Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Babyback Ribs

O Spring, please come soon. I have been dying inside this winter. My two little crazy almost-one year old have been going crazy! (Read: so am I). I can’t wait for the spring so we can head outside for a little entertainment, and, so we can entertain outside! Bring on the grill, baby! We are grillers, and always will be. We recently bought a smoker and it has added a little fun mix-it-up to our outdoor recipes.

Since I’ve been so grill-hungry lately, when I saw that there was a day reaching 40 degrees, and prepped my hubby to be ready to cook up some ribs. I did all the leg work inside, and he just had to pop them on the grill for about 8 minutes to crisp them up. Thankfully, my “leg work” wasn’t much...just throwing a few ingredients in a crock pot, and BAM! We were ready to rock with a pre spring meal to get the season rocking!
These were delicious, fall off the bone...(not to mention the easiest recipe ever) ribs. Even my smoker-of-ribs-lover husband gobbled up every bite. So, next time the temperature gets to where you can brave it, make yourself a pre-spring meal, too!

Babyback Ribs

1 rack babyback ribs (about 2-2.5 pounds; 1 rack feeds two adults; another rack of ribs will work with the marinade if your crockpot can fit them)
3 c. pineapple juice
1 ½ c. brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. mustard powder
1/3 c. ketchup
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. ground cloves (optional)
2 tsp. fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
barbecue sauce (we use Sweet Baby Ray’s)

Using a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears, cut each rack into about 4 portions (it ends up being about 3-4 rib bones each).
Place in crockpot. In a large bowl, mix pineapple juice, brown sugar, mustard powder, ketchup, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, cloves, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Pour over ribs and cover. Set to low for 6-7 hours. Make sure that they are ABOUT to fall of the bone, but you do not want them to actually fall off. They need to hold together for the grill.
Remove ribs from liquid and heat grill to medium. Place ribs on the grill, brush one side with barbecue sauce, and close the lid for 3-4 minutes. Carefully turn the ribs, brush other side with sauce, close the lid, and wait another 3-4 minutes. Repeat. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Our Best Bites
Serves 2.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pan Fried Chicken with Prosciutto Cream (and Potatoes!)

Need an impressive dish to make this weekend? This is our new favorite meal. Enough said! No, really, this meal is SO BEYOND delicious. Every time we whip this up...which MIGHT be about 6 times in the past 2 months...we are once again floored at how good it is. The chicken is crunchy, the potatoes are chewy, and the cream sauce; O the cream sauce. It combines all of the components of this dish in a beautiful way. My mouth is watering right now. Maybe this is what can be for dinner tonight! (Side note, if I have extra cream sauce I use it as a type of “alfredo” on our chicken pizza the following night!)

Pan Fried Chicken with Prosciutto Cream (and potatoes!)
Printable Version

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups panko
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Cream Sauce
6 ounces prosciutto, diced small
1/2 medium size white onion, pureed
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves

1 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch disks
6 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 Tbs. Extra-virgin olive oil

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Put the flour, panko and eggs in separate bowls. Season the flour and the panko with salt and pepper. Add the oregano and paprika to the panko and mix to combine. Dip the chicken first in flour to coat, then in the eggs. Let the excess egg drain off and then evenly coat in the seasoned panko crumbs.

In a deep saute pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.

Put the chicken  in the hot oil and cook on first side until golden brown, then turn on the other side. Cook about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the oil and drain on paper towels. Season lightly with salt while the chicken is still hot.

Cream sauce
In a saucepot over medium heat, add the pancetta and render until some of the fat is released. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the heavy cream and let simmer until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in the chopped sage.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In an oven-proof dish, toss together the potatoes, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the olive oil over top until the potatoes are covered. Cook the potatoes in the oven until tender, about 45 minutes.

To serve: Divide the potatoes between 2 plates and top each with 2 chicken breasts. Spoon some of the cream sauce over the top and serve.

Serves 2
Recipe from Food Network

Monday, February 18, 2013

Carrot Pineapple Cake

My husband hates chunks in his food. Thankfully, I am a rock star wife and I cater to his crazy-no-chunk needs! I puree onions each and every time that they are in a recipe (which is sooo often!). Okay, now to the cake. I could eat an entire carrot cake, but my husband is not a fan. He also is NOT a fan of pineapple (unless it is fresh, grilled pineapple, who couldn’t love that?) This cake, however, has both, and he loves it! I adore it when I can combine ingredients and make them taste even more delicious than the original ingredient!

Carrot Pineapple Cake
Printable Version

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup finely shredded carrot
1 cup crushed pineapple(with syrup)
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Add vegetable oil, eggs, carrot, pineapple, and vanilla. Mix all ingredients together until moistened. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed on electric mixer. Bake in greased and lightly floured 13 x 9 inch pan in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool then top with frosting. (below)

The BEST Cream Cheese Frosting
6 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
8 Tb. Butter (room temperature)
2 tsp. vanilla
dash salt
4 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese together, then beat in vanilla and salt. Gradually add powdered sugar. Top cake with frosting.

Makes 1 9x13 inch cake

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

White Velvet Sugar Cookies

O my, O my, O my. These are delicious Perfectly moist, not too sugary, heaven in a cookie! Unfortunately, I liked them too much...it is a holiday, right?!! (Excuses, Excuses!) I definitely ate my fair share of these today, and every time I have made them in the past. This is the only sugar cookie I make anymore, and there is good reason for it! I can't wait to continue making these-forever! The frosting is a cream cheese frosting, and gets a perfect glaze when you spread it on. It makes them a look a little more professional! TRY THEM!!!

White Velvet Sugar Cookies
Printable Version

2 cups butter, softened
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
4 ½ cups flour

Cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla; mix well.  Gradually add flour. Cover and chill 2 hours or until firm.  Roll out on floured surface to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut into 3-inch shapes; place on greased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until set (but not browned).  Cool 5 minutes.  Place on wire racks to cool.

2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 stick (4 ounces) cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbs. milk
2 Tbs. butter

Cream the cream cheese and butter, then add the milk. Mix in electric mixer. Add powdered sugar and mix. Add vanilla when all is well combined to avoid discoloration.

Frost cookies and serve.

Recipe from Mom and Laurel
Makes about 48 two inch cookies

Monday, February 11, 2013

Baja Tacos with Avocado Cream

I love easy, delicious meals. This is the perfect meld between plain jane tacos and delicious deep fat fried chimichangas. The tasty inside has a small kick and just enough creamy-ness (is that a word?!) from the cheese. Then, O yes, this is the best part....the crunchy outside of these tacos...These were originally deep fried, but I am just not a fan of that! It is messy, and adds sooo many unnecessary calories. To top it all off, the avocado cream sauce. I could have deep fried these in this sauce and been a happy woman! I was fighting my hubby for the last bites of it...and now, my mouth is watering. To sum it up, give these a shot! They will be on my short list of go-to tacos, along with Buffalo Chicken Tacos and Chicken Chipotle Tacos!

Baja Tacos with Avocado Cream
Printable Version

Ingredients For the Filling
2-3 Tbs. canola oil, for frying
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small white onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (rotisserie or THIS RECIPE is quick and easy!)
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 cup shredded Cheddar/Monterey jack blend
1 lime, juiced
6 flour tortillas

Avocado Cream
1 very ripe avocado, halved, pitted and flesh removed
1 (4-ounce) container sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Heat oil over medium heat in a shallow frying pan. To make the tacos: In a pan over medium heat melt butter and saute onions and jalapenos until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper and cook until fragrant, another 2 minutes. Add cooked, shredded chicken and salsa; stir to combine. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, cheese and lime juice.

Spread a heaping spoonful of the chicken mixture along the middle of each tortilla. Roll tortilla tightly around the filling, tucking in the ends like a burrito, and secure with a toothpick. Cook until golden brown, turning halfway through, about 2 minutes, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately season with salt. If necessary, keep tacos warm in the oven on a sheet tray while assembling and cooking the remaining tortillas.

To make the Avocado Cream: In a serving bowl, mash avocado, sour cream and lime juice until smooth. Season with salt, to taste.

Dip or top your tacos with e the Avocado cream, and enjoy!

Recipe from Crystal
Makes 6 tacos

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Next Iron Chef

My friend Tennille and I hosted "The Next Iron Chef" for a few of the couples in our neighborhood. What a success! Seriously it was SUCH. A. BLAST. Everyone went all out, it couldn't have gone any better. I hope to give you a few tips and ideas to throw your own!
Lots of preparation went into the night, but it was all so worth it. I've had a lot of people as me the details so they can throw their own party...so here they are!
We passed out invites 2 weeks prior to the event. We wanted everyone to have time to find babysitters (Lots of kiddos in these parts!) and to give them a chance to decide what the heck to cook! As we were passing out the invites, we had each couple draw out of a hat...appetizer, entree, or dessert. 

 We chose to have 3 different secret ingredients. We wanted there to be a wide array of yummy food! We kept our secret ingredients pretty simple, maybe next time we will kick it up a notch.  Each couple brought their dish, already prepared, to dinner. (In the future I would love to have everyone cook at the same house, not knowing the secret ingredient until minutes before, but we don't have that space right now!) We set all of the dishes on a serving table and numbered them 1-9 in order to make the scoring a bit easier. We all filed by and filled up our plates with all 9 dishes, then took a seat. We talked about each of our dishes while we ate, and scored as we enjoyed!
So, if the invite didn't explain it well enough...here it goes. We invited 9 couples total. 3 couples were assigned "Appetizer", and their secret ingredient was Bacon. These are the dishes we ended up with:
Bacon wrapped Jalepeno Mac and Cheese

Bacon wrapped Parmesan

Spring rolls with Bacon and Bacon Sweet and Sour dressing
They were all great...the winner was the Bacon wrapped parmesan. O yummy I need another one NOW!
3 couples were assigned "Entree" with the secret ingredient Cheese...and this is what we got...
Chicken and Artichoke Lasagne with over 4 kids of cheese

Croque Monsieur's
Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts in Parmesan Bowls
These were delicious as well, and the winner was....the Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts in Parmesan Bowls. Super moist, and talk about PRESENTATION!!
And last but not least, 3 couples were assigned "Dessert" with the secret ingredient of strawberry...(Unfortunately only 2 couples came, and I didn't get a picture of the other dessert! Use your imagination for a Frozen Strawberry Heaven with Graham Cracker Crumble!)
Cheesecake with Strawberry topping and Strawberries on top
The winner was the Cheesecake! Good thing I got a picture of the winner:)
For each category we had a small prize of a whisk, a pasta strainer, and a spatula. Then we had an overall winner! DUN DUN DUN....


They went all out in every single judging category, and deserved the grand prize and title of THE NEXT IRON CHEF! For the grand prize we gave a cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes and a gift card to choose a flavor of their own!

To judge, we printed out scorecards for each individual, even though the couples were cooking together. We wanted them to have their own opinion on the winner.
The scorecards had 4 categories, and that is how we judged each dish. Each category was worth 5 points, making each dish worth 20 points total. At the end we totaled all of the points and decided on a winner for each category, as well as an overall, IRON CHEF!

Now, the really important stuff...We had a projector. Yes, folks, we went all out! 

We needed a way to display all of our iron chefs! As people arrived at the party, we had a photo booth set up so they could show their competitors their most intense faces...or silliest...or, well, you will see!

Me and Hubbs(Entree)

My Co-host, Tennille, and Cody(Dessert)

Alisha and Jake (Appetizer winners!)

Callie and Nate (Appetizer)

Crystal and Jeff (Dessert Winners!)

Diana and Ben (Entree)

THE IRON CHEF'S!!! (Crystal and Jordan, Entree)

Cynthia and Kevin (Appetizer)
 It was an amazing night, we had such a blast. Really everyone went all out with their dishes and it couldn't have gone any better. I can't wait to make this a tradition in my neighborhood!
I hope this gave you all of the information to throw your own Iron chef party...you won't regret it! Let me know if you have questions!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lemon Creme Cake

My husband makes me happy. Lemon anything makes him happy. Therefore, if I make him lemon deliciousness, I win in the end. Done. Deal. Lemon creme cake, O we loved this. So did our neighbors. We all devoured the moist, hint of lemon cake that graced it’s presence in my kitchen for, O, 10 minutes! It’s great, worth the work, and will be made again. And again. And again.

Lemon Creme Cake
Printable Version

1 ¾ cup cake flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
6 eggs, separated
¾ cups water
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
½ tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup heavy cream
1 recipe lemon pie filling, below (or to simplify, use pre-made lemon pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and ½ cup of sugar. Add the oil, egg yolks, water, and lemon zest. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth
Using clean beaters in a small bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form. Slowly add the remaining ¾ cup sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form.
Fold one third of the whites into the batter, then quickly fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.
Turn the batter into greased and floured 10 in tube pan, or two 9 inch rounds. Bake for 1 hour (tube pan), or 20-30 minutes (rounds), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pan, when cool, loosen the edges of the cake to remove it from the pan.
To make the filling, make the lemon pie filling recipe, below. Then, beat the cream to stiff peaks. Fold in the chilled lemon pie filling  into the cream. Refrigerate until firm.
To assemble, slice the cake into 2 or 3 even layers. Spread the bottom layers with ⅓ cup of the filling. Spread the remaining filling on the top layer and sides. Decorate with lemon slices.

Lemon Pie Filling
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 Tbs. cornstarch
3 Tbs. flour
dash salt
1 1/2 cups HOT water
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix the sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt in a sauce pan and gradually add hot water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over high heat until mixture boils. Reduce heat and continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes more.

After the mixture has cooked for the above 2 minutes, crack eggs yolks into a DIFFERENT BOWL. Add a small amount of hot mixture to gradually temper the eggs. (Temper=slowly warm up the eggs before adding them to the boiling mixture, if they are added while cold they will immediately cook, yuck!) Then add the eggs to the boiling mixture and bring to a boil again. Cook and Stir for 2 minutes. Remove the hot mixture from the heat and add butter and lime juice. Stir until well blended (the butter will be melted). Allow to chill for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Recipe highly adapted from America’s Most Wanted Recipes Book
Serves 10-12