Monday, July 21, 2014

Pull Apart Engagment Ring Cake

While I love posting yummy recipes on here for you guys to try I wanted to show what else I love to do. Bake and create cupcakes! I finally have some pictures of me working so I wanted to share!
This past weekend my brother and his fiance had an engagement party and I had the privilege of making a cake for them for the occasion! One thing I was most excited about with this cake was that I had free range to create whatever I wanted. I have done a few pull apart cakes before for bridal showers that are in the shape of a wedding dress but I wanted to do something different this time. I saw a picture online that someone had done of a ring and I thought that would be perfect to help celebrate their "I Do BBQ". 

Not only did I have a great weekend celebrating my brother and his fiance but it was also a fun weekend with a visit from my parents for the party! My parents live out of state but we still manage to all see each other once a month or every other month. These visits are my favorite part of the month : ) And while my parents were here my Mom was so awesome and took some pictures of me doing my cupcake thing so I could post the process on here! Thanks Mom : )

I asked my brother and his special lady to each pick out a flavor they wanted, and they settled on Funfetti and Burnt Almond cupcakes. 

When I do the pull apart cakes I always arrange the cupcakes into the shape first and situate them so they all fit together as tight as possible.
From this angle I know it doesn't look like a ring, but you'll see it if you scroll down : )
Even though most ladies today go with platinum and white gold bands, I didn't want to give this cake a silver colored band because I really wanted the ring to pop. So I mixed my frosting to create a gold band.

When I have to frost a cake with angles and lines I start with the outline and then fill it in. On this cake I frosted the diamond first so I just had to fill in the rest with the yellow frosting that created the band image. 
When I finished frosting this cake, I loved it. BUT I felt like the circle from the band left such a big space that it needed something to help with the display. I had some melting chocolates on hand so I used them to pipe the happy couples name. 
This was such a fun cake to make and such a great day with family and friends!! I think this just might be one of the top 5 favorite cakes I've done : )

Creamy Veggie Pesto Pasta

Pesto. I LOVE pesto. It taste good on everything! It's easy to make and it smells wonderful too! We eat quite a bit of pesto in this house! It's so easy to make so I always have it on hand and love that you can just about add it to anything and you have a simple yummy meal. 

Most nights by time my husband and I get home its close to 8:30 before we eat dinner. So I try and find easy, healthy meals that I can throw together quickly and bump up our dinner time. Not to mention some nights after chasing crazy children around all day I don't really want to be on my feet any longer than I already have!

 Now I realize you're probably looking at the picture above of the ingredients for this recipe and thinking to yourself "Hmm, if this is a pasta dish, where is the pasta?" Well, that's a great question. Apparently I forgot to include it in this shot. Whoops! 

1 box pasta (I used penne for this one, but you can really use any pasta you like)
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 of a pint of grape tomatoes halved.
4 tablespoons pesto sauce
2 tablespoons Caesar salad dressing (also not pictured, oops!)
Start by cooking your pasta. Bring a pot of water to boil, and while that's getting going get the rest of the recipe going. If you really want to cut down your cook time, you can make the pasta the night before and then just heat it up and add it in. Chop up your chicken and halve the tomatoes and put them in whatever dish you plan on serving and mixing this in.
 Chop your spinach and add it to a pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon water. Cook your spinach until it starts to wilt, then remove it from heat. Add it to the dish with your chicken and tomatoes. When the pasta is done add that too.
 Add in your Caesar dressing and pesto sauce and mix well! You can add more if you feel like you want it, but start small. A little pesto goes a long way!
This recipe is so simple and fast yet so flavorful and fresh! I recommend adding this to your menu plan as soon as possible! And it is husband approved as well! 
Bon Appetit Friends!

Broccoli, Bacon, Chicken, Rice Casserole

This recipe encompasses the majority of my favorite foods. It's cheesy, has bacon and chicken (the only two meat products I really like), and rice. While I'm a lover of all things veggie, broccoli isn't necessarily my number one choice, but it is my husbands so I will gladly add it to most recipes.

When I first decided to make this recipe for dinner the night that I did, I had not intended to share it on here. So I apologize in advance that there won't be a picture added of the ingredients. I ended up getting off work early one day (which is SO very rare and exciting!) and wanted to make something a little more involved than my usual week night meals. I hadn't made this in a while and decided it was time to make it have a comeback in our week night menu. Also, to give credit where credit is due, I did not come up with this on my own. I found the recipe on good old Pinterest a year or two ago and have adjusted it here and there to mine and my husbands taste. That's the best part of cooking after all! I got home and just started cooking and then decided I wanted to share. Anywho, here are the suspects for this creation:

 4 tablespoons butter
4 Slices of bacon
2 Chicken breast
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 cups chopped broccoli
3 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup chopped onion (I use purple)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups chicken broth (I prefer low sodium)
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups of cheddar cheese (also is great with pepper jack!)
Salt and pepper to taste

As usual I start by prepping everything so I can just cook as I go and not worry about chopping and having to stir something at the same time. So I started by cutting the bacon slices into cubes, as well as the chicken. Then chop up your broccoli. You don't have to chop it super small, just enough that it will mix easily in your casserole dish. Chop you onion and if you're using fresh garlic mince that too. I recommend going ahead and opening your can of tomatoes too so you can just dump them in the pan when the time comes.

 Now that you have everything set up and ready to go, take out two pans and put the cubed bacon in one pan, and 2 tablespoons olive oil along with the chicken in the other pan. Cook both of these all the way though and then put them aside till a little later. I put mine on a paper towel to absorb the grease and excess oil.
 MMmm, bacon : )
 Once the meats are cooked use the pan you cooked the chicken in and add 1 more tablespoon olive oil along with the broccoli and onions and garlic. In case you were wondering I did not clean out the pan after I cooked the chicken. I wanted to use the excess oil in the pan from the chicken so I didn't have to add as much to cook the veggies.
 While the veggies are cooking take out the casserole dish you plan on using and put the cooked brown rice, chicken and bacon in it. There is no need to grease this dish because it wont be going in the oven.
 When your broccoli and onions are cooked though add the can of tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Once the veggies are all cooked, add them to your casserole dish. Take out a medium size sauce pan and melt the butter.
 Once the butter is melted add the flour. It will get very thick and create almost a big lump in your pan. Take out your whisk and slowly add in your chicken broth while whisking the whole time. Once you have added all the broth whisk till all the lumps are out of the sauce and bring to a boil. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn to the bottom of your pan, you will notice the sauce thicken. Add in the cheese and salt and pepper. When the cheese is melted and the sauce it thick, pour over all the other ingredients in the casserole dish.
Stir well and Enjoy! 

Bon Appetit Friends!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Confused Chicken

I have to start by saying that I know I failed when I said I would have a delicious chicken recipe with the Tzatziki sauce up on Friday. I should know better than to set a any kind of time line for myself. I'm a horrible procrastinator and also notorious for changing my mind and plans at the last minuet. And that is exactly why this wasn't posted on Friday. Instead of coming home and making dinner Friday, I met up with some of my friends for a tasty evening of food truck delights. Fish tacos, fish nacho's and ice cream (ok, of course wine too) were what I spent the evening devouring. I love eating off the grid, and trying out all of the unique creations that people come up with. Since that's what I love to do myself, it's fun to get out there and support people who enjoy doing the same. 

The husband and I had a very long day of "spring" cleaning the house today...yes, I know it's June, didn't I say I was a horrible procrastinator? After a long day of working we decided to check out a reflexology foot spa in our town, and let me tell you was it the best choice I made today, besides making this chicken : ) We've been going doing reflexology for years now, but have not tried out this spot since we moved. I was still going to one of my favorite places when I had time in the town we used to live in. The convenience of only having to drive down the road made this experience even better!
After getting centered and feeling one with my inner zen, I really wanted to make sure that my dinner was healthy and light to help keep that feeling going. I had defrosted some chicken this morning and knew that the Tzatziki sauce was going on top of it, but I knew I needed something different. Before we headed to the spa I had a glass of wine, and decided I needed some bruschetta in my life to accompany the wine I would be drinking after my massage (it's white wine so its light right?).  I made some bruschetta for my husband and I to have as an appetizer while I made dinner, and decided that the bruschetta was what was going to be on top of my chicken and tzatziki!

To make the Bruschetta:
Start by getting a pint of cherry heirloom tomatoes, and chopping them up, either in quarter's or small slices. If you can't find the cherry heirloom tomatoes you can use regular cherry tomatoes, I just love heirloom's personally and take advantage of buying them when I can find them. Once you chop the tomatoes, chop up 8 or 9 large leaves of basil, and 3 cloves of garlic. 
Take the garlic and 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and cook it over medium heat in a small sauce pan for 1 minute. Add in the tomatoes and basil and a little more oil and cook for 5 minutes stirring constantly. After 5 minutes turn off heat. We used half of this for an appetizer,
We put the bruschetta on croutons that I made, which are also very simple!

Slice a loaf of bread thin (I used sourdough), pour some extra virgin olive oil in a bowl and brush onto both side of bread slices. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese. Broil in your oven for 5 minutes on low, turning over halfway. Top with the bruschetta and enjoy!

The Chicken:
For the Chicken, I just used two organic chicken breasts and covered both sides with a little salt and pepper. I had the husband cook it on the grill and then topped it with a heaping teaspoon of the Tzatziki and a bunch of the bruschetta. It was absolutely delish! 

Bon Appetit Friends!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tzatziki Sauce Part 1

I feel like as soon as I start thinking about writing a post, the first thing that comes to mind to start is "I love..". So I guess its true to say, I really do love to eat. And because of my love to eat, is part of why I learned to cook, and learned to start making recipes that I really like. I really like a lot of things that are not healthy in any way whatsoever. So part of the fun for me, is finding ways that I can still eat what I love and take care of my body. 
Snacking has always been a favorite past time of mine, and dips have always been a big part of my snacking career. Enter the endless unique array of humus combinations I've tried over the years, as well as my now very beloved Tzatziki Sauce. I love it because you can use it in so many ways. My personal favorite is as a dip for veggies, but I also like it with pita chips. Stay Tuned Folks, on Friday I'm going to be making a Grilled Chicken recipe with the sauce : ) Another reason I chose to post this recipe, is that it is SO simple that everyone should just make it on the regular and keep it in the fridge at all times.

The Line Up:
1 Small Cucumber 
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Fresh Chives
1 tablespoon Fresh Dill
4 Medium Mint Leaves chopped
Salt and pepper to your liking
1 Cup plain Greek yogurt

You're also going to need this wonderful little treasure:
While most of the time it is great to have a larger standard size food processor, for dips and sauces like this, the 4 cup mini is the best! 

To start, you are going to peel your cucumber, slice it in half lengthwise, and then scoop out the seeds so you have two long cucumber boats. Cut the long boats into a few smaller pieces and pack them into your food processor. Pulse the cucumber till it looks like this:
A very mashed up liquefied consistency. Once you have pulsed your cucumber, place a paper towel in your strainer and then pour the cucumber into strainer. Use a spatula and push the liquid out of the cucumber. The paper towel will let the liquid drain, and the cucumber pulse stay.

Set the cucumber to the side, and get your herbs and garlic out. Peel your garlic cloves and lay them on a cutting board. Now take out your knife and place the handle on top of the garlic clove then put your palm on top of the handle like this:
This will help you to mash the garlic which will release the flavor, and also make it easier to mince the garlic. Now chop up the herbs very fine as well.

After that is done, take out a large mixing bowl and transfer cucumber into it. Add Greek Yogurt, minced garlic, chopped herbs, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and mix well. Refrigerate for one hour, or overnight for best flavor.
Bon Appetit Friends!
And Check Back on Friday for a delicious recipe with this sauce!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Gouda Mac N Cheese with Kale and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Warning: this is not a healthy recipe, I repeat This. Is. Not. Healthy : ) But oh so delicious!

Night Two of my wild and crazy weekend of cooking like a single girl again...just had to be some mac n cheese.

I don't think it matters how old you are, everyone loves mac n cheese, and the cheesier, the better!
I'm asked a lot what my favorite food is, and that is just too broad of a question for me to answer. I need subcategories in order to explain my favorite foods. But if someone asked me what my favorite cheese is it would be an easy answer: Smoked Gouda.

So when I decided that night two of my wild and crazy husband free eating weekend would be mac n cheese there was no question it was going to be Gouda mac N cheese. I decided to go with kale because I had some I needed to use, and sun dried tomatoes because I happened to have them on hand too!

This recipe is great because you can really add anything to the sauce to load it up. One of my favorite variations I call The Connor in honor of my brother in law. It's a very simple variation but its so good! Just add bacon bits. Cook up some bacon, chop it up, and add it in. I refer to this as The Connor because I just happened to make it one night and post a picture of it on Facebook and he thought it was the best idea ever. So much so that we have had many conversations about the greatness of bacon mac n cheese and I also made if for him for his birthday this last year.

Other Variations:
- Jalapeno Popper: fresh chopped jalapeno's, and chopped ham.
-Pesto Mac: Pesto, Sun dried  tomatoes, and panchetta.

The Line Up:
The Gnomes are my salt and pepper. 
 4 tablespoons butter
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
2 cups chopped kale
2 1/2 cups grated smoked Gouda cheese
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1 cup julienne sun dried tomatoes
1 Box whole grain pasta

Start by getting the water boiling for the pasta and heat the oven to 375 degrees. While that's happening, get out your favorite sauce pan or deep skillet (I like my 12' Calphalon Fryer). Put your butter in your pan and turn the stove to medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the milk and let it boil up a little.

When the milk and butter start to boil, turn the heat down and add the flour slowly. This will start to thicken up and look almost like cream of wheat. Once you have mixed the flour in all the way, add in the heavy cream, spices, and kale, and turn the heat back up to medium low to cook the kale a little, about 5 min, stirring often so the creamy mixture doesn't stick to the pan.

 I don't really let it cook till it's soft because I like the crunch it adds to the pasta! But if you want to make it more like a steamed consistency you can put it in a microwave safe bowl with a tiny bit of water and heat it up for 1 min. 

Once the kale has cooked for 5 min add in the sun dried tomatoes and cheeses. Again reduce heat to medium low and let cheese melt. Once they have melted turn off the stove. Grease a casserole dish and drain the pasta when it is done. Then pour the cheese mixture and the pasta into a casserole dish and mix completely. Place in the oven uncovered and let it cook for 20 min.  

Bon Appetit Friends!

Lemon, Rosemary and Basil Grilled Shrimp

I absolutely love everything about summer! And of course, since I love to eat, I love all the wonderful seasonal foods that become available. But even more so than the season items to cook with, it brings sheer joy to me that it's grilling season and I try and find every excuse I can to cook dinner on the grill. Not only is it much healthier, but there is also way less clean up at the end. Which makes my husband very happy because he is the clean up crew to my creations : )

This weekend my husband is out of town and when he is out of town I get excited for only one reason: I can cook all the things I love that he refuses to eat. The main thing I get excited to cook: seafood!! The first night he was gone I decided that I was going to get wild and grill some shrimp! Watch out now!

I didn't really feel like going to the store after a long day at work and stuck in fun traffic so I made it a point to use whatever I had on hand to make a marinde for the shrimp. And that is how I came up with the combination of Lemon, Rosemary and Basil Shrimp. We are so lucky to have a never ending amount of rosemary and basil growing in our yard, so those are always two of my go to herbs for cooking. We are also very lucky to live on an old orchard and the original farm house just happens to be behind our house. Why does this make us lucky? Because the old owner of the orchard still has some trees in their yard and one of them just happens to be a lemon tree that never seems to be lacking in fruit. And it just so happens to hang in my yard! I hate seeing any food go to waste so when a few drop into my yard I make sure to put them to good use! Thanks neighbor!

The Line Up:
2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Lb Fresh raw large (not jumbo) shrimp
3 lemon slices
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tablespoons cut fresh basil
2 minced garlic cloves (not pictured)
1 gallon size freezer bag, or some sort of plastic or glass container to hold the shrimp while they marinade.

Since I was only cooking these for myself I only bought 1/4 lb of shrimp, but if you are cooking for more people then just add 1/4 lb for each person you are serving to.

Start by chopping your basil and rosemary, then slice your lemon wedges. Set that aside and get ready to peel your shrimp!
Peel the shrimp by taking off the hard tail and the outside hard shell, then slice up the middle of the shrimp where you see this black line like pictured above. Slice right up that line and then pull it out. Do this for each of your shrimp. Yes, it's a tedious task but at lease you have fresh shrimp and not frozen! 
Once you have peeled all your shrimp place them in your bag or container, squeeze the juice of the lemon wedges and add it and the left over lemons to the bag, then add all the other ingredients. Seal the bag and lightly massage all the ingredients together in the bag.
Place this in your fridge and let it marinade for at least one hour, but overnight or all day for the best flavor! 

When you are ready to grill take the entire contents of the bag and pour it into a greased grill pan and then head out and fire up your grill!
Turn your grill on high (or medium if you have a really good grill, we have a lack luster excuse for a grill so high is really our only setting), and cook though till the shrimp turn pink. Stir while its cooking and turn shrimp over  for even cooking. While you're waiting....
Grab a glass of your favorite white wine, sit back, relax and enjoy! 

Serve over brown rice and enjoy!!!

Bon Appetit Friends!