Monday, April 29, 2013

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

Oh, yum.  Yes, yes.  I had no idea what a sopapilla was and even now I'm not 100% sure, just that it's a fried pastry dish native to many South American cuisines.  Then people on the internet turned it into cheesecake and all hell broke loose. These are amazing and since these bars don't include fried sopapillas, they are light and delicious.  Flaky pastry layers wrap around a cheesecake-like filling and it's all topped off with cinnamon sugar for a delicious treat.  Maybe you make it to share with friends for Cinco de Mayo like I have.  Maybe you take a pan to work or a picnic.  Maybe you just hoard them all and devour them yourself.  I wouldn't judge.  These sopapilla cheesecake bars are amazing and you need them in your life.  Plus, can you say amazingly simple?  Just a handful of ingredients come together quickly to make these amazing bars.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Mexican Brownies

It's almost May and that means it's almost Cinco de Mayo. So I'm a little early, but I think these brownies would be a perfect dessert option for any party you're headed to.  A slightly nutty flavor, almost coffee-like, these brownies are slightly fudgey, mostly cakey, and don't need any sort of frosting, glaze or extras on top.  Toasting the sesame seeds was a challenge (yeah, I burned them the first time around), but made all the difference in the flavor, turning these brownies from regular chocolate into something special.  Because a fiesta like Cinco de Mayo deserves something special.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chocolate Chip Vanilla Yogurt Pancakes

We love breakfast.  Every weekend I make a point to cook up a big breakfast at least one morning.  So when I asked Dave what kind of pancakes sounded good to him, he asked for chocolate chip.  I'm so glad he did because these pancakes were fluffy, slightly sweet and had a good about of chocolate for breakfast.  I'm getting much better with my pancake flipping, and must say these pancakes turned out very well.  I think the use of vanilla yogurt helped aid the fluff factor, as opposed to an all fat version of pancakes.  Whatever the reason, these pancakes were a hit and since it was Dave's idea, I didn't have to beg for breakfast chocolate--although I liked the mini chips since the chocolate was more distributed than with a regular chip.  Powdered sugar or maple syrup, either way these are a breakfast win, whether for the weekend or a busy morning.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chicken Taco Stew

This is a favorite that I've been making for years.  It's simple to make, delicious, filling and fairly healthy until we ruin it with sour cream, cheese and tortilla chips.  And while it's perfect without all the garnish, it gets that much better with the fanfare.  Beans, corn, tomatoes, and onion combine with seasoned chicken to create a chunky bowl of yum.  There's not enough liquid to consider this a soup but a little too much to be a chili, and the chunks just beg to be scooped up with chips.  This chicken taco stew makes frequent appearances for pot lucks, parties and for delivery dinners for friends in need.  Crock pot meals don't get much simpler than opening a few cans, chopping an onion, adding some seasoning and tossing some chicken on top.  And it just makes the kitchen smell so good.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peanut Butter Smoothie Bars

These were supposed to be a last minute dessert. I came home at 4:30 pm and Dave informed me we were invited to our friends' home, Felise and Nick, for dinner at 6:30 pm.  I cannot go empty handed and didn't have a suitable dessert already made, so I whipped up these light and fluffy peanut butter bars in short order.  They are wonderful.  When baked correctly.  As goes the saga with my oven that hates me and doesn't want me to make tasty food, I got faked out when these bars tested done (firm top, crisp edges, toothpick inserted in center came out clean).  But then as they cooled, they sank in a bit and when I went to cut them, I found they were completely undone inside.  So we picked up some cheesecake on our way to Felise and Nick's house and the next week I tried again with these--because I was determined.  And I'm glad I gave them a second go (and used the toaster oven to bake them this time).  Because these really are a perfect peanut butter bar with a nice crunch on the edge and chewy interior, like a peanut butter blondie, but with a more smooth, almost fudge-like consistency instead of a cakey texture, hence a name including smoothie to indicate the uniqueness of these bars.  Peanut butter batter with peanut butter chips, these were a hit with my peanut butter lover for sure.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Honey Chicken with Pak Choy

Again, we picked up our CSA box and I was faced with something I'd never had before.  Four small bunches of baby pak choy.  Not sure what to do with it, I did a little internet searching and I'm so glad that I gave this veggie it's due.  This dish was excellent and the addition of these greens really heighten the lightness and beautiful flavors.  A little sweet from the honey, a touch of citrus from the orange juice and zest, but mostly just a delicious, filling meal without a heavy feeling afterward.  These are all rather mild flavors but combined for a delicious honey-orange kicked up stir fry.  Even with three parts (chicken, pak choy and rice), I made this dish quickly after work one night.  Now I'm looking forward to more pak choy from the farm, since this is a great dish I definitely want to make again. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Skillet Chicken Nachos

Nachos.  The epitome of a big messy pile of yum.  You know I love chips and salsa any chance I can get, and nachos are something Dave and I order often when we go out.  And these nachos let me bring that big messy pile of yum right to my kitchen.  Chunks of flavorful chicken mixed with beans, corn and sweet peppers, then topped with lots of melty cheese--and it all came together in less than 20 minutes.  I topped this with pickled jalapenos, sour cream and chopped scallions, and we dove right in, scooping this up onto tortilla chips.  I love the chunkiness of these nachos and the flavors are wonderful.  We ended up sharing these for dinner, but these would be perfect for a buffet, game night, or a tailgate party.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Oatmeal Scotchies Muffins

Dave walks into the kitchen while these muffins were baking, sniffs around, and is all, "What's that smell?" with disgusted look on his face.  Whatever, I showed him the recipe, he says, "Oh," and then leaves.  That didn't spark confidence for me at all.  Fast forward 20 minutes and he's back saying, "That smells so good."  Really, cause not too long ago you were unimpressed.  And it's the same smell!  I tell him to go away, take the muffins out of the pan to cool on the wire racks and go sit on the couch.  A little while later, Dave comes in with his tail between his legs wondering if the muffins are earmarked for anyone in particular.  After giving him a proper hard time, I acquiesce.  If it's any sign, Dave loved these muffins in the end, gobbling one up and mumbling something about "oh, they're so good" through the crumbs.  I don't bake with butterscotch often, so I'm sure that's what threw him for a loop in the smell department, but I thought it was awesome.  Plus, you know I love anything that merges two kinds of goodies, like an oatmeal scotchie cookie incarnated to a muffin.  Soft on the inside, perfectly golden crusty edges, and lots of flavor from oatmeal and butterscotch chips, which are an amazing match.  Make. Eat. Repeat.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Individual Shitake Mushroom & Cheese Frittatas

While not a traditional muffin, I love little individual frittatas, or egg muffins as they are sometimes known.  Excellent for a brunch buffet or perfect for making as a batch and saving for a week's worth of healthy breakfasts, these little frittatas are delicious and different.  I usually make them simple with ham and cheese, but when my CSA handed me shitake mushrooms, this version took place, offering a substantial, almost beefy flavor that paired really well with the eggs and ricotta cheese and were a big hit at a muffin brunch I hosted for friends.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Funfetti Cheesecake Muffins

Of course I wanted to include a perfect party muffin in this line up, and you know how much I love funfetti and sprinkles!  Muffins that taste like cake are a perfect option for a birthday breakfast or any time you want to celebrate first thing in the morning.  Plus, these funfetti muffins have a cheesecake twist, packed full of cake batter flavored cream cheese for a creamy center inside a cake flavored, perfectly golden muffin.  And as you know, I'm a firm believer in sprinkles denoting party fun, so these muffins are sure to put a smile on our face first thing in the morning.  Delicious, sweet, creamy and unique, these funfetti cheesecake muffins are definitely a new option to birthday breakfast (right behind funfetti pancakes!)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

Fresh, ripe strawberries.  Nutty oats.  Greek yogurt and sugar substitute.  Combine it all together and you've got a yummy muffin for less than 100 calories.  Take that, coffee shop mega muffins.  Sometimes a girl just wants a muffin and just wants to be able to enjoy it without the guilt trip of extra hours on the elliptical to prevent said muffin from settling on her thighs.  And this little muffin is both tasty and hearty and healthy.  Gotta love that kind of breakfast. Plus they were simple to make.  Which always makes my heart sing.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Glazed Donut Muffins

Mmm, donuts.  Er, muffins.  Well either way, these are excellent.  I love a cakey donut and these ones are perfectly spiced, coated with a thick glaze and a soft crumb inside.  I've made donut muffins before, but those we topped with cinnamon sugar or chocolate frosting and sprinkles.  Plus, this version baked up differently. Bigger and fluffier, with an adjustment to the sweetness as a result of using both brown and white sugar.  And the double-dipped glaze is quite literally the icing on the cake (donut).  Thick and sweet, you actually have to bust through the coating, just like a regular glazed donut.  Great for dunking or just gobbling up.  Are you ready for muffins? Because I've got a whole week's worth of muffin recipes lined up for your enjoyment.  What could be better than a muffin themed brunch? Whip up a few batches of muffins, cut up some fresh fruit and pour out some mimosas for a lovely morning with friends and family.  I'll take two, please.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cake Batter Truffles

I know right?  Little balls of birthday cake flavor wrapped in candy coating and topped with sprinkles.  It's like a portable, one-bite birthday party! And they are amazing!  Who knew you could dunk a ball of birthday cake in a little almond bark, top it with sprinkled and get something so fun and so delicious.  Rachel had a birthday a couple weeks ago, so I whipped up a batch of these tasty truffles for the occasion.  Dave thought that were amazing, and Rachel was excited because she wouldn't be obligated share them with her husband since he's not a fan of white chocolate or almond bark.  He's certainly missing out, but that just means more for the rest of us.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Grandma's Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Polish Holubki)

Growing up, Mom or Grandma made stuffed cabbage rolls on a regular enough basis that they became synonymous with family gatherings.  But as a child I didn't really like the cabbage so I'd beg Mom to make just the stuffed part, or ask at the dinner table if I could unwrap it and just eat the insides.  It wasn't until I was an adult and really enjoyed the whole stuffed cabbage that I realized I'd only wanted meatballs.  But now I think, why have just a meatball when you can wrap it in cabbage, cook it in tomato sauce and get something so deliciously amazing.  The cabbage is perfectly steamed and flavors the meat, which is tender and full of texture and seasoning.  Cooked low and slow in a simple tomato sauce bath, these stuffed cabbages are not only comfort food for me, but are a huge hit with everyone in my family.  Of course, this is the same family that instead of eating leftover turkey on black Friday, we do a whole huge meal of stuffed cabbages and perogies, so we might be a little biased.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Belgian White Beer Cookies

Um, yes I did.  And they are amazing. Like seriously not what I expected and totally better than I would have thought.  I was faced with a challenge to make these cookies and to that I said, "Challenge accepted."  Soft and lightly sweetened with a reduction of honey and beer, these cookies let the citrus notes and honey flavor shine with a slightly crisp edge and a surprisingly soft cookie interior.  I was a little worried when I didn't see any coriander in my spice rack and wondered if I could substitute something that would still be appropriate for cookies.  Guess what?  There is no substitute for coriander.  So you have to bribe your husband to go out to the grocery store at 8 pm when he just wants to sit on the couch but since he's easily bribed by the cookies (which need the coriander to make), it all works out. So really, you don't need a substitute.  (Except when you realize a week later that you did have coriander and now you need to make another batch of cookies for your husband to make up for sending him to the grocery store when you didn't really need to go.  Yeah, that may or may not have happened.)

The Lean Green Bean