then, toss them in a large skillet with 1 tbsp. heated olive oil. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic with 1 tbsp. lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Adding the lemon juice

After sauteeing for about 5 minutes, you should be good to go! Top off the couscous and shrimp with grated parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh lemon.

This whole thing took maybe 15 minutesThe perfect accompaniment is mixed greens with cherry tomatoes, walnuts and my new favorite dressing: Trader Joe’s Pear Champagne Vinaigrette. The sweetness of the pear balances the tangy, salty, lemony shrimp.

 

Butternut Squash and Hearty Grains Salad

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Butternut squash oooh what I’d do with you. Soups, stews, risottos, salads, just plain roasted… talk about versatility. This time, I mixed it up with a blend of hearty grains from Trader Joe’s, some ricotta salata cheese and onions. I started out aiming for this recipe from Smitten Kitchen but wound up with some substitutes that undoubtedly changed the results. This salad tastes just like fall with the sweet, roasted squash, salty cheese and some sauteed onions.

Ingredients (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  •  1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 cup grain of choice (Trader Joe’s blend includes Israeli couscous, baby garbanzo beans, red quinoa and orzo)
  • 3/4 cup ricotta salata crumbled or coarsely grated
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped (original recipe calls for a red)

First step is roasting the squash. Preheat the oven to 375° and then get to peeling. Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Below are the tools you’ll need.

Peeled SquashThen cut the squash into about 1/2 inch pieces. Coat a baking sheet with 2 tbsp. olive oil,turn the squash to coat then season with salt and pepper to taste. Pop them in the oven for about 30-45 minutes turning occasionally. Once it’s done (soft to pierce) set aside to cool.

Roasted Butternut SquashWhen the squash is in the oven, it’s time to cook your grains. Mine only needed 10 minutes to cook but the farro in Smitten Kitchen needed a half an hour. Cook your grain according to the package instructions.

Cooked GrainsWhile the grain is going on the stove top, saute your onions and whisk together the red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, water, sugar and salt until the salt and sugar dissolve.

Translucent Onions

The original recipe uses a pickled red onion instead which I’m sure adds a really great bite. I can’t wait to try it that way.

When the onions are translucent, stir them into the vinaigrette.

SauceThen it’s time to put it all together. Pour the grains and the squash into a large bowl then add the cheese and the onion sauce to taste. Enjoy!

DinnerI had this as a side with some roasted pork loin and greens but I am very much looking forward to leftovers tomorrow for lunch! This is also great when entertaining since it doesn’t need to be served piping hot.

 

 

 

 

Brussels Sprouts Salad

November 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ever since this dinner, at Sunda in Chicago, my eyes have been opened to a world of raw brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts that are delicious without being roasted or smothered in sauce or topped with bacon. Of course all of those preparations are delicious but there is a sea of brussels sprouts salad recipes out there so I picked this one since it seemed simple and light enough plus the ingredients are things you’ll most likely have on hand.

Ingredients adapted from Shutterbean

  • about 14 oz Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1/2 cup ParmigianoReggiano, finely grated
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, in pieces
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cinder vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper

A heaping teaspoon of brown sugar and a 1/4 tbsp. butter doesn’t hurt when toasting up the walnuts. Medium heat for about 8 minutes

Set the nuts aside to cool and start prepping the brussels sprouts. After rinsing, cut off the hard ends and chop thinly. If you have a mandolin that gets the job done well.

Place the sprouts in a large mixing bowl. Add the walnuts and shaved cheese.

Whisk the olive oil, cider, mustard and salt and pepper together. Combine with the sprouts, walnuts and cheese mixture.

Mix it all up and serve!

Holiday Apple Pie

November 27, 2012 § 3 Comments

You may have noticed that this blog has been on a little hiatus lately. What with visitors, holidays, travels, etc. as I’m sure you’re all too aware, it’s very easy to let hobbies slip by the wayside. So I’m offering this, the quintessential Apple Pie recipe, as an apology and a promise that I will never abandon this little blog completely!

Using a mix of Granny Smith and Gala apples keeps the pie balanced with sweet and tart.

So back to the pie. I read Emily Schuman’s Cupcakes and Cashmere every week and when she posted this recipe claiming it tackled her biggest pie fears (namely being overly sweet and mushy), I knew I would be trying it this holiday season. So when we trekked out to Give Thanks last week, I couldn’t wait to have this in tow.

Another dough endeavor sans mixer sounded really intimidating. Fortunately, I learned this handy tip: freeze the butter and shortening, grate it into the flour and rub the flour-coated pieces in your hand. That’s right, what you see in the picture above is a giant mound of shaved butttaa.

Add in 6-8 tbsp. ice water until you get the consistency you want–when the dough sticks together

While your dough is chilling in the refrigerator, it’s time to peel and core and slice your apples. And this takes probably longer than you will take. The recipe calls for 4 lbs. of apples but I had at least 2 full apples left over so I think you can get away with 3 small apples of each kind (and this will help shave off a little time). Preheat the oven to 425 °.

I like super thin, probably less than 1/4 inch thick

Toss the sliced apples with 3/4 cup sugar and lemon juice and zest and allspice and cinnamon. I thought the lemon flavor was a little too strong so I would cut what the recipe calls for in half.

Roll out one of the pie shells until it is about 12 inches and place over a 9-inch Pyrex. There should be some extra hanging off the edge. Pile in the apples with the juices and form a mound in the center. Roll out the the dough ball and place on top.

Once the top is on brush with a little egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 425° when the crust is golden and then reduce heat to 375° and continue baking until juices bubble and the crust is a deep golden brown.

Let cool for four house and enjoy! Serve with vanilla ice cream (obvi).

No Bake Peanut Butter Energy Balls

November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been holding out on you. For weeks now I’ve been popping these addictive little balls and never managed to share here. They are the perfect antidote to the post-work yet pre-workout time when you’re famished from lunch but know if you reach for the Tostito’s that gym class is a goner. They’re delicious in the morning when you’re running out the door and can manage to grab a banana and one of these. Oh, and did I mention there is one step? Mix. I guess if you really wanted to spell it out you could stretch it to three steps: mix, wait, roll but that could be overkill. We all have Amy from Fearless Homemaker to thank for these genius little Bites!

Ingredients
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter (or any other nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup flaxseed (the recipe originally calls for ground but I like a little bit of the grainy texture)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together until well-blended

Allow the mixture to chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This will make it easier to roll into balls. To roll into balls, gather a very heaping tablespoon and shape the heaping mixture into ball while still in the spoon.

Enjoy!

Halloween Spread

October 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

Entertaining tomorrow night? Here is a last minute solution for what to serve. The sake needs to be done the night before but everything else can come together just a few hours before people arrive. So even if you didn’t have plans, why not throw something together last minute? Menu taken care of.

Clockwise from top left: Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing, Spider Web Fiesta dip with chips, more cupcakes, Devils on Horseback, Pita chips with cheese and apple, Veggies with Greek yogurt dill dip

I would start with the cupcakes first (of course). I used the recipe here and they were delicious. The batter even started tasting like pumpkin before I even added the pumpkin (yes, I tried the batter).

Cream Cheese Icing (Pre-food dye)

An easy way to dress these up is to add food dye halfway through icing the cupcakes. Add diverse toppings like chocolate sprinkles on some, crushed pecans on others, some plain and some with candy corn for a really decorative look that let’s your guests choose what tempts them most!

This fiesta dip was sort of inspired by a few different versions of 7 layer dip and other Mexican dips. I just tried to simplify the best I could. I think one version that is topped with shredded lettuce, diced tomato and cilantro could be delicious.

Layer 1- 1 can refried black beans mixed with 1 package taco seasoning
Layer 2 – 1 can Rotel Tomatoes mixed with 1 package cream cheese
Layer 3 – Guacamole. The top it all of with a sour cream spiderweb by piping the sour cream through a small hole cut into a zip-loc bag.

I used the Devils on Horseback recipe here. Mine turned out a little more well done than I would have preferred but I am always someone who would take my bacon overcooked rather than undercooked. The grease from this bacon gets your oven really hot so keep an eye on them.

Slice pitted prunes in half without going all the way through. Stuff with blue cheese. Wrap half of a strip of bacon in half and secure with a tooth pick. Voila easy as 1,2,3

Slightly well done

The rest of the apps are just slicing and dicing! If you don’t have a full bar already stocked, a good way to cut down is by serving a signature drink. Then have a few standard options like beer, wine and whiskey.

After a delicious cocktail in California last weekend, I scoured the internet to find how it was made–turns out it was infused sake. In a glass, air-tight container, pile in any fruit of your choice (we chose watermelon and pineapple). Make sure it is cut and cored with no bruised spots/blemishes. Mix in 1.5 L Sake and .5 L Pear Vodka and let sit for 24 hours

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