Thursday, June 28, 2012

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad

I have a few Food Network chefs that I absolutely cannot stand. One is Rachael Ray, mainly because I don't care for her personality or her voice. I love to visit Food Network Humor since they pay extra loving attention to Rachael Ray. The other chef I'm not a huge fan of is Claire Robinson. Despite my disliking, I was roped into watching one of her 5 Ingredient Fix shows out of sheer boredom. Surprisingly, one of the dishes she was making sounded like something I'd be interesting in trying. The recipe is for grilled slabs of watermelon, topped with a balsamic reduction, goat cheese, and arugula. I put a slightly different spin on it, not grilling my watermelon and chunking it, elimintating argula since I'm not a huge fan, and adding toasted almonds. This is a great spring or summer lunch item, since it's so light and fresh! Don't be afraid of the combination of goat cheese, watermelon, and balsamic...it works!


Ingredients
-2 cups diced seedless watermelon
-1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
-1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
-1/3 cup almonds

1. Pour the vinegar into a sauce pan and simmer over medium high heat. Cook until reduced and becomes a syrupy consistency, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the almonds.

2. To assemble, place diced watermelon on the place, top with crumbled goat cheese, toasted almonds and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.
Source: Food Network

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

6/24 Couponing

It had been quite a while since I'd gone on a couponing trip. I was a little upset when I found out that Harris Teeter hasn't been putting in their $10 off a $40 purchase in the Wednesday circular anymore, those were a huge help to me weekly shopping trips!

This week, Harris Teeter was doing Super Double coupons, but this time was a little different. Normally, they'll double coupons up to $1.98 of face value, meaning your $2 coupons did not double. This time, they allowed for the $2 coupons to double! My best deal was the Bayer Extra Strength aspirin. The bottles retail for right around $7.37. but were on sale for $4.99, I had a $3 coupons off so I got them for only $1.99! This isn't nearly as good as I've done in the past, but now that I'm back in the swing of it I have to make sure to stick with it again! Here is a break down of what I got:


-1 bag Tidy Cat Litter
-1 2-pack paper towels
-2 bags Ball Park hamburger buns
-2 packs chicken breasts (B1G1, spent $9)
-1 pack ground beef
-4 bags cat treats
-1 box angel hair pasts
-4 cans pineapple rings
-2 Mitchum deodorant
-1 pack Thomas' English Muffins
-2 bottles Bayer Extra Strength
-2 boxes Nature Valley granola crisps
-2 bottles Dove conditioner
-1 bottle French's Dijon Mustard

 
Spent: $45.37                 Saved: $56.59

Monday, June 25, 2012

Steak Cake

For my husband's birthday last year I decided I wanted to make him an extra special cake. I made him the iPhone Cake. It was my first time ever working with fondant, and sparked my interest in cake design. I really don't enjoy baking the actual cake, so I usually use boxed cake (gasp!). I'd rather focus my time making a delicious frosting and decorating the cake.

This year I got the idea to make him a cake that looked like a steak dinner, since he loves steak. I Googled around and looked at other photos of steak cakes and read some tips. I baked a 9x13 red velvet cake and carved it into the general shape of a steak. I used my normal fondant recipe and used gel food coloring. I mixed red, yellow and a dash of blue to make the brown coloring. From what I noticed in pictures, I preferred the 'steaks' that had a sheen to them, I though the matte colored fondant didn't look real enough. To do this, I first dyed the fondant brown and placed it on the cake. With the remaining brown coloring, I mixed into about a cap full of vodka and painted the cake. The alcohol will evaporate and you're left with the color, and it does not dissolve the fondant like water will. I used a chopstick to make the "grill mark" indents, and then painted them in with black food coloring mixed with a little vodka.



It was really fun to make the side items! The mashed potatoes are just cream cheese frosting. I squeezed some yellow gel food coloring for the melted butter and dyed some fondant for the butter square. The peas and carrots are just dyed fondant...I think it looks pretty realistic!



The cake was red velvet and I made a pinkish cream cheese vanilla frosting to make it look like rare steak! This was a big hit and my husband absolutely loved it! Now onto thinking about what to do next year...



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nutella Brownies

Even though I much prefer cooking over baking, I love to bake delicious treats and send them to family members. My mom loved the Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies with Dark Chocolate Ganache I sent her for Mother's Day, but this time I wanted to make something yummy for my little brother. I knew he loves Nutella and he had made a special request for brownies. I decided to search around to see if I could find a Nutella brownie recipe. I found a bunch that look delicious, but finally settled on this recipe.

They came out so so good, and the Nutella keeps the brownies incredibly moist. I will note, next time I think I'll increase the amount of Nutella. I felt like I didn't get enough of the flavor I was hoping for.

As I was planning to take a photo in the dining room, Sous Chef Bailey decided he needed to supervisor the photography. You can see in the first photo the black blob on the right corner. He then proceeds to plop himself down right in the background.



Ingredients
-1 cup butter
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup dark brown sugar
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-4 large eggs
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup of baking cocoa powder
-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1 cup Nutella
-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat your oven to 350ยบ. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. On low heat, melt the butter sticks in a small pot. Then add the vanilla and sugar while stirring the mixture until well combined. Remove the pot from heat and let cool. Once cooled, add one egg at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add in the flour mixture.

3. Over a double-boiler, heat the Nutella until runny. Do NOT microwave. Add Nutella and chocolate chips to the batter. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hammock Beach Resort- Vacation Recap

So last month my husband and I decided we were a little overdue for a some R&R. And when I say a little overdue, I mean a lot overdue. We really wanted to go somewhere that had a resort feel, but had to be with driving distance (less than 6 hours) and had to be reasonably priced. I went right to work scouring the internet, reading about a billion reviews on Trip Advisor, pricing out various prices, but finally ended up finding Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, FL. I stumbled upon this location by literally just scrolling up the coast of Florida on Google Maps and seeing if I could find a resort.


With the exception of it not being all-inclusive, it had everything we both wanted. It has several pools, one being geared mostly towards adults, several restaurants, a cigar bar, water slide, and the beach. I also loved how huge the rooms were. Even the one bedroom suites also have a living room with kitchenette. The bathrooms feature a double vanity, walk-in shower, and huge garden tub.



It was great to just step away from the cell phones and chill by the pool or beach with a nice cocktail in hand. The food was amazing, which I was a little nervous about. Portions were very generous, even with the cocktails. The resort is cash-less, so you just charge everything to your hotel card and they charge your debit/credit card when you check out. We definitely want to visit here again!









Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rocky Road Chicken

I know what I'm about to say is considered blasphemy to my husband...but I really don't like steak. It's not a red meat thing, since I love burgers and ground beef, I just don't enjoy steak at all. So anytime my husband and I would go to Long Horn, I'd always order the Rocky Road Chicken. This dish was a delicious combination of savory BBQ sauce, diced bacon, cheddar cheese, and diced tomatoes (which I did not use below). It's a pretty basic recipe, so I decided to use this recipe to jazz up the BBQ sauce with some seasonings.

I'm so excited...on Sunday my husband and I are leaving for a short retreat down to Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, FL. We definitely deserve the rest and relaxation and I'm really looking forward to just 'checking out' for a few days and only focus on resting by the pool, and having a fruity cocktail in hand. There is a seafood/steak grill and an Italian place we'll try when we're there, and I'm really hoping the food is good! We'll be bringing some snacks for breakfast and I'll be bringing some of my own cocktail ingredients for either mimosa's or for happy hour, perhaps both!


Ingredients
-2-3 strips of bacon
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/4 teaspoon black pepper
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/3 cup BBQ sauce
-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-1/3 cup diced tomatoes (optional)

1. Cook bacon until crispy, dice.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the BBQ sauce, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and salt. Set aside a small amount for after chicken is cooked. Baste chicken with BBQ mixture and grill over medium heat for 6-8 minutes per side, or until fully cooked.

3. Top cooked chicken with some of the BBQ that was set aside, shredded cheese, bacon, and optional tomatoes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fudgey Brownie Pie

I've always been very cautious when it comes to food safety, especially when relating to ingesting anything that may make me sick (i.e. raw meats, under cooked chicken, etc.). When it comes to any kind of chocolatey batter or cookie dough, that whole "don't eat raw eggs" nonsense goes right out the window. I've been sampling raw batter ever since I was old enough to help my mom in kitchen so I've made it this long without getting so much as a stomach ache.

As this story normally goes, I was craving something super chocolatey. I remembered I had a few recipes in my favorites tab so I started scrolling through to see what I was able to make with what I had on hand, since running out to the store wasn't an option. Once I get home from work and throw the comfy clothes on (i.e. my lovely Victoria's Secret Kimono Robe) I don't leave again for the night. I had a Brownie Tart recipe favorited that was doable, but I used a pie plate since I didn't have a tart pan. I don't believe it mattered, since this came out so incredibly delicious, chocolatey, and moist it was irresistible! I think the melted chocolate on top really adds something special, and sets it apart from just a decadent brownie. I recommend not to eat a large piece at once, since it is pretty thick you really only need a small sliver. This is definitely going down as a keeper and a remake!


Ingredients
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 3 extra-large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt      
- 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
     
1. Grease and flour a 9-inch pie pan. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Melt the butter in a bowl set over simmering water. Add 2 cups of the chocolate chips, remove from the heat, and stir until the chocolate melts. Set aside to cool completely.
3. In the bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, coffee, and vanilla on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cooled chocolate. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Fold the flour mixture into the batter until just combined. Pour into the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the center is puffed (the top may crack). The inside will still be very soft.
4. Melt the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips with the heavy cream and drizzle on the tart (I doubled the glaze).

Source: Divine Baking


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ironman Triathlon Cake

So a friend of ours was getting married last weekend and the bride asked my friend and I if we were interested in making the groom's cake! We were so excited! The groom participates in Ironman Triathlons so the bride asked if we were able to make a cake with that theme. After Googling around to get a little inspiration, I came up with the idea to make waves for the swimming portion, and then a strip of road for the running/biking portion. To be fun, we made a gold medal and draped it around the side of the cake. I got the logo printed on a sugar sheet from my grocery store bakery. We were so happy with the way this turned out! When I made the fondant, I sifted the powdered sugar through a strainer to help make it very fine. I noticed this broke up any clumps and made it a lot easier to knead.

Marshmallow Fondant
- 1 bag mini-marshmallows
-5 cups powdered sugar (you may need more, so have a few boxes on hand), sifted through a strainer into a large bowl
-4 tablespoons water
-Crisco shortening

1. Coat a spoon in Crisco. In a microwave safe bowl, empty the entire bag of mini-marshmallows and pour the 4 tablespoons of water over top. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir with the Crisco spoon. Microwave an additional 30 seconds, stir again. Repeat until all marshmallows have melted and water has been incorporated.

2. Now here comes the cumbersome part! Coat your hands with Crisco. Coat your counter top with Crisco and powdered sugar. Yes, this is messy and a pain in the butt to clean, but your fondant will stick like super glue to your counter if you don't do this. Once your counter is prepared, pour the marshmallow mixture on top. Working quickly, start pouring 4 cups of the sifted powdered sugar. Keep kneading and incorporating the sugar into the marshmallow. It will be very sticky and messy at first, and will almost look like you're doing something wrong. Keep adding more powdered sugar until it is not sticky anymore and becomes the consistency of a dough. It needs to be so you can handle it with dry hands without it sticking. This can take up to 15 minutes of kneading. Set aside to let it cool. If you try to work with it right away the marshmallow is too warm and the fondant will tear.

3. Once fondant has cooled you can begin to roll it. Coat counter top with powdered sugar, no Crisco. Begin rolling the fondant, picking it up and swirling it around to make sure it isn't sticking. Once desired size is reached, you're ready to transfer it to the cake. This is wear catastrophe can happen. You want to make sure you're supporting the fondant, so it doesn't sag and tear in the middle. Shove your hands up past your wrists underneath the fondant and lift it up, supporting the center. Drape over cake and smooth.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cinnamon Crescents

During another typical Foodgawker browsing session a few weeks ago, I came across a photo for these adorable little cinnamon crescent rolls! I was intrigued, so I clicked the photo to read the recipe. These little guys are so easy to make and are so good! Even though they still use the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, I like that you're homemaking the cinnamon mixture for inside and making your own glaze for on top. They are quick enough to whip together on a weekend morning, but also taste a lot better than Pillsbury Cinnamon Buns (don't get me wrong, those are still a guilty pleasure of mine).

A word of warning, make sure you place the tip side DOWN on the baking sheet. While some of the cinnamon butter is going to seep out no matter what, much less will if you have the tip side down.


Ingredients
-1 tube (8 count) Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, unrolled and separated
-6 tablespoons butter,softened
-1/4 cup white sugar
-2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
-2 tablespoons butter, melted
-1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375. Place the unrolled and separated crescent rolls on an un-greased cookie sheet.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, sugar and cinnamon. Spread the cinnamon butter mixture over the crescent rolls and roll up. Place tip side down on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spoon over baked crescent rolls and smooth over top to melt. Serve immediately.


Source: The Hungry Housewife