Monday, April 28, 2008

Mmm Pistachio Pie

This past week has been super super busy. Besides bringing baby home, my mom also flew out to visit, and I worked evening/night shifts rather than my normal mornings. All this adds up to not a whole lot of cooking, and a lot of eating at Subway.

I got off at a decent hour yesterday, so I figured I would contribute a little bit to the cooking this week and make a delicious dessert. I have been craving this for the past week or so. It's just so light and fluffy and just so different from the normal heavy chocolate infused things we've been having as of late that I just couldn't resist.

It's a fairly simple recipe (as long as you don't have to go back to the store twice in a row for missing ingredients) and makes a great summer dessert.

I adjusted some of the ingredients to make it slightly healthier and it was still great -- all my changes are in italics.

Pistachio Dessert
Family Recipe
1 c. flour
1/2 c. butter (margarine)
1/2 c. chopped nuts
2 small pkgs. pistachio flavored instant pudding
8 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat)
1 c. powdered sugar
2 1/2 c. milk (fat free)
8 oz. Cool Whip (light)

Mix together flour, butter, and nuts like pie crust. Put in bottom of 9x13 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until fluff. Spread on cooled crust.

Yields: 20 servings
Mix the pudding with 2 1/2 c. milk according to pkg. directions. Spread in pan.

Top with the Cool Whip, and sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.
Keep refrigerated (can also be frozen).

I'm thinking I'm kind of craving another piece now...

And my baby picture for the day: Baby and Daddy!

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 217Calories from fat 125
% Daily Value
Total Fat 13.9g21%
Saturated Fat 8.5g43%
Cholesterol 27mg9%
Sodium 340mg14%
Total Carbs 20.4g7%
Dietary Fiber 0.6g2%
Sugars 10.3g
Protein 3.4g
Vitamin A 7%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 6%Iron 3%

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Penne Alla Vodka -- Part Two (And other really BIG news!)

So I realize that my posts have been far and few between as of late -- and I apologize for that. But life has gotten very hectic lately (more on that later).

Anyway, I made Jules54's Penne Alla Vodka the other day and took some pictures to go with my previous post with the recipe. Click here for the recipe. The sauce turned out much better for me this time. I'm not really sure why (maybe I let it reduce too far last time?), but it was still as delicious as I remembered. Definitely a keeper!

And now for the huge news. I have been super super busy lately, trying to finish making my wedding invitations (to be mailed out on the 28th) which has been consuming a lot of my free time. AND, today, my sister had her first child!
Meet Michael David everybody! How handsome!!!! He was such a little doll when I was with him earlier. He only cried when they gave him his first bath.

I still can't get over how adorable he is. :)

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Bridal Shower for my Roommate

I absolutely love parties, get-togethers, anything that requires preparation and thought about what's going to happen. Unfortunately, I rarely every get to attend, much less host such occasions. Lucky for me, my roommate, Laura, is getting married in the middle of July. With myself and my sister moving away from DC, we decided to go ahead and host a bridal shower for her.

It wasn't difficult to come up with the theme for the party, as the two of us always cook together and try out new recipes -- kitchen themed it was. We simply had the guests fill out a recipe card with their favorite recipe and another card with advice for her.

(The lovely Bride-to-Be)

Being the one that is interested in food, it fell to me to design the menu (although Jen did help quite a bit). Below is what we decided on serving, and we definitely had left-overs as we only had 12 people at the shower (not that we're complaining).

I will say that I was super rushed to take these pictures (long story) and my battery was dying, so I don't have pictures of everything (but what I don't have pics of was store bought, so not a big deal).

Laura's Bridal Shower Menu

Tres Leches cake
from Liz's Bakery in the Kentlands

original recipe from Nemmie
(click title for recipe)

Joy's Prizewinning Trifle
(recipe follows below, made by Jen)

Chocolate-Covered Raspberry Tarts
original recipe
(click title for recipe)

Parmesan Artichoke Dip
Allison McFarland
(see recipe below)


Hummus and Pita Chips

Fruit and Marshmallow Dip
family recipe
(see recipe below)

Overall I think the party went really well, and everybody enjoyed the food and went home full! I just wish I could throw another party soon (without any distractions 30 minutes before party time)!

Joy's Prizewinning Trifle

1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1 (9 inch) angel food cake
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
3 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
3 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 (15 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 sprig fresh mint

In a medium bowl, fold sour cream and unprepared pudding mix into the whipped topping.

Cut the cake into thirds, horizontally.

Line a large trifle or other glass serving bowl with kiwi and strawberry slices, reserving two whole strawberries and two kiwi slices. Place one layer of cake in bottom of bowl, top with 1/3 of bananas and pineapple, and 1/3 of whipped topping mixture. Repeat layering until all ingredients are used.

Make fan garnishes of whole strawberries by slicing from just below the stem. Garnish assembled trifle with fanned strawberries, reserved kiwi slices, and a sprig of mint. Refrigerate until serving.

Parmesan Artichoke Dip
from: Allison McFarland

8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1/2 c. light mayo
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tomato, diced (optional)

Mix all but tomato with mixed on medium. Put into 9" pie pan. Bake at 350 for 25 min. Sprinkle with tomatoes.

Fresh Fruit Dip
Family Recipe

1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 7 oz. package marshmallow creme

Combine softened cream cheese and marshmallow creme. Mix until well blended. Serve with fresh fruite or cookies as dippers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Peanut-Crusted Chicken w/Pineapple Salsa

I just love it when 6:00 rolls around and no one has even started to think about dinner. This is why I wish we made a weekly menu at the start of each week. So I run upstairs and grab my Cooking Light magazines and start thumbing through them.

I get about 2 pages into the March issue when one of my starred recipes pops up -- in the "superfast" section. Awesome. It only takes 20 minutes to make. Even better. However, I have to run to the store first to get some of the ingredients. Frustrating.

But I ran to the store anyway (do they really not sell dry-roasted peanuts in anything smaller than a huge jar?). This recipe really did take only about 20 minutes to make, unlike many other recipes that say "20 minutes", but really take 30-40 if you haven't made it before.

Overall it was an okay recipe. My chicken turned out a little darker than the picture, which really had me worried at first. I cheated a bit and used canned pineapple chunks rather than chopped fresh pineapple, but I really didn't feel like going through all that work. Next time though, I would definitely either chop the pineapple up smaller, or double the recipe and throw it in a food processor first. The chicken took a lot longer than 2 minutes to cook, as well, but that really wasn't a big deal -- I kind of expected it.

Taste-wise, the chicken on it's own was rather bland, but the part with salsa on it was rather interesting. I've never really had a fruity salsa before and this one worked pretty well (as far as I know). I would probably make this again, with a few alterations.

Peanut-Crusted Chicken with Pineapple Salsa
Cooking Light, March '08

1 cup chopped fresh pineapple (I used canned pineapple chunks)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion (I used yellow onion)
1/3 c. unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
1 (1 oz) slice white bread (I used wheat)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
4 (4 oz) chicken cutlets
1 1/2 tsp. canola oil
Cooking spray
Cilantro springs (optional)

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small dowl, tossing well.

Combine peanuts and bread slice in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over chicken. Dredge chicken in the breadcrumb mixture.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking-spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Serve chicken with pineapple mixture. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Yields: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 341Calories from fat 149
% Daily Value
Total Fat 16.6g25%
Saturated Fat 3.3g17%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 101mg34%
Sodium 439mg18%
Total Carbs 10.9g4%
Dietary Fiber 1.8g7%
Sugars 4.7g
Protein 36.8g
Vitamin A 2%Vitamin C 31%
Calcium 5%Iron 13%

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yay Stir-Fry!

Originally, we had Laura's amazing Arroz con Pollo planned for dinner tonight since Jen and Marion had friends flying in from out of town. However, due to those said friends flying in, they opted for Dave & Buster's followed by a Peruvian restaurant instead. Not that I blame them. That Peruvian restaurant is pretty amazing. Especially the yuca fries.

So, that pretty much left Laura and I to fend for ourselves for dinner. Seeing as it was pretty late already, we decided to grab something simple out of the pantry. Luckily, I had thought ahead a few weeks ago and had stocked up on my stir-fry ingredients.

A quick warning about the recipe... I came up with this recipe a few years ago back in college -- thus it pretty much has no measurements for any of the seasonings. However, I will say that this is one recipe that my roommate and I would eat past the point of being full.

Original Recipe

Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Frozen peas or brocolli
1 can baby corn
1 can white chicken chunk
1 can waterchestnuts
Kikkoman Stir-Fry Sauce
Soy Sauce
Teriyaki Sauce (optional)
Ground Ginger
Cayenne Red Pepper

1 cup uncooked white rice
2 cups water
1 tbsp. butter/margarine

To prepare rice: In a medium saucepan, combine rice, water, and butter. Bring to a boil on stovetop. Once boil is achieved, cover and lower heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and remove from heat. Recover and let sit for 5 minutes.

To prepare stir-fry: Add about 2-3 tbsp. EVOO to a large frying pan. Place the pan on the stove over the highest heat. Once the oil has heated up, add the garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes.

Add any frozen vegetables. Once the frozen vegetables have thawed, add the chicken and remaining vegetables. Drizzle stir-fry sauce heavily over vegetables. Pour soy sauce over vegetables until sauce is about 1/4" thick or more at the bottom of the pan. (You can also add the teriyaki sauce if desired at this point.) Mix well.

Gently shake ginger (about 5-6 shakes) over stir-fry. Gently shake curry (5-6 shakes) over stir-fry. Shake cayenne red pepper (8-9 shakes) over stir-fry. Mix well.

Allow sauce to reduce until almost gone.

Serve over rice.

Yields: 2-3 servings

This recipe is really great to play around with. Basically any type of veggie works -- I've made it with peppers, mushrooms, and lots of others as well, the ones mentioned just happen to be my favorite.

As for seasoning the sauce -- it really just goes by taste. The more red pepper you add, the spicier it will be, so make sure you don't go overboard. I typically try and keep the ginger the smallest amount of the 3 spices I add, and the red pepper the most. Super tasty!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mmmm Gooey Chocolate Cakes...

So yesterday I'm sitting in the kitchen, thinking about starting on my ravioli, when my sister starts digging through the fridge. She looks at me and asks if I have anything planned for dinner. I say, yes, that ravioli. She looks relieved, then says that she's had a craving all day. Worried that I might have to switch dinner again, I ask her what she's been craving. "Chocolate cupcakes."

Immediately, the Gooey Chocolate Cakes from the "Tuesdays with Dorie" group pop into mind. I had seen a few of the blogs who had participated, and left me craving, but I had up to this point fought off the temptation. Now, I know I'm not part of the TWD group -- not that I wouldn't like to be, but with my schedule the way it is, I really don't want to commit myself to something I'm not sure I'll be able to consistantly follow through with.

I ended up using the recipe from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, as her Gooey Chocolate Cake with the raspberry sauce really caught my eye. Unfortunately, I didn't have a nice raspberry sauce to smother my cakes in, so I ended up just going for the old tried-and-true topping -- Redi-Whip and strawberries.


As noted my many people who made these, they are fairly simple to make. I didn't even melt my chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water -- I just put it in a saucepan on low heat and it worked just fine.

I also used my 4 oz ramekins from when I made my chocolate cake and fondant a while back, instead of using 6 muffin tins.

However, the only slight mess-up I had was pulling them out of the oven. At 13 minutes, the centers still looked super gooey, so I thought I might have problems when I was trying to get them out of the pans, so I left them in the oven for another 3 minutes. This ended up drying out the edges of the cakes slightly, but the middle was absolutely perfect!

I'm so glad I tried this!

Gooey Chocolate Cake

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces coarsely chopped milk chocolate (I used semi-sweet)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons of sugar

Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. butter (or spray – it’s easier) 6 cups of a regular-size muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted – you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until homogeneous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don’t beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake the cakes for 13 minutes. Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)

Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3-minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatula to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 349Calories from fat 214
% Daily Value
Total Fat 23.7g37%
Saturated Fat 14.6g73%
Cholesterol 150mg50%
Sodium 246mg10%
Total Carbs 30.8g10%
Dietary Fiber 1.7g7%
Sugars 22.6g
Protein 5.4g
Vitamin A 13%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 6%Iron 8%

Finally! Homemade Pasta!

Oh my goodness! So after I posted yesterday, my internet went out AGAIN. So I'm praying and crossing my fingers that my connection remains good while I'm trying to post this.

Annnyway. I think I've gone Cooking Light crazy lately. Or something. Maybe it's just that I've gotten a fresh batch of recipes that I want to try, and the source really doesn't have anything to do with it. I don't know. But I do wish that I could subscribe to the CL magazine -- if only I wasn't moving in a month and a half.

I saw this recipe in the new April issue, and the whole "make your own pasta" kind of intrigued me. I've never made it before, never had it before, so I wanted to know if it really was that much better than the dried stuff bought in the store.

I know I mentioned yesterday that I searched high and low for that dang chickpea flour. Well, I never did find it. I even went to Trader Joe's in a last ditch effort after work yesterday, but nothing. I gave up and just used regular flour instead -- like the other pasta recipes called for.

Problem number two -- to make the dough, you need a food processor with a food chute, one of which I do not have. So I figured the blender with the hole in top would suffice. And it did. The dough came together quite nicely until the very end when it started getting thick. Then it caused the blender to pop off the rubber rotator underneath, which it then promptly tore to shreds. I killed my sister's blender -- oops. Good thing she thought it didn't work to begin with.

After letting the dough sit for half and hour and mixing up the chickpea paste for the inside of the ravioli, I'm ready to start making my stuffed pasta. The recipe says "lightly flour." Ha. I continually fought with the pasta sticking to the counter, which increased the time it took to make these. Which was long enough as it was. Yes, I really didn't think it would take forever and a day to make all these raviolis, but it did.

I actually ran out of the chickpea paste before I ran out of dough (although that made me very happy), so I just resorted to making the hand-rolled pasta that was a few pages before the ravioli.

I realize that my ravioli look absolutely horrid in all of these pictures. It was a lot more difficult than I expected it to be.

But I made them, ugly as can be, but they were there. And tasty. I was a little leary of what the whole "chickpea with basil pesto and hazelnuts" flavor was going to be. Especially since the paste smelled very lemony when I was mixing it up.

However, once everything was said and done, it was absolutely declicious. Mine was a little cold since they were the first raviolis out of the pot and I had been taking pictures of them -- but it was still delicious. It was totally not the taste I was expecting. The red pepper in the pesto definitely give it a little kick.

Very very good. And if it wasn't so time consuming to make these, I would defintely make these fairly often. As my sister said when I asked if we should keep the recipe, "Well, I'll definitely eat them again."

Chickpea Ravioli with Basil Pesto and Hazelnuts
From: Cooking Light, April '08

1 1/3 c. plus 10 tbsp. all-purpose flour (about 9 oz)
2/3 c. chickpea flour (I just used the all-purpose flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. EVOO
2 large eggs
2 cups drained and rinsed canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp. mascarpone cheese
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. grated whole nutmeg (I just used the ground nutmeg)
1 small garlic clove
6 qts. water
1 tbsp. kosher salt (I used regular salt)

2 c. packed basil leaves
2/3 c. fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 c. (1 oz.) fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (regular salt again)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp. EVOO

Remaining ingredient:
3 tbsp. chopped hazelnutes, toasted (didn't do the whole toasted part)

To prepare pasta, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor; process 30 seconds. Combine 5 tbsp water, 1 tbsp oil, and eggs, stirring well. (A) With processor running, slowly pour water mixture through food chute, processing just until dough forms a ball. (B) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 6 times. Shape dough into a disk. Dust dough lightly with flour; wrap in plastic wrap. Let stand 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 14 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), press dough flat. (C) Roll 2 dough portions into 18x3-inch rectangles (turning dough over occasionally and dusting surface lightly with flour). Lay pasta sheets flat; cover.

Combine chickpeas and next 6 ingredients (through 1 clove garlic) in a food processor; process until smooth. Place 1 pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface. (D) Spoon about 1 1/2 tsp. filling mixture 1 1/2 inches from left edge of sheet; spoon 1 1/2 tsp. filling mixture at 3-inch intervals along the length of sheet. (E) Moisten edges and in between each filling portion with water; place remaining pasta sheet on top, pressing to seal. Cut pasta sheet into 6 (3x3-inch) ravioli, trimming edges with a sharp knife or pastry wheel. Brsh excess flour from ravioli; (F) press gently to flatten tops. Place ravioli on a lightly floured baking sheet (cover with a damp towel to prevent drying). Repeat procedure with the remaining dough portions and filling mixture to form 42 ravioli.

Bring 6 quarts of water and 1 tbsp. salt to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add 6 ravioli to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until no longer translucent. Remove ravioli from water with a slotted spoon. Place ravioli on a tray, making sure they do not overlap; cover and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining ravioli.

To prepare pesto, combine basil and next 5 ingredients (through 1 garlic clove) in a food processor; process until smooth. With processor on, slowly pour 1 1/2 tbsp. oil through food chute; process until well blended. Serve with ravioli. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Yield: 7 servings of 6 ravioli each.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 490Calories from fat 119
% Daily Value
Total Fat 13.2g20%
Saturated Fat 2.7g13%
Cholesterol 66mg22%
Sodium 581mg24%
Total Carbs 73.0g24%
Dietary Fiber 11.6g47%
Sugars 6.6g
Protein 20.8g
Vitamin A 12%Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 14%Iron 36%

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Day Late, A Dollar Short

This was last night's dinner, but due to some very irritating internet glitches, I haven't been able to post this until today. SO Frustrating!

Anyway, so I fully intended on making the Chickpea Ravioli out of April's Cooking Light magazine last night, however, the recipe calls for "chickpea flour". I went to at least 5 different grocery stores, including regular ones, Whole Foods Market, and an Italian grocery. Nada. And by the time I was finished... it was well after 6pm and I really didn't feel like messing with it at that point.

So I grabbed the March issue of Cooking Light and pulled out the Parmesan Chicken and Rice Casserole I had wanted to try. (Luckily though, I had already bought the ingredients for it.)

Once again, I switched out a few of the ingredients and, once again, I'm sure it messed with how it all ended up. I used regular medium-grain white rice instead of the boil-in-bag brown rice, and the rice was definitely undercooked (still edible though).

I also switched out the chicken thighs for chicken breasts, and that actually turned out okay.

Overall, I really liked the rice with the onion and garlic in it -- but the chicken seemed like it ended up a bit plain. Maybe marinate it a bit in some white wine and thyme next time?

And I apologize for crappy pictures.

Parmesan Chicken and Rice Casserole
From: Cooking Light, March '08

Cooking spray
1 c. chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (3.5 oz.) bags boil-in-bag brown rice
1/3 c. dry white wine
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 4 chicken breasts)
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp. whipping cream
1/3 c. (1 1/2 oz) shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion to pan; saute 2 minutes. Add garlic; saute 30 secs. Remove rice from bags; add to pan. Saute 30 seconds. Stir in wine; cook 30 seconds or until liquid almost evaporates. Spoon rice mixture in an even layer into a 9x13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Arrange chicken thighs in a single layer over rice mixture; sprinkle evenly with thyme and salt. Combine broth and cream, stirring well; pour over chicken and rice mixture.

Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is done.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 499Calories from fat 142
% Daily Value
Total Fat 15.8g24%
Saturated Fat 6.2g31%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 121mg40%
Sodium 749mg31%
Total Carbs 42.4g14%
Dietary Fiber 2.4g9%
Sugars 1.5g
Protein 40.9g
Vitamin A 5%Vitamin C 5%
Calcium 15%Iron 16%


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