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2.28.2014

Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Eclairs


Eclairs are my new obsession. I recently discovered this great little French pastry bakery in Manchester called Finesse Pastries and they have some of the best little eclairs ever. I want to eat large amounts of the pastry cream with a spoon. My husband also shares this obsession with me, so the other day as a treat I brought a little delivery of eclairs filled with peanut butter pastry cream and topped with a milk  chocolate topping. They were a big hit with his employees!

2.26.2014

Banana Cake With Whipped Nutella Frosting



I love TV so much. It is weird that I am so obsessed with it, because we had no cable for YEARS. In fact we did not even have a TV. Now this was not due to financial reasons or anything of the sort. We chose not to have it. Thought it was a waste of time and neither the husband nor I really enjoyed it and we prefer that our kids play with toys and each other rather than parking it in front of cartoons.

But today? I have so many shows I can not keep up with. I am admitting it, I am a TV series addict. Special Victims Unit, Downton Abbey, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, Scandal, Nashville, The Good Wife, True Detective, Revolution, and my current favorite? Boardwalk Empire.

Holy crap! I can not get enough of that show, it is great! For those of you not familiar with the show.... It is an HBO drama that takes place mainly in Atlantic City, but also Chicago and New York City during the prohibition era and the birth of American organized crime. Between Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire I am now officially Ob-freaking-sessed with the early 1900's.

I have found that Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed the world of TV. It is SO much easier for me to enjoy the shows I love. My husband and I often start a new series together, but then I skip ahead while he is at work... My laptop is always live streaming something while I am working in the kitchen. When he returns home, I feel this guilt creeping up, like I cheated on him or something.... Do you ever feel like you are cheating on your spouse when you skip ahead in a series? I pretty much ruin all of our shows for him. I'm clearly a terrible wife!

Now what does this talk about TV have to do with Banana Cake and Nutella Frosting?Absolutely nothing.... I just love my shows!



Now for some talk about the cake. This cake is super moist, tastes like banana bread when layered with mounds of Nutella, how can you resist? My husband has a thing about hazelnut and chocolate combinations. When we were 16, he got some hazelnut chocolates for Christmas, ate them... and then proceeded to get horribly sick. So no Nutella or hazelnut anything for us for many many years, the thought always turned his stomach. I snuck it in on him while making this cake. Turns out he does like hazelnut after all and the cake was a big hit!

Banana Cake with Whipped Nutella Frosting
Ingredients: 
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup mashed banana
3/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

For the Frosting:
1 cup of Nutella (or any other chocolate hazelnut spread)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 cups confectioners sugar
  
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, banana, and sugar together until combined.

Mix in eggs, vanilla and buttermilk.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together.

Fold into your wet ingredients until combined. 

Separate batter into two greased 8 inch round baking dishes. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and it comes out clean. Allow to set for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to cool completely on cooling racks.

To prepare your frosting:
In the bowl of your electric mixer using the whip attachment. Whip Nutella and butter together until combined.

On medium/ low speed add in vanilla extract, salt and heavy whipping cream.

Slowly add in 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar at a time, continuously whipping the mixture. Stop whipping and adding sugar when you have a light fluffy frosting. 

Frost cooled cakes as desired.

2.24.2014

Roasted Vegetable Mac n' Cheese with Homemade Elbow Noodles


Cheese and pasta, is there a better combination? Have you ever met a person who does not like Macaroni and cheese? I do not think I have come across a single one. Which is good considering if they eat at my house, there is a good chance I will be serving some sort of cheesy pasta dish. 

I think it is pretty evident to those of you who follow my blog, I am a bit obsessed with the dish. I think there are more Mac n' Cheese combos on my blog than anything else. Variations like, Buffalo Chicken, Chili and Beer, Ranch and Bacon, Pumpkin, Slow Cooker, French Onion Soup, Meatball Sub, Bacon Lovers, Hard Cider.... and there are more!


For someone who loves pasta so much, I rarely make it from scratch. It is a shame too, because there is truly nothing better. Though it may take some time (time that I do not have often) to make, it is something I enjoy doing vary much.


To make these homemade elbow noodles, it is really not rocket science. There may be other methods of shaping them. I found this is what works best for me.

I took my basic pasta recipe, flour, water, egg, and salt. Mixed it in my stand mixer, allowed it to rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and then starting shaping. First, I take pieces of dough the size of a dime and flatten between my thumb and index finger creating a thin disk.

I then take the disk, and roll it around a floured chop stick. This is what I have on hand... any dowel will work. Roll and shape around the dowel until it's about an inch long.Slide off the floured dowel, and lightly shape the pasta into an arch (to create that elbow noodle look) without pinching it closed. Allow the pasta to dry and then boil! It's pretty easy, and worth the time.


Today is a special day, it's Mac n' Cheese Mania... TONS of food bloggers all sharing their best macaroni dishes and YOU could win some awesome prizes!

To join in on the fun, not only am I sharing my pasta recipe, but a recipe for Roasted Veggie Mac n' Cheese. This is a basic sharp cheddar sauce poured over cooked pasta and roasted veggies. I went with bell peppers, onions and broccoli. But the recipe is easily adaptable, use whichever vegetable your little heart desires. Sweet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower. The combos are endless!





Roasted Vegetable Mac n' Cheese with Homemade Elbow Noodles

Ingredients:
For the pasta:
1 cup of all purpose flour (or semolina) 
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
2-4 tbs water

For the Mac n' Cheese
Cooked Pasta (homemade or boxed)
3 tbs butter
3 tbs all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded ( I use Cabot's Seriously Sharp)   
1/2 cup sour cream 
1/4 tsp salt for the sauce
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow onion 
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp salt for the veggies 

Directions:

To prepare the pasta, mix flour, egg, and salt together until crumbly, pour in water 1 tbs at a time until the dough comes together and is just barely sticky.

Lightly flour the dough, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about two hours.

To shape the dough, break dime sized pieces off and flatten between your thumb and index finger creating a thin disk.

Using a floured wooden dowel (like a chop stick) roll the pasta around, creating a 1 inch tube.

Shape the pasta into a half moon shape (like elbow pasta) and place on parchment paper to dry. ( I let mine sit overnight, but just a couple of hours will do)

Bring water to a boil and drop in pasta one handful at a time, and boil until they float to the top.

To prepare your cheese sauce, over medium heat, melt butter and then whisk in flour until a paste forms. Whisk in milk until smooth and bring to a low boil. Mix in shredded cheese, salt and pepper.  Mix in sour cream and remove from heat until it is time to mix with the pasta.

To prepare your vegetables, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay veggies on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt. Bake until the onions are translucent, and the broccoli starts to crisp on the tops.

In a large pan or bowl, mix cooked pasta, vegetables with your cheese sauce and serve.




A big thanks to the ladies who organized this event, Rachel Cooks and Nutmeg Nanny.  Mac and Cheese Mania is being sponsored by Door to Door Organics and OXO. To enter to win some great prizes, visit either Rachel Cooks or Nutmeg Nanny and share your best Mac n' Cheese recipe. (You do not have to be a blogger to do so!) 

Prizes up for grab? ~$1800 worth!~

Door to Door Organics Gift Cards, OXO Gift Baskets, Zak Designs Prize Pack, a year's supply of Cabot cheese, a Vermont Creamery gift basket, a risotto kit from Marx Foods, Barilla pasta, Anolon Advanced Bronze 4.5 Qt. Tapered Stockpot, Rachael Ray Stoneware Casseroval, Wusthof CLASSIC Studio Block Set, Microplane Graters and Kitchen Tools, a SavorX Starter Block with spices and Le Cordon Bleu by Swissmar oven to table roasters. All giveaways open to US residents over the age of 18 only.


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2.22.2014

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs

~The following post contains sponsored content. A huge thanks to my friends at Craftsy, without the support of companies like theirs, I would not be able to take the time to create new recipes for you all.~



Even though I *think* I know my way around the kitchen, there are still some skills I have yet to learn or that need some tuning up. My knife skills being one of them. If any of my friends with a culinary school background were to cook along side me in the kitchen, I am sure they would cringe.



I recently took a free online Knife Skills class taught by Chef Brendan McDermott offered on Craftsy. This class is great, not only does it go over the different types of knives (he uses a Wusthof knife...*hint hint* to my husband!), their uses and how to use them, but he also teaches you how to sharpen and care for them.


  
How many of you cry when you cut onions? *Hands raised high* ME ME ME. Some days it is worse than others, however 9 times out 10, I cry when cutting onions. In the class, you are taught the correct way to slice (not chop) to help reduce the tears. If you think about it, an onion is similar to an orange, it is full of water. So when you chop, or if there is any tearing or squeezing, you are releasing that moisture into the air. The keys are to make sure your knife is nice and sharp and do not chop! Use a slicing motion (how to hold the knife and the onion to make the correct slicing motion is gone over in class). Also try to cut with the grain of the onion rather than against. This is where I go wrong, I always slice against! When you cut against the grain of the onion, you release more of that moisture which again… brings on the tears.

Another wow moment in the class, you can sharpen your knife blades on the bottom of a ceramic bowl or plate! Quite nifty! It’s really sad how dull my knives were, I pulled out a soup bowl and started sharpening right away. Typically when I diced my herbs not only was I holding my knife all wrong, but I left green skid marks across my cutting board because my knife was just not sharp enough. My herbs were always torn and bruised looking after I was finished with them. 


Chef Brendan McDermott, taught me how to properly dice my herbs perfect for a clean cut garnish. After I sharpened my chef’s knife I went to town preparing my scallions and fresh parsley to garnish my Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs.

The other great skill I used thanks to the Knife skills class that came in handy for this recipe, is how to peel and core a pineapple. I’m a big cheater. I own this little pineapple coring tool that to be quite honest, does not do a great job. I feel like I have to use super arm strength to make it work, and I end up wasting a large amount of fruit. Using my knife and the correct method, I actually ended up with more fruit and little hassle.



This recipe is probably my favorite way to prepare chicken. It’s inexpensive, flavorful, and healthier than any sweet and sour take out. The sauce is easy to prepare and tastes so much better than anything you can buy out of a jar. I love to use it on pork, kielbasa, or to dip chicken tenders in.


Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs

Ingredients:
1-1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (fat trimmed)
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs sesame oil
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
¼ cup maraschino cherries
2 tbs of the maraschino cherry juice
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs honey
4 tbs rice wine vinegar
4 tbs chicken stock
1 ½ tbs cornstarch
*Diced scallions and fresh parsley for garnishes
*Serve over white rice or quinoa

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450.

In the meantime, heat olive oil and sesame oil in a heavy bottomed fry pan.

Salt and pepper both sides of each chicken thigh. Place in the fry pan and brown both sides of the thighs.

Once the thighs are browned, but not yet cooked through. Remove from the pan and place in an oven safe casserole.

Add chopped peppers, pineapple and cherries into the casserole with the chicken.

To prepare the sauce, whisk maraschino cherry juice, brown sugar, honey, and rice wine vinegar together in a small sauce pan.

In a small saucepan, mix chicken stock with cornstarch together until smooth.

Whisk into the sugar mixture and heat over medium/low heat until the mixture is smooth.

Brush each chicken thigh with the sauce, and drizzle the rest over the top of the entire dish.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. 

 Want to improve your kitchen knife skills? Check out Craftsy’s  FREE Complete Knife Skills Class. This class is great for beginners or even for those who just need a refresher.

(Disclaimer: I received monetary compensation from Craftsy to write this post. All opinions are 100% my own.)

2.17.2014

Cheddar & Dill Beer Bread with Bacon and The Recipe Girl Cookbook Giveaway

Easy to prepare, soft and full of flavor. This bread is the perfect choice for an easy weeknight meal or to accompany a hot bowl of soup or chili. 



When I received a copy of The Recipe Girl Cookbook, I immediately tried a few of her recipes out on my family. The BBQ Onion Rings, Cinnamon Roll Pancakes, and Macaroni and Cheese Soup being amongst our favorites. But this bread is my favorite of all. I love fresh baked bread to go along side dinner. However my weeknight schedule is typically too crazy to have it fresh from the oven. This beer bread is easy to whip up and hot out of the oven in under an hour.


I have tried different beer breads or soda breads over the years. They have never been that great and rather boring. This bread is moist, slightly sweet, full of cheddar cheese, and loaded with flavor!

2.14.2014

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

Light and fluffy sweet rolls with a hint of pineapple and coconut. Perfect paired with BBQ or enjoyed warm with butter.


The following blog post contains sponsored content.  A huge thank you to my friends at Red Star Yeast. Without the support of brands like theirs, we bloggers would not be able to take the time to create recipes for you all!

My family has had a run in with the flu and pink eye the last couple of weeks. There have been a lot of sleepless nights for the husband and I. How does one sleep when your kids are horribly sick? I am so paranoid that their fevers will rise during the night or that they will have a horrible coughing fit that I wont hear. So my blog has taken a back burner these days.

Luckily I did break away from playing nurse one day this week to bake these Hawaiian Sweet Rolls. I have made three batches of these over the last month tweaking the recipe just slightly each time. I think I have finally settled on the perfect roll to accompany pulled pork or any other BBQ for that matter.


There is something about yeast breads that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. There  is truly nothing more comforting than a cozy afternoon at home, with the scent of fresh bread baking. It was exactly what I needed this week.

I am posting over on Red Star Yeast's website today, so be sure to grab my recipe there! Also check out some great yeast baking steps, while you are at it. Red Star's website is full of great tips and recipes. Yeast baking can be tricky, so they are my go to for info. You can also check them out on  Facebook and Pinterest .


Click HERE for my Hawaiian Sweet Roll recipe.

(Disclaimer: I was compensated by Red Star Yeast to write this post. However all opinions are 100% my own. )

2.03.2014

Pizza Night with Kids, My Favorite Pizza Dough Recipe + King Arthur Flour Giveaway




Dinner night can often be a bit stressful when I have the kids and dogs at my heal. I have learned over the years to not worry about staying on schedule and who cares if your kitchen gets messy in the process... the easiest way to avoid that stress is to invite the kids in the kitchen with you.

This way there are no interruptions, no worries about keeping them entertained while you cook. They are put to work helping and to them it's  nothing but fun. The bonus to it all, is the skills they are learning early on how to prepare their own food. This will be mighty handy as they get older and Mom isn't always around to fix them something to eat.


This past weekend, we had a boys sleepover, three hungry busy busy boys under the age of 7. They didn't have much interest in helping me cook this particular night because they were so busy playing games and building stuff down in the family room. My daughter who is 2.5 years old was left out of their fun.

So we had a little girls fun of our own, and I let her help me make some homemade pizza dough. She was over the moon, and couldn't wait to tell her dad  that she made pizza!


Though sometimes making food with the kids, can be a bit crazy, things get dumped in the mixing bowl too soon, flour gets everywhere. But you know what? My kids are pumped if I let them help clean the messes too! Maybe they are just weird, they truly have so much fun if I hand them a sponge and let them go to town. This little one would stand by the sink and help with dishes all day long if I let her!


For this particular pizza, I used my favorite basic dough recipe from King Arthur Flour, but made a couple of small adaptions. The first being the use of King Arthur's Sir Lancelot Flour. This flour is hi-gluten, therefor produces a chewy texture. Hi-gluten flour is great used in things like bagels, pretzels, and of course pizza crust. The second small adaption I used was adding a tad of the pizza crust flavor. This powder is full of cheesy garlic flavor, it's a great addition to bring your crusts up to the next level. 


You are all in luck today because King Arthur Flour has agreed to send one lucky reader a pizza making gift pack! This includes a bag of my favorite pizza making flour (Sir Lancelot), Pizza Dough Flavor, Pizza Seasoning AND a new Pizza Stone!  To enter scroll below the recipe, and follow the directions listed on the widget.




My Favorite Pizza Dough Recipe:
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour 
Ingredients:
2 tsp active dry yeast
7/8 to 1 1/8 cups warm water
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs sugar
4 tsp King Arthur Flour's Pizza Dough Flavor
3 cups King Arthur Flour's Sir Lancelot (AP can be substituted)    
1 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Dissolve yeast in a bowl mixed with 2 tbs warm water and a pinch of sugar until it starts to foam.


In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine, flour, olive oil, sugar, pizza dough flavor and your yeast mixture.

Turn mixer to low and slowly pour in your water. Depending on how dry or humid your climate is you may need more or less water. So pour slowly and once the dough comes together and is just barely sticky stop adding it. 

If you find that you have added too much water, go ahead and add just a tad more flour to bring your dough together. 

Turn mixer to medium/low speed (level 2 on a KA) and "knead" the dough  for about 4-5 minutes. 

In a lightly greased bowl, cover allow dough to rise until it is really puffy. For me this was about 90 minutes. 

If using a round pizza pans or pizza stones, divided dough into two equal portions, if making a larger rectangular pizza just leave the dough as one piece. 

Stretch and shape dough just a bit (don't over stretch or pat flat). Allow dough to rest for about 15 minutes. 

After it has rest, shape and form the dough to fit your lightly greased pizza pans. If the dough is not quite stretching to fit, don't over stretch it causing it to tear. Stop stretching, cover with a towel and let it rest for another 10-15 minutes. When you go back you should be able to easily stretch the dough to reach the corners of your pan. 

Now allow dough to rise for a second time until puffy. Again for me it took about 90 minutes.

Top pizza dough as desired, bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes (depending on your pan and thickness it can take longer).  Remove from oven when crust is golden brown. 

This week also happens to be Pizza Week! Check out what some of my friends have been whipping up. 

Tuesday:
Kat from Tenaciously Yours: Zorbaz Taco Pizza
Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic: Cornmeal Pizza Crust and Greek Pizza
Wednesday:
Mads from La Petite Pancake: Tangy BBQ Chicken Pizza
Megan from Wanna Be a Country Cleaver: Pork and Pear Pizza
Thursday:
Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic: Greek Pizza 
Beka from Kvetchin Kitchen: Clam and Bacon Pizza 
Monica from Grommom: Gluten Free Roasted Veggie Pizza 
Friday:
Lauren from Climbing Grier Mountain:Caramelized Onion, Sausage, and Barbecue Pizza with Ranch Dressing
Jeanne from Inside Nanabread's Head: Pepporoni Rolls Made 2 Ways


King Arthur Flour Giveaway! 

To enter to win follow the directions on the widget. Be sure to leave a comment telling me what your favorite pizza topping is!  
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Disclaimer: King Arthur Flour is sponsoring this giveaway.  Additionally,  I received free product from King Arthur Flour, however I did not receive monetary compensation to write this post. All opinions are 100% my own.