Sweet Surprises

Yesterday, after a long day at the office I came home to find this on my kitchen island:

I opened the pretty pink box to find these babies:

Here’s a close up:

Eric had been away on business since Tuesday, working in Washington DC and decided to bring me/us home a special treat; cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes! In case you’re not up on cupcake news, Georgetown Cupcakes is the shop that is featured on the TLC show, DC Cupcakes. How thoughtful is my husband?! Pretty treats like these make the fact that he was away for a few days, a bit more bearable.

I know what you’re all thinking. Didn’t she just get up on her soapbox about eating less sugar earlier this week? Yes, its true. However, I never said I was going completely sugar free, I’m just making a conscious effort to cut back and until last night have been eating very small amounts of sugar all week. Every diet deserves a cheat day and last night was mine!

Now, on to the cupcakes themselves:

Eric and I split 2 cupcakes last night so we could try them both and I’m looking forward to doing the same tonight (and being sugar free all day long until that moment, it makes it so much…sweeter? terrible pun, I know). We tried the one with the chocolate icing and it was on white cake and the one with the pink flower was called the cherry blossom cupcake. The chocolate iced one was pretty standard, nice fudgey icing but the cake lacked a bit of flavor, in my opinion. Then, the cherry blossom one was AMAZING, the cake itself had chunks of cherry in it with hint of almond and was topped with cream cheese icing, a combination I never would have put together but was dynamite! YUM!

The other flavors left in the box are pumpkin spice, the one with the maple leaf on top, I think it also has maple icing, I can smell the maple syrup in the box. The one with sprinkles is the classic white cake, vanilla buttercream icing. The one with the lime wedge is a key lime cupcake, I’m very excited to try that one and in the back is a red velvet, of course!

Just writing this post is giving me a sugar craving, I can’t wait until tonight! And after inhaling consuming my cupcakes last night, I felt a definite sugar rush. Something that I’ve never noticed before.

Hope everyone has a sweet weekend!

Sweet Potato Hash

I hope you all enjoyed my blogiversary last week, it was fun to share some more details about me with all of you. This week, is the week of Easter and lucky for me, I won’t be cooking at all this weekend. I just get to attend dinner with my family and enjoy it. I will probably be making a nice breakfast for Eric and I on Saturday and the recipe I have today works great for breakfast or for dinner. This was the first recipe I made from my new Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook and its very simple and delicious. It combines two of my favorite foods, mushrooms and sweet potatoes into a sweet potato hash.

Once your ingredients are prepped, boil the sweet potato for about 10 minutes to cook.

Combine the cooked sweet potato, mushrooms, onions and rest of the ingredients together in a bowl.

Saute over medium high heat until soft and browned.

Serve as a side for dinner, as pictured below, or next to eggs and bacon for breakfast or brunch.

This is such a simple and so tasty dish. The touch of maple syrup really plays well with the flavors and makes it a great accompaniment to breakfast. After the way this turned out, I can’t wait to cook more recipes from Tupelo Honey Cafe.

Here’s the recipe:

Sweet Potato Hash
Print
Author: Tupelo Honey Cafe
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tupelo honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add the sweet potato and blanch for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are just fork tender. Remove the potatoes and transfer to an ice bath.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and saute the mushrooms for 3 to 4 minutes, until just tender, and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potato, mushrooms, green onions, sage, hot pepper sauce, honey, salt, and pepper. In a nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat and add the potato mixture. Saute for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is caramelized.
  4. Serve immediately.

Beer Mac n Cheese

Last week, while perusing Pinterest, I spotted this picture:

It had the description: beer mac n cheese. I clicked and it took me to the blog, How Sweet it Is with the full recipe. The author compared the taste of it to beer and cheese soup and it looked nice and easy to make.

Now, I don’t love the typical mac n cheese. Cheese itself has never been one of my favorite foods, on its own. I like it on pizza and used in recipes, but eating it straight or a dish like mac n cheese has never really been my thing. But add in some beer and this is now a dish I could get along with!

I did adapt the recipe according to my tastes. Start the dish by cooking the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside. You can use whole wheat pasta in this recipe, it holds up to the cheese sauce well and makes the dish a bit healthier. While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.

Once melted, add the diced onion and cook for about 5-7 minutes until translucent but not brown.

Add the flour and stir. Cook, stirring, until the mixture gets a nice golden color, about 2 minutes.

Add the milk, beer and cheeses, while stirring. Stir until the cheese is melted and the mixture thickens slightly. Add the paprika, nutmeg and pepper.

Pour the cheese over the noodles in a stir slightly.

Top with bread crumbs and some parmesan cheese and small pieces of butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling. Top with sliced fresh basil.

Serve with a side of arugula tossed with vinaigrette.

The mac n cheese tasted good. The consistency was great with the whole wheat pasta and I enjoyed the fresh basil however I think next time I will add Gruyere cheese instead of parmesan and use a darker beer. I only had Yeungling in on hand so that’s what I used this time and I would like liked more of a beer taste. The whole thing was good, I just found myself wanting stronger flavors. I can’t wait to make it again!

Here is the recipe:

Beer Mac n Cheese
Print
Author: adapted from How Sweet It Is
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Total time: 50 mins
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow noodles
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 8 ounces milk
  • 8 ounces beer
  • 8 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces freshly grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • pinch of black pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 10 large basil leaves, chopped for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Prepare water for pasta and boil according to directions, shaving 1-2 minutes off of cooking time since pasta will continue to cook in the oven.
  3. Heat a saucepan over medium high heat and add butter. Once melted and sizzling, cook the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour to create a roux and cook until bubbly and golden in color, about 2 minutes. Add milk and beer into saucepan whisking constantly, then add cheeses and stir until melted. Turn heat down to medium and continue to stir, cooking for 5-6 minutes while mixture thickens. It will most likely NOT thicken like regular mac and cheese because of the beer, but you want it to thicken a little bit. Stir in pepper, paprika and nutmeg.
  4. Add noodles (once cooked and drained) to a casserole dish, then pour cheese over top, mixing gently to combine. Top with panko bread crumbs and an additional sprinkle of cheese if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then top with fresh basil.

 

Beer Braised Chicken

I saw this recipe while browsing FoodNetwork.com and thought it looked great. Anything that uses beer and creates a stew is an automatic winner in our house. Although this Winter has been relatively mild compared to the last few years, I’m still trying to make as much stew as possible since it will soon be warm and stew is never as satisfying when it can’t warm you up.

To start the beer braised chicken, cook the cubed bacon in your stew pot until browned.

Using a slotted spoon, remove it to a plated lined with a paper towel. Add olive oil to the hot pot.

While the bacon was cooking, you should have seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and then dredged it in flour. (The recipe calls for chicken thighs here, but Eric loves drumsticks so I choose to get a variety of thighs and drumsticks. Since they are both in the dark meat family, you can easily substitute your favorite cut of chicken but I do recommend using bone-in chicken, it gives the dish alot more flavor.)

Cook the chicken in the hot oil until nicely browned and then flip over to brown the opposite side.

Yes, the one side of the chicken got a little dark. Hey, it happens! Perhaps this is an example of one of the very few bad reasons to have a TV in the kitchen…perhaps.

Once all sides of the chicken is browned, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. I used Yeungling Lager as my beer of choice simply because that’s what we had in the fridge. Next time, I would like to try something a bit darker simply for more depth of flavor, but it worked well. I also added carrots to this recipe as per some of the reviews and added it to the recipe, they add a great component that the stew was lacking.

Simmer uncovered for about 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pot and whisk in a mixture of cornstarch and water to thicken the sauce, if desired.

Add the chicken back to the pot, top with fresh parsley and the cooked bacon.

Serve.

The stew was really flavorful and I liked the beer flavors along with the mustard and chicken. You can see the thyme and whole grain mustard seeds throughout the dish. This whole meal was ready in about 45 minutes on a week night and was low in fat! It’s definitely a keeper.

Here’s the recipe from FoodNetwork.com:

Beer Braised Chicken
Print
Author: Adapted from Food Network Kitchens
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1/4 pound slab or thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer (preferably brown ale)
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 1/2 pound small red-skinned new potatoes, halved
  • 1 pound sliced carrots
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon water plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch (if desired)
Instructions
  1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Add the olive oil to the drippings in the pot. Add the chicken in batches and cook over medium-high heat until golden on the bottom, 6 to 7 minutes, then flip and sear the other side, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the beer, onions, potatoes, mustard, sugar, thyme and 1 cup water to the pot and stir, making sure the chicken is fully submerged. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Discard the thyme and stir in the bacon and parsley.
  4. Remove chicken from pot. Whisk in the water and cornstarch mixture for a thicker sauce. Add chicken back to pot and serve.

 

 

 

Chili Cook-off Part 1

A few weeks ago at our monthly staff meeting at work, it was announced that there would be a chili cook-off at my office. Each department was asked to have at least one person represent the department and compete for the best chili. Now, as a lover of all things food and of healthy competition I immediately accepted the task of competing for the title of best chili. I’ve already shared with you my recipe for chili on this post of yore and this is the recipe I will be making for this competition.

What are my fears before going into battle?

  1. That my crockpot of chili will spill all over the backseat of my car in transport and not only stain and smell up my car for eternity, but also ruin my chances of competing before I can even compete
  2. That someone will a white, turkey chili will beat me. (Not because I don’t like turkey chili, but I just don’t think its really chili, its more like stew, I want to complete against another authentic chili)
  3. That not one person will vote for my chili, besides me

I don’t expect to win this chili cook-off. I have this feeling that someone is going to show up with an Asian inspired chili and take the whole competition with their inventive flavors and new twist. I’d try that, but honestly its too much to take on right now. I’m sticking with what I know.

This post is to be continued this Friday when I compete for the chance to say with certainty, I make a mean bowl of chili.

Any suggestions out there from those who’ve participated in chili cook-offs before? I can use all the help I can get!

Lindemans Kriek – Beer Review

As women, I think it’s safe to say that if you choose to drink alcohol you’ve probably heard of Lindeman’s Framboise beer. It’s the sweet raspberry beer that is usually served in a pretty glass and is in fact pink.

Product - Lindemans Framboise

It’s one of those stereotypical “girl” beers and for good reason, many women really do enjoy it! But something most people fail to realize is that Lindeman’s makes other flavors of this tasty lambic. Apple, peach, cassis and kriek (cherry) are also flavors of this popular elixir.

Eric and I are big fanatics of all things cherry, you can read about that in this post or this post, so when he spotted a cherry lambic while purchasing some other beer, he couldn’t pass up the chance to try it.

He poured it into two glasses at home and the color was so pretty and Christmasy, being so red.

Once you pick up the glass to drink, you smell a sweet and very cherry aroma but the beer itself is not overpoweringly sweet. I find the raspberry one to be just a little too sweet for me to drink a whole lot of it, but the cherry was a nice balance.

If you’re a fan of cherries and looking for a drink that embodies Christmas Spirit, look no further than Lindeman’s Kriek. It will not disappoint!

Speaking of Christmas Spirit, can you believe its less than 2 weeks till Christmas?! Yep, I freaking out a bit this morning considering I haven’t even purchased cards to send out or wrapping paper, or finished shopping, but I did finally finish decorating the outside of the house! Hopefully Santa won’t miss it now.

How are your holiday plans coming, anyone else feel like Christmas has snuck up on them this year?

Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Rosemary

I saw this picture on Pinterest a few weeks ago:

Post image for Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary

And if you’re anything like me, your first thoughts when seeing something like this are, “mmm, I want to make that.” I clicked on the picture and found it belonged to a blog called My Baking Addiction. That author got the recipe from famous chef, Michael Simon (he’s an Iron Chef and is now on the new talk show, The Chew.)

The recipe combines cream, goat cheese, garlic, chicken and rosemary into a creamy and delicious sauce. I’ve never been a big fan of mac n cheese, sorry folks, I just never liked it. Let me explain. I grew up not really liking cheese in general. I’m not sure why, but even today its not my favorite. I cannot sit and eat an entire cheese course nor do I enjoy a snack of cheese and crackers. For me, cheese needs to be in a dish or on a pizza. One of my brother’s favorite meals growing up was my mom’s macaroni and cheese, we ate it pretty often. My mom did the whole make the cheese sauce and bake it thing, it wasn’t Kraft, but I still didn’t enjoy it much. It was too bland and too much of the same flavor for me. Naturally, this twist on that dish intriqed me. The ingredients were simple and since the recipe didn’t take long to make, it looked perfect for a week night meal.

To start the recipe, combine the heavy cream, garlic and rosemary in a medium sauce pan and place over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Watch so it doesn’t boil over and keep it at a low temp so that its still simmering and reduces by half. The recipe says this shouldn’t take too long, for me, it took about 40 minutes to reduce properly; plan accordingly.

While the mixture is reducing, cook the pasta and shred the chicken.

Once reduced, stir the goat cheese into the cream mixture until smooth and thick.

Add the roasted chicken to the mixture.

Combine the mixture with the cooked pasta and top with some fresh rosemary.

The flavors are subtly delicious, but this dish is extremely rich.

Another tip is to make only half of the recipe depending on how many people you’re feeding. It doesn’t reheat well because of the cream sauce and you never eat as much as you think because the sauce is so rich.

This recipe was simple and delicious, a mac n cheese I could get used to!

Here’s the recipe that I got from My Baking Addiction (her blog is really nice, be sure and check it out!):

Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Rosemary
Print
Author: Adapted by My Baking Addiction from “Live to Cook”
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound dried rigatoni
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 cups shredded roasted chicken
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Add the oil and rigatoni to the water and cook according to the directions on the package, 10-12 minutes.
  2. While you are waiting for the water to boil, pour the cream into a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the rosemary and garlic to the cream and bring it to a simmer – take care not to let it boil over. Allow the cream to reduce by about half.
  3. Stir in the goat cheese and chicken and continue cooking cooking it till the cream coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Thoroughly drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce. Coat the pasta in the sauce and simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Serve hot.

Scallops with Mushrooms and Sherry

Sea Scallops with Mushrooms and Sherry

The other day I went to the seafood store (Mr. Bill’s if you live in Lancaster, its the best seafood around) with the intention of picking up salmon for dinner. After walking in, I eyed the much more expensive scallops sitting in the case and heard myself asking for a pound of scallops instead of salmon. I tend to think more with my stomach sometimes than with my head. Scallops are my favorite seafood. I’ve loved them since I was a kid and have eaten them so many different ways, falling deeper in love with the little mollusks eat time. It’s hard for me to resist good looking scallops and this day was no exception.

Upon returning home, I took inventory and realized that I had all the ingredients for the salmon dish I had intended to make and nothing for scallops. It was time to start researching a new scallop recipe. I had jasmine rice, shallots, mushrooms and broccolini. I logged onto Epicurious.com and found a recipe that included scallops and mushrooms in a sherry sauce. I did have sherry in the pantry and upon reviewing the needed ingredients, discovered I had everything else needed. I also notice the recipe used soy sauce and immediately thought that I could serve the dish easily with the jasmine rice I already had waiting to be used.

I have never paired scallops with mushrooms or soy sauce before and was excited to taste the combination of flavors. The recipe itself was simple and I made the whole thing in about an hour, including the time it took to cook the rice. Except for being expensive ingredients, this can easily be prepared on a weeknight.

Start the dish by searing the scallops in a hot pan with heated oil.

Scallops cook quickly and the second side takes less time than the first. I cooked them for about 3 minutes per side but next time will only cook them for 2 minutes after I turn them, they were just a little dark on that side for my taste.

Once the scallops are cooked, remove them from the pan and place on a plate covered with foil to keep them warm.

Melt butter in the same pan and saute the mushrooms until they begin to brown.

Add the garlic and shallots and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add sherry, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper and simmer uncovered until it begins to reduce. Then take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter.

Place the scallops into a deep bowl or dish and pour the mushrooms and sauce over top of the scallops.

Serve with a side of rice and a pretty green vegetable, in my case brocolini.

The flavors were great and I liked that the sauce wasn’t cream based, some scallop recipes have very rich and heavy cream based sauces but this was a nice change. Plus, the mushrooms were a delicious pairing with the scallops.

Here’s the recipe:

Scallops
5.0 from 1 reviews
Print
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 20 large sea scallops (1 1/2 lb), tough ligament removed if attached
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup medium-dry Sherry
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
Instructions
  1. Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  2. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallops, turning over once, until browned well and just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and loosely cover.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add shallots and garlic and sauté, stirring, 2 minutes. Add Sherry, vinegar, soy sauce, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Cut remaining 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces.
  4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Spoon sauce over scallops.