Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Turkey Panini with Mushrooms and Spinach

Making a panini is a super easy way to dress up a sandwich into a fancy-feeling lunch.  All that I do for this panini is throw some spinach and mushrooms into a pan with some olive oil for a few minutes, until I decide that they're cooked enough for my sandwich. 

Then I stack my sandwich with turkey, spinach and mushrooms, and provolone cheese.

And put it in my panini press.  

No panini press?

Our panini press is sort of like a George Foreman grill - so you could probably also use one of those.  

They also make panini press pans with a lid.

Or - you can just use the bottom of another pan to smash the top of your sandwich.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Easy Shake-n-bake Chicken

All you have to do is combine these in a bag...

shake your chicken in it, and bake it to get this....

As you can see, we prefer chicken legs...
But it's also because they come in 4 packs, and if we got other pieces it'd be way too much for 2 of us.
TA-DAH! Simple.

Here's the recipe I used, once again original from allrecipes.com.  I halved everything and estimated the 1/8 tsp amounts, and also used less salt.  I also added the garlic and onion powder.  Some of the reviewers said it's good without putting butter on before putting in the spice mixture... so I did 2 legs rubbed in olive oil and then in the spice mixture, and 2 with nothing but the spices so that we could compare.  Nick and I vote for definitely using olive oil or butter before putting it in the spices- the skin tastes SO much better.

Easy Shake n bake chicken:

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 sage
1/4 black pepper
couple shakes garlic powder
and onion powder
olive oil or 1/2 cup melted butter

Prepare flour and spices by dumping in a large ziploc bag.  Rub chicken pieces with olive oil or melted butter.  Toss them in a bag with the spices.  Shake... then move to a pan... and bake.

Source: allrecipies.com, added by Candy

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

I was so excited for these!  So excited!  Well, for some reason I didn't realize that thumbprint cookies are shortbread.  Are they always shortbread?  Am I crazy because I thought I used to like thumbprints better?  And I mean, I made them, I should have known.  I think it even said somewhere on Brown eyed baker's blog, or on some other thumbprint recipe I was researching.  I just don't love shortbread.  Oh well.  Nick likes shortbread, he says they're really good.

This recipe is from brown eyed baker's blog and can be found here.  The chocolate inside is really yummy.  I did not have corn syrup for it though... so I google searched until I found a substitute I felt good about - which was 1 cup sugar and 1/4 water for each cup of corn syrup.  This replacement made it more of a glaze - still tastes fabulous - but doesn't look as pretty as in the pictures on BEB's blog, probably because hers is thicker.

Also, as you can see from the pictures, my cookies cracked a lot when I made the middle print in them.  Suggestions?  Was 10 minutes too long from them to cook before I did this?  Maybe I should print them before they're cooked at all?  Anyway, I used the back of a teaspoon to make the print.  I did a few with my thumb to see if it would crack less... but it was too hot, and didn't really make a difference.

I'm full of questions today.  Next one... is it okay to use salted butter and leave out the salt instead of using unsalted butter?  Because I did.  But I give you the unsalted recipe below.

Recipe: Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
• 1 stick of unsalted butter + 2 Tbsp. butter
• 1/2 cup powdered sugar
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 3/4 tsp. corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350°.  Beat together 1 stick butter and sugar.  Add salt and vanilla.  Beat on medium-high until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the flour, beginning on low and increase to medium-high.  Make your cookies the size of heaping teaspoons. Roll them into balls and place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and make an indentation with your thumb (or the back of a teaspoon or other round kitchen gadget).  Return to oven and bake 7-9 minutes more, until they are golden brown.  Move to a wire rack to cool.

Combine chocolate, 2 Tbsp. butter and corn syrup in a double boiler.  Stir until mixture is combined and smooth.  Allow to cool slightly.  Once cookies are cool fill them with the chocolate mixture.

Here's my process:

Here's where the problem comes in... look what happened when I made the prints.
They REALLY cracked.  Anyway, post baking.

Filled with yummy chocolate!

I told Nick that before posting this I needed to re-taste-test to see how I feel about them.  A day later I'm a little more forgiving of the cookies being shortbread because I just love the chocolate filling.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mac n Cheese

You know what I love about homemade mac n cheese?  It's so easy.  You make it once and you're an expert.  Okay, maybe I'm not an expert... but I decided I could make up my own recipe since this was the second time I did it.  Okay, okay, maybe I didn't make up my own recipe either.  But I kinda used the amount I wanted to use of ingredients instead of the amount this recipe told me to.  I recommend way more cheese than most recipes will tell you.  That's how we like it anyway. :)

My mac n cheese make-it-up-as-you-go recipe:
• 1/4 cup butter
• 2 Tbsp. flour
• 1 cup milk
• 6 oz. velveeta
• 1 cup cheddar cheese
• 1/2 box macaroni
• bread crumbs (I used bread crumbs - you should definitely use crushed crackers though)

Melt butter.  Add milk, flour, and cheeses and melt together.  Cook pasta and mix together with melted cheese mixture in a pot.  Crush 6-8 Ritz crackers and mix with 1 Tbsp. melted butter.  Move macaroni to an oven safe dish and cover with cracker crumbs.  Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until heated through.

Or you could not heat it in the oven with the crackers.  It'd probably be just as good.

But seriously, don't use bread crumbs.  Especially when you're like me and you have crackers and are just too lazy to crush them.  It's really worth it to use crackers.  (I did the first time I made homemade mac n cheese)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pesto Tortellini

Recipe here on Carrie's Sweet Life blog

Made this for dinner the other night.
I give it a 10 / 10 for being pretty much effortless, and still tasting good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Honey Wheat Bread

This bread came with minimal instructions.  It also said at the bottom of the recipe:  "This recipe was provided by professional chefs, and therefore may be difficult to reproduce in the home."
I took that as a challenge.  

The recipe can be found here, at the foodnetwork.com.

I think that Nick prefers another wheat bread recipe that one of his cousins gave me and I made in the Fall.  I can't tell which I like better when I'm not taste testing them at the same time.  This one is a little wheatier, in taste and in the amount of wheat flour vs. white flour.  My goal was to find a good recipe with a lot of wheat flour.

This is how I made the bread... I halved most of the original recipe, but kept the honey and brown sugar the same.  It made one loaf.  I like this bread and would definitely make it again... but also want to keep trying other bread recipes.

• 1 1/4 cups warm water
• 1/2 package dry yeast - 1 1/8 tsp.  - I just used a little less than 1 1/4 tsp.
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 stick butter
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 3/4 cup wheat flour
• 3/4 cup dry oatmeal
• 2 cups bread flour

Let yeast soak in warm water until it foams (5-10 minutes).  Combine brown sugar and butter.  Add honey and continue to mix.  Mix in water and yeast, salt, flours, and oats.  Mix with dough hook until it is evenly mixed.  Flour a surface and hands for kneading.  Knead 7-10 minutes or until dough is smooth   (I'm not sure I'll ever know what that means - I knead usually a couple minutes longer that I'm supposed to because I feel like I'm not very good at it - can you knead too much?)  Let bread rise until doubled in size, punch down and shape into loaves.  Let double in size again.  Bake at 375° 30-35 minutes or until crusty and brown on top.

*When I knead the dough I tend to add lots of flour because it is so sticky.  I made this twice and added about 1/2 cup of extra wheat flour each time.  Next time I'll probably leave about 1/2 cup out of the recipe and purposely add that much when kneading so that I stay closer to the recipe.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate cake with Mocha Icing

I definitely recommend BOTH of these recipes.  The mocha icing with the chocolate cake is SO GOOD. Luckily for us I still have some cupcakes that I made with the extra batter and icing...which may or may not have been my breakfast this morning.

This was the finished decorated cake. 
There's also little flowers around the outside.
These pictures were my inspiration. I knew I wanted chocolate on chocolate so I google-imaged cakes with chocolate icing and went from there.  So many cute ideas out there!  Anyway, these are my wanna-be-like-those cupcakes.

ANYWAY - the recipes! 

Chocolate cake from the foodnetwork.com

• 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
• 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 1 tsp. salt
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare two 9 inch cake pans* by brushing on crisco, sprinkling with flour, then tapping out extra.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl combine eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Beat well.  Slowly add boiling water and continue to mix.  Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and mix until smooth.  Pour batter into prepared pan(s).  Bake for:
9 x 1 1/2 in pans 30-35 minutes
9 x 2 in pans 40-45 minutes

*I decided after completing this recipe that every cake that I make from now on I am going to measure how much batter it makes and use this chart to help me figure stuff out.  I find it annoying that every recipe makes a different amount of batter, and I never know how much extra I'm going to have.  And prepare two 9 inch cake pans?  Do you mean two  9 x 1/2 inch?  Or two 9 x 2 inch?  Generally they mean 9 x 1/2 inch, but recently I've been into the 9 x 2 inch.  For this recipe, I used a 9 x 2 inch cake pan and made an additional 12 cupcakes.  

(I used the recipe we used in class but added chocolate and coffee as suggested on this site)

• 1 cup solid white vegetable shortening
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 8-9 tsp milk/coffee (split half and half, or add milk/coffee to taste)
• 1 lb. 10x sugar
• 1 Tbsp. Wilton Meringue Powder
• three 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted (OR 3/4 cup cocoa)

Cream shortening, vanilla, and milk/coffee.  Add chocolate and continue to mix.  Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until thoroughly mixed.  Blend until creamy.  

One recipe of icing was enough for me to do everything you see in the pictures.  (Ice the cake, make a top and bottom border, ice some of my cupcakes, and practice my borders a little)

This makes 2 1/2 cups STIFF icing. 
To make a border, make a design on your cupcakes, etc. with your icing you should make MEDIUM consistency icing by adding 1 tsp. of milk or coffee for each cup of STIFF icing that you are converting.
To ice your cake (or write on it) you should have THIN consistency icing.  Add 2 tsp. of water for every cup of STIFF consistency icing (that would be 5 tsp. for the full recipe)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oven baked BBQ Pork Ribs

Well... I forgot to take a nice picture of the ribs.  So we have this half eaten picture from the first day.  I meant to set them up nice when we finished our leftovers... oh well.  You get the idea.

Giant Eagle has buy one get one pork sometimes... this week - I think it's this week still going on until Thursday - they had boneless pork ribs buy one get one and they had boneless pork chops buy one get one.  So pork chop recipes to come maybe later this week.  The ribs were Friday.

Recently I have gone from using allrecipes.com to using the foodnetwork.com.  I'm not sure if this was a good switch or not.  I tried a Barbeque Pork Spare Ribs recipe from there and was not a huge fan.  Actually, the recipe had two mini-recipes, and I only followed one of them.  I made the "rub" and used KC Masterpiece for the BBQ sauce.  I figured using one or the other was good enough.  Anyway, the "rub" was a mix of a bunch of spices, as pictured below...

I just thought it was crazy how many things were in this, and thought a picture was necessary.  10 things to mix together just to rub on the ribs, not even including the sauce.  I halved everything and still had way too much.  Used even less than half of the peppers to make sure it wouldn't be too spicy.  It was still a little too spicy for me.

Dry Rub for BBQ Pork Spare ribs:
•1 Tbsp. salt
•2 tsp. black pepper
•1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
•2 Tbsp. brown sugar
•1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
•1 tsp. ground allspice
•1 Tbsp. chili powder
•1 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
•1 tsp. garlic powder
•1/2 tsp. dry mustard

I preheated the oven to 325°.  Then I mixed the ingredients for the rub in a bowl and lined a pan with foil.  I rubbed each rib with this and then put them very close in the foil lining.  Before putting them in the oven I got another piece of foil and put it on top and sealed it around the edges.  I started cooking them for about 10 minutes, then took them out to brush with sauce for the first time.  I brushed just enough to cover them completely with a very thin layer.  I let them cook like this for an hour, then turned the temp. down to 300°, brushed with sauce again, recovered and cooked for another hour and twenty minutes.

Nick liked them.  He said he would've said to save the recipe, except he knew I didn't like them.
I wasn't such a fan.  The rub was too much for me.  Next time (this was BOGO, remember!) if I used the same rub I would not put as much on.  Those ribs up there in that picture are pretty covered.  The sauce was good with some of the rub in it, but there was too much cooked onto the ribs.  OR - simpler is better.  I think I'd rather just find a new rub with fewer ingredients that might be better.  This post will have to have a sequel.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Marble cookies

Love these cookies.

Yesterday Kaitlin came over with her cute little nephew and we made cookies.  She brought a Mrs. Field's cookie cookbook, which I would recommend.  They had some awesome cookies...but being that we didn't pick a cookie ahead of time, we had to look for normal-ish cookies...cookies that we would already have all of the ingredients for.  We found these marble cookies, and just went for it.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl.
In mixing bowl cream sugar and butter together.  Add sour cream, egg, and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.  Add the flour mixture and mix on low.  Do not over mix!
In a double boiler melt the chocolate chips over hot, not boiling, water.  Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.  Fold into batter with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Do not mix chocolate completely into cookie dough.

Drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheet by tablespoons, about 2 inches apart.  Cook 23-25 minutes.  Do not brown.  Move to a wire rack to cool.

I think the reason I like these so much is because they are similar to chocolate chip cookies, but without the chunks.  I like that the chocolate is just mixed in instead.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

Looking around on the food network website the other day I found this page, which disgusted me with the amount of fat and calories in a typical fettuccine alfredo.  From there I found some links for "light" versions  and used one of those recipes (this one).  Alfredo sauce is easy to make and you do not need to use heavy cream for it... you probably already have all of the ingredients in your fridge!

The only problem was that there wasn't enough sauce.  I made a whole box of fettuccine which was enough for us to have hefty portions for 2 days.  The second day I made an extra recipe of sauce.  I would suggest making 1 1/2 times the recipe or just doubling it for sauce.  There could also probably be more chicken.  Considering it made about 4 servings, I might use 3-4 chicken breasts.  I also used 1% milk and eliminated the half and half from the recipe. 

 Here's how I adapted:  (Makes 4 large servings)

4 chicken tenders (or 2 chicken breasts) (I'd use more next time)
2 stalks of broccoli
1 box of fettuccine
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Garlic powder

Turn water on to boil for pasta.  Cook chicken in a pan with a little bit of oil.  If desired, cut up chicken into small pieces.  Chop broccoli and put in a pot with just enough water to cover the bottom.  Put on the lid and put the pot on med-low for 6 minutes or until broccoli is soft.  Set aside chicken and broccoli.
Begin cooking pasta and sauce.  For sauce: Melt butter over medium heat.  Add milk and mix until hot.  Whisk in cornstarch until mixture begins to thicken.  Add parmesan cheese and continue to heat and mix until desired consistency.  Sprinkle in garlic powder and parsley.  
Drain pasta and dump pasta and sauce into large pot.  Mix in chicken and broccoli.  If chicken and broccoli are no longer hot, put the lid on and let it sit on low for 2 minutes or until it's hot.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Happy Fat Tuesday!

Yesterday my mommy made punski and I went over to help fry them.  
She did all of the hard work though.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Garlic and Bacon Chip Dip

This recipe is on the food network website - Garlic and Bacon dip.  It's pretty much a glorified chip dip.  We really like it, and I would make it again... but it also kinda just tastes like chip dip.  It's better than store bought, with the fresh roasted garlic and actual pieces of bacon.... but still.  It's just chip dip.

I roasted garlic for the first time today, for this recipe.  Thanks brown eyed baker for the awesome how-to for roasting garlic!  It is so easy.  Really, all you have to do is cut off the pointy end so a little of each piece is cut off, pour on some olive oil and a little salt, and toss it in the oven.  I had it in at 400 degrees for 45 minutes and it was perfect.  This is my garlic preparing to be roasted.

For this super easy and yummy dip, all you need is:
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayo
6 slices chopped and crispy bacon
2 cloves roasted garlic
Worcestershire sauce (I forgot to add it until I just saw it on the recipe list now!  oops!)
Scallions or chives (optional - didn't add these either)

Cook your bacon and roast your garlic.  Chop garlic and bacon.  Mix Sour cream and mayo.  Add garlic and bacon and worcestershire sauce to taste.  

I think it gets better the longer it sits and the flavors mix.  I would suggest making it a day before you need to take it somewhere.  At first when we tasted it we tasted the sour cream and mayo, then a second later you taste bacon, with a garlic after-taste.  The longer it sat the more the flavors came together and it tasted much better.  

Also, learning from the last time I chopped and cooked bacon, I reversed the order - cooked, then chopped.  Had good crispy bacon.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chocolate milk

Earlier this week I decided I was going to make a Meyer Dairy jar full of chocolate milk as a surprise for Nick when he came home from work.  Meyer Dairy was where we always went in college to get milk, so for some reason I thought the chocolate milk would taste as good as it did from there.  I heated the milk to do it, and when he got home it was still in the cooling process, so it wasn't quite the surprise I was hoping for.  Besides this, my chocolate failed to melt all the way and there was little chunks of chocolate chips throughout.  Also, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips and it was not as sweet as normal chocolate milk.

The good news - it seemed to get better on the second day...and much better on the fourth.  It's also possible that we just drank most of the chocolate chunks off the top on the first day and it seemed to get better after they were gone.  It also just seemed smoother and more well mixed.

So here's what I did - took 6 cups of milk and heated it on the stove with 1 cup of chocolate chips until they were as melted as they were going to be.  I was watching Buddy Valastro on Kitchen Boss again and he said 2/3 cup chocolate chips to 4 cups of milk.  Then add vanilla when you take it off heat.  He made it on his breakfast show...but apparently it wasn't good enough to make it to the recipe site.  I should have taken that as a sign.

The problem was that the chocolate chips didn't fully melt.  Maybe this was just an issue with the Toll House chocolate chips.  Anyway, it made it so that you were drinking little tiny chocolate pieces (especially in the last sip) and it left a bunch behind in the bottom of the glass like this.

Maybe I just don't have the chemistry of cooking down: Would it have melted better if I melted the chocolate first and then added the milk?

Possible better option: Food Network Cocoa Syrup

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pot Roast

A Food Network recipe, from Dave Liberman.
Here is the link for the original recipe - Red Wine Pot Roast with Honey and Thyme.
I changed a few things...but mostly because I wasn't prepared with the right ingredients.  I had barely any honey so just used all that I had.  I thought it was interesting that it wanted me to brown the roast and sautee the vegetables first... I don't really know if it made a difference.

Bottom Round Roast
Salt & Pepper
olive oil
1 onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound baby carrots
2 cups beef broth (I use bullion cubes)
1 cup white wine - Okay, so the recipe called for red, but all we had was white and it was still good
2 1/2 Tablespoons honey
2 tsp. thyme
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed

Preheat oven to 350.  Preheat a pot to medium and heat oil.
(If you have an oven safe pot or dutch oven use it!)
Rub roast with salt and pepper.  Brown all sides in your pot, about 10 minutes total.  Set aside.  Add carrots, onions, and garlic and sautee for about 5 minutes.  Add broth, wine, honey and thyme and stir to combine.  Then add roast to liquid if you have an oven safe pot, or move it all to a roast pan.

Cover and bake for 2 hours, turning the meat over twice.  After 2 hours add the potatoes and remove the lid.  Bake for another 30-45 minutes, until both the potatoes and the meat are tender.

So...it was good.  The outside cuts were especially tender and really good.

My question - is it worth using good wine to cook?  Would it have been just as good if I used all broth?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Classic White Cake

This is a food network recipe... I will just link to it because I didn't change anything.
I'm not as willing to take baking risks yet, so I generally just follow instructions.
Here it is.  Classic white cake.

This is the cake that I made for cake class this past Monday that was decorated as the birthday cake.  It got good reviews from everybody at small group.... and it turned out to be close to 3 people's birthdays!  Yay!  Happy birthday guys!  

So, this was my first time filling a cake the way that is supposed to be the "correct" way - with icing around the outside to hold in the filling.  I always just used frosting in the middle.  I used to love to make double layer funfetti cakes.  Well this is similar...but better.  It seems way fancier with a different kind of filling!  Here is a picture of how I did it.

Pretty simple.  I filled a pastry bag with the icing I was using to ice the cake and put one of the bigger tips on to pipe a circle of icing around the edge.  Then I put in some strawberry jam (That Nick's mom made for us!! Thanks!)  I didn't use too much... just kind of enough to cover it with a thin layer.  Once we ate the cake we decided it could have had a little more filling.  I also have some strawberries that I bought frozen to put in smoothies.  I defrosted those and just put them in the filling like this to make the strawberry a little more substantial.  If I have strawberries next time I fill a strawberry cake I'd probably do that again.  

You can see the pictures of the decorated cake in my post Last week of Cake Class 1!

But here's the yummy cake - we only had 2 pieces left over!
I definitely recommend this white cake recipe!

I have a few more weeks of cake class...any recipes I should try?  :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Easy Balsamic Chicken Breasts


This was pretty good for an easy-to-do chicken with not too many ingredients.  
Not spectacular, but pretty good.  I like chicken that you bake because I can do other stuff while it cooks... so I think I prefer this to a similar recipe I made a few weeks ago cooked in a pan.

Chicken breasts
Minced Garlic
sprinkle of salt and pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Here's what I did:

Heated the oven to 450.  Rubbed chicken breasts with some minced garlic, rosemary, a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Let sit for a little bit.  (Little bit = until my potatoes were half done so that they would be done the same time as the chicken).  Put some olive oil in my corningware and put it in the oven for a few minutes so that it would thin out and cover the bottom (not really necessary to heat it).  Stuck the chicken in.  Cooked for 10 minutes.  Flipped the chicken, poured some balsamic vinegar on, cooked for 15 more minutes.  Done!  Don't forget to pour on some of the leftover juices!

Our easy meal!
This recipe inspired by: Balsamic Chicken

Nick likes taking pictures of food for me.
I told him I wasn't going to blog about steaming broccoli...
But he had fun capturing pictures of the steaming broccoli anyway.