Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mexican Chocolate Crunch Brownies

I've been super busy with work and all for the past few weeks so heading to the kitchen for relaxation has been COMPLETELY out of the question. I've been just going in there to sustain life..cereal, PB&J sandwiches, granola bars (I'll tell you about that in a another post), etc. But now I'm done with my board meeting weekend and I'm semi-back-to-'normal' (whatever that is...!!!). So I made these brownies that I had been eye'ing in my 'to make soon' pile but I had to go out and get the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch because of course I don't have that as a staple in my pantry. All I'm going to say about these brownies is...I've found a new favorite!! O-M-G these are still the traditional brownie with a hint of cinnamon--full of rich chocolate flavor but that crust...MAN..that bottom crust made the whole brownie work. Thanks a million Val!

Mexican Chocolate Crunch Brownies
Adapted from Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest 43

1 box (12.8 oz) Cinnamon Toast Crunch® cereal (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 box (19.5 oz) Fudge Brownie Mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp cinnamon-sugar*
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch pan with No-Stick Cooking Spray. Place cereal in food processor bowl with metal blade (crush cereal in 2 batches if necessary). Cover; process until finely crushed (about 4 cups).
In large bowl, stir butter and corn syrup until well blended. Add crushed cereal; mix thoroughly. Press evenly in pan.
In large bowl, make brownie mix as directed on box, using oil, water and eggs and adding cinnamon. Stir in 2/3 cup of the chocolate chips. Pour brownie batter over cereal mixture. Sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup chocolate chips evenly over batter.
Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar evenly over brownies. Bake 14 to 18 minutes longer or until brownies are set when lightly touched in center. Cool 10 minutes; loosen edges but do not cut. Cool completely, about 2 hours.
For brownies, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows.
*3 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon can be substituted for the cinnamon sugar.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

White Chocolate Macademia Nut Cookies

These cookies were made during the christmas holiday which was pre-blog and also made prior to the post-xmas-baking-hiatus!! I can't tell you how many rave reviews I got off this recipe from the office during the christmas bake-fest!! They are really REALLY good and beat (hands down) every white chocolate macadamia nut cookie recipe out there. TRUST ME ON THIS!!! The secret (of course) is the Bailey's. I went to BevMo and bought the small single-serving bottle of Bailey's (seeing I don't normally drink the stuff) and it was just a little more 2 Tbsp (still have some in the fridge). I also didn't have any cake flour (I know, I know, a baker with no cake flour....the nerve!) so I did the suggested substitutions and couldn't tell the difference. These are trying T-D-F!
White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adpated from Cookie Madness

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp Bailey’s
3 cups cake flour* (or substitue - see below)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts, lightly toasted before chopping
9oz chopped up white chocolate

Preheat oven to 375*F. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and both sugars. Beat in eggs, vanilla and Baileys. Stir or sift together cake flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in nuts and white chocolate. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto a parchment lined pan (I used my Splat Mat). Bake for 11-13 minutes.

Makes 4 dozen

*Cake Flour Substitute: If you don’t have any cake flour around, you can use this substitution: for every 2 cups flour, the substitute is 1 3/4 all purpose plus 1/4 cup cornstarch. So for this recipe which calls for 3 cups of flour, use 2 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour and 6 Tbsp cornstarch.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cream Cheese Muffins

I made these muffins and I honestly thought they were going to be a cinch! But instead of my enjoying my baking experience like I always do, these seemed to be the most complicated muffins ever known to man. I really had an awful day (let's just say the Lexus dealer lied when he said it was only going to take 'less than 2hrs'----and over a grand later...) and thought that making these muffins would calm my nerves. But instead, I misread the (simple) instructions and now am awaiting the verdict when the timer goes off to see if I just baked some hockey pucks! Well 24boxes and Just Baking seemed to make them just fine and they looked AWESOME so I'll post pics later if they indeed turned much for president's day...
Cream Cheese Muffins
Adapted from Just Baking

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1/2 vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375*F. Grease/spray a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.
Stir together milk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Pour into well in the dry ingredients. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Whisk together cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until creamy and smooth. Fold about half of this mixture into the muffin batter.

Spoon batter into greased muffin pans, about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture onto the muffins, pressing the mix into each muffin with a spoon handle.

Combine ingredients for topping in a bowl. Sprinkle generously over muffins.

Bake 24 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Iced Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

So my ex-dog-walker-turned-friend has a lemon tree (meyer) and my other good friend has a lemon tree (regular) and both give me what do I make? Of course Lemon Cookies!! I remembered that I had printed out a Lemon Poppyseed cookie recipe awhile back and so after digging thru my 'will make soon' file of recipes, I found it. I tried one (with the glaze) and it was very good. Kinda reminded me of a shortbread cookie with lemon flavoring & poppyseed! I'm waiting for the glaze to set on the cookies so I can try that version also. It made just under 2 dozen cookies (22) which is perfect especially for a first time cookie recipe! I think next time I will try my go-to lemon cookie recipe, add some poppyseeds and see how that variety works. Stay tuned for that!!

Iced Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
Adapted from RecipeZaar

1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp poppyseeds

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat in the egg and lemon zest. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the poppy seeds with the mixer on low speed.

Drop dough by heaping teaspoon 2" apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden. Cool on sheets for 1 minute; transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

GLAZE: Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl; mix well. Drizzle glaze over cookies in a random or decorative pattern; let stand until glaze is set, about 20 minutes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Red Lentil Soup

So last week my mom bought about 2lbs of red lentils from this indian store down the street from my house. She wanted me to make lentil soup and bugged me until I did. Well I obviously had leftover lentils so she asked me to make it "for your father" which interprets "I want you to make it really for me!!!" so being to the good daughter that I am (HA!) I hunted around for a good red lentil soup. I should have known that I would find it in my own 'backyard' group of bloggers. I made it and YUM-O! I still don't get why red lentils turn yellow!!! And I'm still trying to get my lentils not to mush up on me but this soup was still really REALLY good. It was super quick to make and has a suttle heat-kick to it with the red pepper flakes.

Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Cream Puffs in Venice

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
8 cups vegetable stock
1-3/4 cups dried red lentils
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery leaves
1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes (use less if you don't like spicy food; use more if you do!)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2-1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the vegetable stock, the lentils, carrots, celery leaves and red chile pepper flakes. Bring to a boil.

Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Stir occasionally.

Once the lentils are cooked, add the lemon juice. Mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper according to your own preferences. Serve the soup with lemon wedges.

Note: Serves 4 to 6 people

Sunday, February 10, 2008

(Chocolate) Zucchini Bread

So I've been making this zucchini bread recipe for YEARS (I believe my catering aunt gave it to me) and at the bottom of the recipe card is a note saying "To make Chocolate Zucchini bread---add ½ cup cocoa!" but I never did-----until today when I decided that this was the recipe that I was going to make for the Master Baker's 1st challenge!!! OMG what a different taste---in a good way! It still has the traditional taste of the zucchini bread that its infamous for---cinnamon & nutmeg but with a non-overpowering hint of chocolate. Ooh and still moist...yum!! I got so excited about adding the chocolate I forgot to add nuts this round!!!! Oh well, still good and will still be gone!!! And if you couldn't tell, if you want to make it the 'regular' way just leave out the cocoa!!

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cup zucchini, shredded
2½ cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon & nutmeg
½ tsp baking powder

Beat eggs, oil, sugar & vanilla. Stir in zucchini. Combine dry ingredients; add to zucchini mixture and mix well. Pour into 2 greased 8x4x2 loaf pans. Bake at 350F degrees for 1 hour.

To make Chocolate Zucchini bread---add ½ cup cocoa!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Turkey Meatloaf

I made this on Thursday evening after chatting with my friend on IM. We were both starving and you know how your mind can wonder...she wanted meatloaf and didn't have any meat, I had turkey meat but quite honestely had never made meatloaf. So we conspired together our lunch for the the next day...I would make/bring turkey meatloaf and she would go to Houston's restaurant and order their grilled brussel sprouts & some of that spinach/artichoke dip for an appetizer. A lunch match made in heaven no? Well, long story short, I took at half day off from work (you know the saying when the boss is away the 'mice' will play?...) so we didn't have our 'lunch' but boy it sure did sound good!! Well I made the meatloaf and it was really good. Next time I would chop the onions much more fine, but other than that, this recipe is a keeper. I have made a bunch of recipes now from Ellie Krieger and I'm convinced to buy her new cookbook. EVERY SINGLE RECIPE I've made from her has been nothing but EXCELLENT! She truly ROCKS!!!

Turkey Meatloaf
Adapted from Ellen Krieger

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup skim milk
1 medium onion, peeled
2 pounds ground turkey breast
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 350*F.

In a small bowl, stir together the oats and milk. Thinly slice 1/4 of the onion and set aside. Finely chop the remaining onion. In a large bowl combine the turkey, oat mixture, chopped onion, bell pepper, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix just until well combined.

Transfer the mixture to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and shape into a loaf about 5 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches high. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatloaf and sprinkle with the sliced onions. Bake for about 1 hour or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160*F.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to15 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chunky Red Dal Soup

So my mom can over to spend the weekend with me and so that means I'll be making soup! So that's what I did! I was browsing CL's message board and came across this recipe and decided to give it a try! It didn't take long to make and the smell of the soup cooking was flavorful. I didn't have any Harissa spice and didn't want to buy a whole bottle for fear that I would only use it for this recipe so I just used the recommended substitute chile paste and it seemed to work fine.

Chunky Red Dal Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
3/4 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp harissa or chile paste
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 6 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in ginger, paprika, salt, cumin, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Add 3 cups water, lentils, chickpeas, and tomatoes; bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice and harissa. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Couscous Salad

This is a very good simple but ooh-so-flavorful salad. Its a great summer salad but I find myself making it even in the winter months (to remind myself of summer!). I've made this recipe a million times and everyone I make it for (especially BF) LOVES it and always want more. I don't change a thing from the original recipe. Its too good to mess up a good thing! Ooh and the longer the salad sits (especially overnight) the more flavorful the salad becomes! Way to go Wolfgang!!

Couscous Salad
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

2 cups chicken stock
10 ounces instant couscous
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 small red onion, peeled, diced
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
1 bunch green onions, minced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Place the couscous in a large, heatproof bowl. Stir in the salt and the cinnamon. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous mixture, cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove cover, fluff couscous and allow to cool completely.

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice and zest, red onion, cucumber, bell pepper, and green onions. Add the cooled couscous and toss until well blended. Stir in the cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Blackened Tilapia

So Super Bowl Sunday finds me away from the TV and in the kitchen (of course). I didn't want to make the 'standard' Super Bowl food (chicken wings, finger foods, etc) so I decided to make some fish! Talk about a 180degree flip! But my my my!! Talk about yum! I saw Paula Deen make it awhile back and made it for BF and he LOVED it and quite did I. I'm not a fish fan and this whole tilapia thing is new to me (about 3+yrs now) but I have to admit that it was really REALLY good. I did make a few changes from Paula's original recipe (decreased ground thyme & added cayenne pepper instead of red pepper). This recipe is sooo flavorful. And it cooks up in MINUTES.

I accompanied it with a coucous salad that I make all the time during the summer but thought it would go good with this...and I was right. Definitely a keeper for even a weekday meal. YUM-O!

Blackened Tilapia
Adapted from Paula Deen

1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 Tbsp ground thyme
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 (10-ounce) tilapia fillets
In a shallow dish, combine first 6 ingredients.

Pour melted butter into another shallow dish. Dip fish fillets in melted butter and coat with seasoning mixture.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook prepared fish, in batches if necessary, 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Potato Cheese Soup

Well, Marie has done it again. Marie Calendar's (the restaurant) gave out their daily special soup-potato cheese some years ago and I grabbed it and ran with it!!!! I used to make the soup with her cornbread but then I discovered this foccocia-like cheese bread that is just to-die-for so I accompany the soup with that now. Seeing that its been raining all week and still this weekend, it felt like a soup weekend. I even tried to make a fire in the fireplace only to be shut down when I had no 'starters'!!! You think I'm starting a fire from scratch? You've got to be kidding!!!

Potato Cheese Soup
Adapted from Marie Calendars

4 cups potatoes, cubed (approx. 4 med.- cook 20 min. or until tender and drain)
½ c celery, chopped (microwave with a dab of butter for 5 min or til tender)
¾ cup water
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 c milk or ½&½
8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
1½ tsp salt

In a blender, add ¾ cup of water and 1½ c cooked potatoes and blend until smooth. In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour. Add milk all at once. Cook, stirring until slightly thickened and bubbly, then cook one minute more. Add cubed potatoes, pureed potatoes, celery, cheese, and salt. Heath through. This soup is supposed to be very thick but may be thinned with more water.

NOTE: chicken broth may be substituted for the water. In which case, be sure to cut back on the salt.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Beef Stroganoff

Well sorry I've been a little silent lately. Its just that I've been a little busy and work and ... well life!!!!! But I'm back (for now) giving you my review of the worlds most delicious beef stroganoff known to man!! Hail to the crockpot!!! And boy its fall-apart-meat-tender!!! It was so easy and most of the ingredients you already have in your pantry!! Just dust off the crockpot and fire away. I got my new crockpot for xmas so too it for its maiden-voyage on this recipe and was not disappointed. (I had the old one where it was all one unit and a B#&*CH to clean!)

This recipe is just enough for 2 servings--SERIOUSLY! Its perfect. I set the crockpot for 8hrs and when I got home it was done and waiting. I made it for my BF and he loved it (remember he's the picky eater). I served it over no-yolk noodles.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff (Cooking for 2)
Adapted from Betty Crocker

Prep Time:10 min
Start to Finish: 8 hr 10 min
Makes:2 servings

1 lb beef stew meat
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of golden mushroom soup
1 jar (2 1/2 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups hot cooked noodles or rice

1. In 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-quart slow cooker, mix beef, onion, soup, mushrooms and pepper.
2. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 10 hours or until beef is very tender.
3. Stir sour cream into beef mixture. Serve over noodles.


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