Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Penne with Asparagus & Pecorino Cheese

Every once in a while I crave a nice light dish for dinner. Usually this happens after a couple meat heavy or sauce laden meals.

Or after I step on the scale and say "well hello extra 5 pounds, where did you come from"? Nothing like swimsuit season to amplify those extra pounds.

Sigh. Time to put away the brownies and pull out the veggies. As painful as that might be, my jeans will thank me for it. And maybe even my shorts. With the bright flavor from the lemon and the crisp from the asparagus, pulling a switcheroo with the brownies might not be so bad after all.

Penne with Asparagus and Pecorino Cheese

Adapted from: Cooking Light, April 2011

8 ounces uncooked penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.

Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes, or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer asparagus to a medium bowl; set aside and keep warm. Add broth, lemon zest, and garlic to skillet. Reduce liquid to 1/2 cup, about 6 minutes. Return asparagus to the pan. Stir in pasta, grated cheese, salt, and pepper. Top servings with 1 1/2 teaspoons shaved cheese.

Serves: 4 (1 1/4 cups pasta mixture plus 1 1/2 teaspoons shaved cheese)

While I consider this a "light" dish, it's still pretty filling. Well, at least Adam wasn't hungry after half an hour, which is always a good sign. Not to mention the fact that this dish comes together in under 30 minutes. Which leaves you even more time to be out and about in the sunshine instead of hovering over the stove. Win.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 332Calories from fat 125
% Daily Value
Total Fat 13.9g21%
Saturated Fat 4.8g24%
Cholesterol 64mg21%
Sodium 676mg28%
Total Carbs 36.9g12%
Fiber 2.6g10%
Sugars 2.4g
Protein 16.0g
Vitamin A 19%Vitamin C 14%
Calcium 27%Iron 26%

Monday, June 20, 2011

Red Velvet Brownies

I'm such a tease. I promise you brownies then run away for a week and a half. Honestly, that wasn't my intention.

There was a lot of this involved:

A little bit of this:

And a whole lot driving through this:

Ahem, yes. I may have driven all the way from the Minneapolis airport to Aberdeen, South Dakota, then up to southwestern North Dakota for a week.

Not really recommended unless you enjoy hunting pheasants and deer with your car, which I unintentionally tried to do on multiple occasions. This, however, is where my grandparents and a couple of my aunts and uncles live, thus, my mom, sister, her two kiddos, and I all made the trek out there after my cousin's wedding.

Details, details. Brownies are far more important, are they not?

Especially when they are red velvet and topped with a white chocolate buttercream. Delicious? Absolutely.

Red Velvet Brownies

Adapted from: How Sweet It Is

3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chocolate chips

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces white chocolate, melted
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 8 x 8 baking dish.

Stir together cocoa powder, red food coloring, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix in cocoa powder mixture, beating until batter is completely red (add more food coloring if desired). Stir in flour and salt, mixing until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth and fluffy. Add vanilla. Slowly stir in powdered sugar. Mix in melted white chocolate and beat until incorporated. Add milk with mixer on low speed until consistency desired is achieved.

Makes: 16 bars

These brownies come together fairly quick, and use mostly pantry staples. That's a big win for me. No extra trips to the grocery store. Although this can deplete your vanilla and red food coloring stores in the blink of an eye. Especially when you make multiple batches of these. Not like I would do that or anything. Err, or maybe I would.

These turned out exactly as expected, almost like a very dense and compact version of a red velvet cake. But instead of cake you have a brownie, which is far easier to pick up and eat while passing by. And that, my friends, is why batch #2 went to work with Adam instead of staying home with me.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 290Calories from fat 114
% Daily Value
Total Fat 12.7g19%
Saturated Fat 7.9g39%
Cholesterol 49mg16%
Sodium 114mg5%
Total Carbs 42.5g14%
Fiber 0.8g3%
Sugars 33.8g
Protein 2.7g
Vitamin A 6%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 3%Iron 5%

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Adam just turned 26 a couple weeks ago. Which pains him, as it makes him as old as I am. He can't use his "you're older than I am" jokes for another 5 months. Poor baby. We celebrated with his traditional spaghetti dinner and a new cell phone (for him, obviously, and I am so jealous).

And that was that. Or so he thought.

In all reality, I had been planning a surprise birthday party for him at our place since the beginning of the month. As his birthday fell in the middle of the week, I planned the party for Saturday night. Not just any ol' surprise birthday party -- but one with a whiskey/bourbon/scotch tasting thrown into the mix.

What on earth do you server for dinner with that? How about some finger-lickin' Whiskey-glazed ribs, vegetarian Sloppy Joes, cheesy corn, shaved asparagus salad, and lots and lots of desserts. I mean, there are going to be some drunken munchies later. (Though really, those just happen anyways at 2 in the morning.) And what are Adam's favorite desserts? Blueberry cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory and brownies.

Ok, well, I was buying some baby back ribs to feed 8 people, so I wasn't about to run out and spend a small fortune on a cheesecake. So I made these instead. Which, I have to admit, are much easier to pick up and gobble down than cutting a slice of cheesecake and hunting down a fork. And I'm not sure we missed the cheesecake either as these were pretty darn tasty themselves. As for the brownies? Oh those are coming, don't you worry.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from: Kraft Foods

1/2 cup butter
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
2 eggs
2 (8 ounce) packages reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pint fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13 pan with foil, set aside.

In a large bowl, microwave butter until melted, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Add cake mix and 1 egg. Beat with a mixture on medium until well combined. Transfer 2/3 of the dough to the prepared pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan forming a crust.

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Add the remaining egg, zest, and juice, mixing well. Pour cream cheese mixture over crust. Top with blueberries. Flatten small pinches of the remaining dough between fingers, and lightly press into the cream cheese layer.

Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool completely. Lift the bars from the pan using the foil, then cut into 24 bars. Keep refrigerated.

Makes: 24 bars

I have to admit, I've been fairly impressed with Kraft's dessert recipes. I always get the skeptical look, and the "oh, you're serious? You got that recipe from there?" when people find out where I found the recipe. And yet they always comment on how tasty the dessert is. These were no exception.

Creamy, cakey, blueberry-y. Really. What more could you want in a bite-sized little bar of goodness? Besides no calories. Although, as we all know, if it's a birthday treat, those don't exist anyways.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 225Calories from fat 120
% Daily Value
Total Fat 13.3g21%
Saturated Fat 7.1g35%
Cholesterol 47mg16%
Sodium 230mg10%
Total Carbs 24.2g8%
Fiber 0.7g3%
Sugars 15.3g
Protein 3.0g
Vitamin A 8%Vitamin C 5%
Calcium 5%Iron 4%

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Light Brioche Burger Buns

There are some days that dinner time rolls around and I groan. The kitchen is the last place I want to be, and making dinner is the last thing I want to be doing. Those are our delivery pizza/fast food take-out days.

Unfortunately those days have been getting more and more frequent. I blame the weather. Even though the rain and/or heat really has nothing to do with it. In mind it's summer. And summer = being lazy. At least in my book.

So I made some crock-pot pulled pork. Then felt guilty because it was SO easy, and I really wasn't doing anything the rest of the day. So I felt compelled to try my hand at making my own hamburger buns after having a very delicious recipe tucked away for a while. Well, that and we didn't have any hamburger buns at the house. Summer = lazy, remember? I really just didn't want to go to the store.

Would it have been easier to just buck it up and go to the store for some buns? Probably. But honestly, these really weren't that difficult to make, they just took a little time. And quality-wise? Oh-so-much better than those $0.99 buns I have a habit of picking up. Sorry, I'm a cheap-skate on certain things, can't be helped.

Light Brioche Burger Buns

Adapted from: Susi's Kochen Und Backen Adventures

3 tablespoons warm milk (105-115 degrees F)
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Combine milk, 1 cup water, yeast, and sugar in a glass measuring cup, stirring well. Let sit for about 5 minutes, or until the top is foamy. In a small bowl, lightly beat one egg.

In the large work bowl of a mixer, stir together both flours and salt. Cut in butter until crumbs form. Add the egg and yeast mixture to the flour. Mix together with the dough hook attachment on low. Once combined, increase the speed to medium until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes (or 8-10 minutes if you are kneading by hand). The finished dough may be slightly sticky (do not add additional flour).

Transfer the dough to a clean work area and into a ball. Place the down in a greased bowl, flipping once to coat entirely. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free location until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.

Remove dough from the bowl and place on a clean work area. Punch the dough down, then let rest for about 5 minutes. Divide the dough equally into 10 sections and shape each into a ball. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the dough balls to the baking sheet, spacing them out 2-3 inches. Cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray. Let rise for an additional 1-2 hours until doubled in size.

Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, beat together 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash on top of each bun. Sprinkle the buns with sesame seeds. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Makes: 10 buns

There are certain things that make a hamburger bun a "good quality" bun. You don't want the bun to be so overly soft that any liquid renders it a smooshy sticky mess within minutes of slapping on that burger patty, pulled pork, or sloppy joe mix. Yet you don't want the outside to be so crusty that biting into it squishes everything between the bun out the back. These buns are a nice happy mix. The buns have a nice soft center, yet are totally capable of handling saucy heavy fillings without falling apart or going squishy. As for my favorite part, there is just a very light hint of sweetness to the bun as well. I will definitely be making these again next time we have any recipe calling for a hamburger bun (well, time permitting). :)

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 209Calories from fat 41
% Daily Value
Total Fat 4.5g7%
Saturated Fat 2.3g11%
Cholesterol 48mg16%
Sodium 386mg16%
Total Carbs 35.6g12%
Fiber 1.3g5%
Sugars 3.6g
Protein 6.0g
Vitamin A 3%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2%Iron 13%


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