Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quick Microwave Brownie

Sometimes I just need a little sweet treat - c'mon, who doesn't? ;) This is a quick brownie that you make in a large mug - IN THE MICROWAVE! Easy to make, yummy to eat, easy to clean up.

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch salt
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp water

Combine all the ingredients in a large coffee mug (or something equivalent). Microwave on high for 30 seconds; remove and stir. Microwave another 30-45 seconds. Enjoy!

Baked Portobello Parmesan

I'm constantly looking for new recipes to try, and knew this was one of them when I saw it. I love chicken parmesan, and was excited to sub large portobello mushroom caps in for the chicken. It was delicious served alongside some parmesan pasta and sauteed zucchini.

1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided use
1 tsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp fresh minced parsley (or you can sub 1 tbsp dried)
2 tsp kosher salt, divided use
2 eggs
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
4 large stemmed portobello mushrooms, brushed clean & gills removed
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup tomato or spaghetti sauce
cooking spray

Position a baking rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and place a wire cooling rack in the baking sheet. Mist the rack with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine bread crumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan, parsley, paprika, and 1 tsp salt in a shallow pan. Mix well, set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, remaining 1 tsp salt, pepper, marjoram, garlic powder, and oregano. Mix well.

Dip both sides of mushrooms into egg mixture. Dredge in crumb mixture until both sides are completely coated. Transfer, stem-side down, to prepared wire rack. Spray tops with cooking spray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Remove pan from oven.

Change oven temperature to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, carefully turn mushrooms stem-side up. Cover each mushroom with 2 tbsp remaining parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup tomato sauce, and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese melts and mushrooms are warmed through, about 10 minutes.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

My family LOVES buffalo wings, buffalo chicken dip... basically anything of that sort. This recipe is a way we can get that taste without all the fat or frying (don't get me wrong... that's fine every once in a while!). For my younger two I left some chicken without the buffalo sauce & put some of each on their tacos to cut the spice (they like spice, but I didn't want to overdo it). The ranch dressing and avocado on top add some cooling as well. :)

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup Frank's hot sauce
1/2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp olive oil
10 6-inch yellow corn (or flour) tortillas

shredded butter lettuce
diced onions mixed with cilantro
avocado slices
ranch dressing
green onions, sliced thinly

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In a large bowl combine cornstarch, flour, cayenne, and garlic powder. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour mixture. Add the melted butter and hot sauce together (or you can buy Frank's buffalo wing sauce - we just always have the hot sauce on hand).

Add olive oil to the Dutch oven and once it gets hot add chicken and cook on both sides - about 3-4 minutes per side. Once the chicken is done, set it aside in a bowl and toss with the wing sauce. Serve with the other toppings to make tacos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

One of the best chocolate cheesecakes I've ever eaten... delicious, decadent, and decorative (not to mention EASY!). This recipe comes from my favorite magazine ever, which has never let me down, Cuisine at Home.

2 sleeves chocolate graham crackers, 18 crackers
1 T. sugar
Pinch of table salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (8 T.)

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 T. unsalted butter
2 t. instant espresso powder
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 c. heavy cream, whipped
2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. heavy cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (3/4 c.)

Preheat oven to 325.

For the crust, process graham crackers, sugar and salt in a food processor until fine. Drizzle in melted butter and process until combined. Press crumbs into bottom and up sides of a 9 in. springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes; set aside.

For the cheesecake, melt chocolate with 2 T. butter and espresso powder in a double boiler; set aside to cool slightly.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add melted chocolate mixture to batter and beat until combined.

Fold whipped cream and vanilla into batter, then pour into crust; bake until edges are set but center is still jiggly, 40-45 min. Turn oven off; leave cheesecake in oven with door closed 30 minutes.

Remove cheesecake from oven. Cool completely; cover and chill at least 4 hrs, or overnight.

For the ganache, heat 1/2 c. cream in a microwave safe bowl on high until boiling, 1-2 min. Add chocolate chips and let sit 2 min., then stir until smooth. Cool ganache, 5 minutes. Drizzle cheesecake with ganache (I piped it on using a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off), then top with fresh raspberries and chocolate curls.

To cut cheesecake, remove sides from the pan, then slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice.

Homemade Vanilla Yogurt

Making homemade yogurt is cheaper than buying it in the store, and you can control what goes into the yogurt (e.g. preservatives, sugar, etc.). There are lots of ways to make homemade yogurt, but this is the way that worked for me. If you are interested in making your own but don't want to invest in a yogurt maker, you can also incubate using your oven (if the temp stays low enough), a heating pad, or a crock pot. You will need to look online to find more specific instructions, but during my learning process I discovered quite a few excellent websites out there. Stonyfield is a great yogurt to use as a starter because it includes 6 live cultures, where as many other brands only include 2 or 3, but you can use any yogurt with live cultures, or a freeze-dried culture (after 2 unsuccessful attempts at this, I switched to the yogurt mix-in). Once you have a batch, you can save a 1/2 cup to use as your starter in the next batch (just be sure you don't do this more than once, as the quality of the cultures will decline). The amount of sugar and vanilla can also be adjusted, or different flavorings can be added. Like I said, this is the recipe I like best :-)

4 c. milk (I used 2%)
1 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. powdered nonfat milk
1/2 c. Stonyfield Plain Organic Yogurt (far from expiration date)

Whisk sugar, vanilla, and powdered milk into the milk in the top pan of a double boiler. Heat the milk, stirring frequently to 185 degrees.

Remove the pot from the boiler and put immediately into an ice bath. Cool to a temperature of 115, then remove in from the ice bath.

Once the temp drops to 110, whisk in the yogurt. Pour into jars and incubate for 7-8 hrs. in a yogurt maker.

Once yogurt is set, refrigerate at least 4 hrs or overnight.

Banana and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

This is, without a doubt, the best french toast I have ever eaten. Enjoy!

2 bananas, diced
1/2 c. cream cheese, softened
6 1.5" slices challah bread
1 c. hazelnut creamer
2 eggs, beaten
4 T. butter
1/2 c. Nutella

1. Combine bananas and cream cheese in a bowl, set aside.

2. Slice into 4 slices of bread horizontally without cutting all the way through to form a pocket for the filling. Pulse remaining 2 slices in a food processor to make fine crumbs.

3. Fill each slice with the banana filling.

4. Combine eggs and creamer. Soak each slice in the mixture, about a minute on each side, then dip in the fine bread crumbs.

5. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook each slice on the heated skillet until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side.

6. Heat Nutella in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute, stirring every 20 seconds. Serve on top of french toast.

Korean Chili Sauce

This might not be authentic, but it sure tastes good! It's a sweet and spicy combination that is easily made with items from a regular grocery store (no need to go to a specialty market). It's great served with the bulgogi and the bibimbap.

1/4 c. lemon lime soda
2 T. EACH white or red miso and Sriracha sauce
1 T. EACH light corn syrup, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, and brown sugar

Whisk together all ingredients.

Bulgogi (Korean "Barbecued" Beef)

This is my boys' favorite thing to order at the Korean restaurant in town, and I'm so happy to finally have a recipe! It could be served on its own, with stir-fried veggies, or on top of the bibimbap (see recipe). Just be sure to serve it with a side of rice!

3 T. EACH rice vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar
1 T. EACH fresh ginger and garlic (I used a half t. of powdered ginger instead of fresh)
1 T. toasted sesame oil
2 t. cornstarch
1 lb. thinly sliced beef (I purchased at Saraga, an Asian market in town. You could also purchase sirloin and slice your own VERY thin)
2 T. canola oil
Sesame seeds (I toasted first)

1. Whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add steak and toss to coat; set aside 20 minutes, tossing often. (Note: I made mine early in the day and let it marinate for about 4 hours in the fridge)

2. Heat canola oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Remove steak from bowl and let excess marinade drip back into the bowl. Stir-fry steak in skillet in 2 or 3 batches, 2-3 minutes per batch, until all is browned. Transfer bulgogi to a large plate and garnish with sesame seeds.

Bibimbap (Korean Rice Bowl)

I have to say that Korean food definitely ranks high among my favorite ethnic foods. I found these recipes in Cuisine at Home for making bibimbap in my home... I was elated! I tried them within a week of receiving the magazine and we all devoured the food. The boys ate theirs without the spicy sauce, and my husband said it was the best Korean food he'd ever eaten (a HUGE compliment considering how much he loves Korean food!). Be sure to read through this recipe, as well as those of the bulgogi and chili sauce. I prepped the ingredients and started marinating the beef early in the day, so when dinner time came I could cook everything very quickly. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

2 t. toasted sesame oil
2 t. soy sauce
1 bag (6oz) baby spinach
4 t. minced garlic, divided
6 t. canola oil, divided
1 t. sesame seeds (I toasted mine first)
2 pkg. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (3.5 oz each)
3 med. carrots, cut into thin strips or julienned
1 med. zucchini, cut into thin strips or julienned
2 c. fresh mung bean sprouts (really cheap if you buy them at Saraga)
6 eggs
Bulgogi (see recipe)
Korean chili sauce (see recipe)
3 c. cooked rice, warmed

1. Combine sesame oil and soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Saute spinach and 1 t. garlic in 1 t. canola oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until wilted, 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to a bowl and toss with 1 t. sesame-soy mixture and sesame seeds, set aside.

3. Heat 1 t. oil in same skillet over medium; add 1 t. garlic and shiitakes, and cook until mushrooms soften, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 1 t. sesame-soy mixture; set aside. Repeat cooking and tossing with carrot and zucchini together, then the bean sprouts.

4. Add remaining 2 t. oil to same skillet. Fry eggs until whites are set but yolks are still soft.

5. Divide rice among bowls, then top with Korean chili sauce (if desired). Arrange the vegetables and bulgogi (if using) on top of the rice. Top each bowl with an egg and serve with Korean chili sauce.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Swirled Pumpkin and Caramel Cheesecake

This is one of my go-to desserts for Thanksgiving, but it's great anytime of the year.

1-1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

4 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1-2/3 cups sugar
15 oz can pure pumpkin
9 tbsp whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
4 large eggs
4 tbsp caramel sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Finely grind crushed cookies and sugar in processor. Add melted butter and blend until combined. Press crust mixture onto bottom and up sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light. Transfer 3/4 cup mixture to small bowl; cover tightly and refrigerate to use for topping. Add pumpkin, 4 tbsp whipping cream, ground cinnamon, and ground allspice to mixture in large bowl and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined. Pour filling into crust (filling will almost fill pan). Bake until cheesecake puffs, top browns, and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, about an hour 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around cake pan sides to loosen cheesecake. Cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Bring remaining 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture to room temperature. Add remaining 5 tbsp whipping cream to cream cheese mixture and stir to combine. Press down firmly on edges of cheesecake to even thickness. Pour cream cheese mixture over cheesecake, spreading evenly. Spoon caramel sauce in lines over cream cheese mixture. Using tip of knife, swirl caramel sauce into cream cheese mixture. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)