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  1. Sunday, February 14, 2010

    Week 160 Menu

    Happy Valentine’s Day! Cate sends her love. So does Anna.

    hearts from the girls web

    We are moving in two weeks (just across town, but a pain nonetheless). I have started packing. The house is a mess. On top of moving I have training for a new job, my regular job, my food photo job…oh, and being the best mom and wife ever. When it rains it pours, huh? Bottom line…we are going with EASY, effortless food. I don’t even care if it’s good!

    – Spaghetti

    – Hot Dogs…and salad, to make it healthy 😉

    – Oriental Chicken Salad

    – Leftovers


    – Eat out

    – Barbecue with our neighbors

    Seriously, the next few weeks we REALLY need your menus to inspire one another, since my menus will be less than exciting. Bring it on! Share your menus!

  2. Friday, February 12, 2010

    Life by Chocolate Cupcakes from The Pioneer Woman

    Once Valentine’s Day is over, I’ll let you eat dinner again.  But I’m going to force you to have a little more chocolate today. Sorry. I know it’s torture.

    rachel's desserts web

    For our Super Bowl shindig last week, my friend Rachel made cupcakes in addition to the homemade oreos I shared with you yesterday. I love these cupcakes. We all kept debating back and forth about which we liked better – cupcakes, oreos, cupcakes, oreos. It was a close race, but these chocolate-packed cups of heaven won.

    The cupcake recipe is from The Pioneer Woman. As always, she provides beautiful step-by-step photos. Everything about these cupcakes is great. The actual cake part in and of itself is fantastic. The Hershey kiss hiding inside…oo la la! And the ganache icing…to die for.

    A few quick notes.

    • Rachel said the recipe made a TON of ganache, enough for a double batch of cupcakes.
    • The cupcakes are really heavenly served warm. Since Rachel had made them the day before, when we were ready to indulge, we put the cupcakes in a 250-degree oven for 7 minutes. They came out PERFECTLY.

    life by chocolate cupcakes2 web

    Life by Chocolate Cupcakes from The Pioneer Woman
    • Cupcakes
    • 2 cups Sugar
    • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
    • ¼ teaspoons Salt
    • ½ cups Buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, put ½ TBSP of lemon juice or vinegar in your ½ cup, fill the rest with milk and let it sit for 5 minutes)
    • 2 whole Eggs
    • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
    • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
    • 1 Cup Butter
    • 4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa Powder
    • 1 cup Water, Boiling
    • 18 whole Hershey’s Kisses, Unwrapped
    • Ganache
    • 8 ounces, weight Bittersweet Chocolate
    • 1 cup Heavy Cream
    • 6 Tablespoons Corn Syrup
    • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 18 muffin cups with baking spray.
    2. To make the cake batter, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
    3. In a separate container, combine buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir to combine and set aside.
    4. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and stir to combine. Add boiling water, allow to bubble for a few seconds, then turn off heat.
    5. Pour chocolate mixture over flour mixture. Stir a few times to cool the chocolate. Pour buttermilk mixture over the top and stir to combine.
    6. Pour ¼ cup cake batter into each muffin cup. Lightly set one kiss in the middle of each cupcake; do not press down.
    7. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove cupcakes and allow to cool on a baking rack.
    8. To make the ganache, heat cream and corn syrup over medium heat. Chop chocolate and add to a bowl. Add vanilla to cream mixture, then pour cream mixture over the top of the chopped chocolate. Whisk together until melted, smooth, and glossy.
    9. Dunk cupcakes in ganache. Allow to cool and set before serving.

    Thanks again to my friend Rachel for spoiling my family with such delicious desserts! And thanks to Ree for a wonderful cupcake recipe! And Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

  3. Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Homemade Oreos

    No matter your opinion of Valentine’s Day, we can all agree it’s a good excuse to binge on chocolate, right? So, that’s what I’m giving you this week.  Chocolate. Because that, my friends, is how I show my love.

    oreo2b web

    For the Super Bowl, my friend Rachel made us two utterly delectable chocolate treats. Today I share with you her homemade oreos.  Tomorrow…well, it’s a surprise! But it is most certainly Valentine’s Day worthy!

    I’m not a huge fan of store-bought Oreos. I know, how can I call myself an American? But even I, the evil Oreo-disser, loved these cookies. It’s certainly a derivative of the classic Oreo, but much so much better.

    Rachel found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, one of the best food blogs out there.

    Homemade Oreos
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 25-30 cookies
    • Chocolate Wafers:
    • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
    • ½ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1½ cups sugar
    • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
    • 1 large egg
    • Filling:
    • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
    • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
    • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
    2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
    3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
    4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
    5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a ½ inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.
    Thank you, Deb, for a great recipe! Thank you, Rachel, for making them for us!

  4. Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Truffles Recipe to Die For

    This giveaway is now closed. But be sure to scroll down for the amazing truffle recipe!!!

    I love Scharffen Berger. Why, you may wonder? Maybe because they sent me free chocolate to make these amazing truffles. Or maybe because their milk chocolate is absolutely to DIE for, so rich, yet so creamy…how is it even possible? Or maybe just because it’s fun to say their name. Scharffen Berger. Scharffen Berger. Scharffen Berger. Fun, right?

    recipe for truffle hearts from @janemaynard

    recipe for truffle hearts from @janemaynard

    round truffles web

    In honor of Valentine’s Day, Scharffen Berger is hosting a giveaway! One randomly-selected winner will win a copy of the cookbook Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, in addition to a Scharffen Berger 9.7-oz 99% Cacao Unsweetened Baking Bar and a 70% Cacao Bittersweet Baking Bar to get you started with your gourmet chocolate baking! To enter the contest, simply add a comment to this post by Midnight PT, Tuesday, February 16. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, February 16. Good luck!

    Click (more…) below for the Scotch Truffle Hearts recipe pictured in this post, just one of the amazing recipes from the Essence of Chocolate cookbook!


    Scotch Truffle Hearts
    Recipe contributed to the book Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by Alice Medrich. From the book: Since we began Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, Cocolat founder Alice Medrich has been a constant help, ready to lend a hand with everything from bean tasting to recipe tasting. We’re especially honored to have Alice’s chocolate recipes in our book because both of us are fans of her chocolate confections, which she first began selling in Berkeley in the 1970s. These chocolates have a thin dark shell around a decadently soft center, underscored with the warmth and fragrance of a single-malt Scotch. Alice recommends that you mix this ganache gently with a spatula rather than vigorously with a whisk. Because the chocolate coating is not tempered, the hearts must be stored in the refrigerator to keep them from discoloring or blooming. Enjoy them cold, right from the refrigerator, or let them sit at room temperature for a half an hour or so, to bring up the flavors of the chocolate and the Scotch.
    Recipe type: Dessert
    • 7 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 2 tbsp. single-malt Scotch
    • 12 ounces 82% extra dark chocolate, finely chopped
    • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
    1. Line an 8X8 inch 2-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, overlapping the top slightly, and set out a fine-mesh strainer.
    2. Place the 62% chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.
    3. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate, and stir gently with a heatproof spatula until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Do not whisk or splash the mixture by stirring too briskly, or the texture of the chocolates will be cakey and granular. Add the Scotch and stir just to incorporate. (Jane note: I left out the Scotch b/c I didn’t have it on hand and they came out very delicious just the same!)
    4. Strain the ganache into the prepared pan. Tilt the pan to level the ganache. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.
    5. Transfer the pan of the ganache to the refrigerator to soften for 20 minutes. Choose a baking sheet of dish that will fit in your freezer and line it with parchment paper.
    6. Place a sheet of foil about 12 inches long on your work surface. Remove the ganach, using the foil that you used to line the pan to help lift it. Invert it onto the clean sheet of foil. Peel the foil from the bottom.
    7. Using a 1½-inch heart-shaped cutter, cut out hearts as close together as possible to avoid excessive amounts of scraps, and transfer to the prepared pan. (Jane note: I found a set of heart cutters for fondant made by Wilton at Michaels – the hearts were 3 sizes, which was helpful in making a lot of hearts with little scraps. The leftover chocolate I rolled into round balls to make a more traditionally-shaped truffle.) If the ganache becomes too soft to work with, cover with plastic wrap and return to the freezer to harden.
    8. Once all of the hearts are cut, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until very hard, at least 4 hours or overnight. (At this point the hearts can be placed in a an airtight container and frozen for up to 2 months.)
    9. TO COAT THE HEARTS: Choose a baking sheet or pan that will fit in your refrigerator and line with parchment paper.
    10. Melt the 82% chocolate and stir until smooth. Cool to 100-105 degrees F. (Jane note – I melted the chocolate over a double boiler. The chocolate was quite warm and took some time to come down in temperature. At 109 degrees it started to harden, so I would recommend working with it around 115 degrees – I had no problems with it melting the truffles.)
    11. Put the bowl of melted chocolate next to the prepared baking pan.
    12. Remove the hearts from the freezer one small batch at a time. Place a heart in the center of the bowl of chocolate and, using a dipping fork or table fork, flip it over and push it under the surface of the chocolate to coat completely. Slip the fork under the center and lift the heart out of the chocolate, tap the fork on the side of the bowl so any excess chocolate drips back into the bowl, and then wipe the bottom of the fork on the edge of the bowl and set the heart on the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining hearts. (Jane note: These directions were spot on and it was actually pretty easy to do if you follow them. I did need to zap the dipping chocolate twice in the process to remelt it a bit.)
    13. Use a small fine-mesh strainer or shaker to dust the hearts with the cocoa. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until the chocolate has hardened. (Jane note: the chocolate hardened FAST”¦so if you’re going to put toppings on (cocoa, powdered sugar, decorative sugar crystals, sea salt) you gotta get them on there quickly!)
    14. The hearts can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Makes 30-36 hearts.

    truffles 3 sizes web

    (Last note from Jane! Remember when I had trouble making truffles in the past? The way they do it in this Scharffen Berger recipe worked like a charm. Freezing the chocolate in the pan for a while, then putting in the fridge for 20 minutes before forming the shapes made the chocolate very workable and I was far less frustrated than my previous attempt.)

  5. Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Week 159 Menu

    Wall-E wishes you a Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Seriously, doesn’t this cheesy bread look like Wall-E? We were pretty excited about it yesterday when I accidentally created this adorably cute snack for Cate.

    Wall-E Cheese Bread web

    – Leek & Potato Soup

    – Enchiladas

    Oriental Chicken Salad

    – Leftovers

    – Breakfast for dinner (probably waffles)

    – Eat out

    Chicken Piccata

    I know you’re all busy partying…but you still gotta eat this week! Plan a menu in between commercials (oh, is that when the game is on?) and please share it with us. Can’t wait to see what you have planned!

  6. Friday, February 5, 2010

    Bistro Chicken

    Why is there a picture of an empty plate? Because this recipe is so good by the time you’re done serving it up, the plates will be empty lickity split!

    bistro chicken1 web

    Okay, actually, I didn’t get a decent picture of the chicken. It looks more like a pile of cheese. A delicious pile of cheese, but not much like chicken. Trust me, there is delicious, tender chicken hiding in there. I didn’t spend any time plating this dish because I just wanted to eat it!

    bistro chicken2 web

    My mom’s friend Jen shared this recipe with me in the early days of my blog. It has become one of our favorites and a quick go-to meal. Enjoy!

    Bistro Chicken
    My mom's friend Jen sent this recipe to me when I started my blog and it fast became a favorite. Easy, unique and so delicious!
    • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I usually do two, but the amount of sauce could handle probably 4-6 breasts)
    • ½ cup chopped onions
    • 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I get petite diced)
    • Italian seasoning (or a few shakes of oregano, basil, parsley and garlic powder)
    • 1 can Campbell’s French Onion soup
    • Swiss cheese, sliced
    1. I cut my chicken breasts into thirds and pound them thin before browning, but the recipe didn’t originally call for that. Brown the chicken breasts in a medium-high skillet in oil or butter. Remove and place in casserole dish.
    2. Cook onions in skillet for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, french onion soup and cook together to reduce liquid for 5 minutes. Pour sauce over chicken in the casserole dish, top with Swiss cheese and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
    3. I like to serve with garlic mashed potatoes.
    4. Addendum after comments have come in: the last few times I’ve made it I haven’t used the entire can of french onion soup. I put all the broth in, but I only put maybe half of the onions from the can in. for me, it’s the right balance. the first time I made it, though, I followed the recipe to a “t” and we still liked it, so feel free to modify or not according to your tastes!

  7. Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Super Duper Super Bowl!

    Are you ready for the Super Bowl? I’m not. But I DO have the plan together! I thought I would share the menu and give you all the opportunity to share your own Super Bowl ideas, plans and recipes!

    chex mix web

    If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I’ve written about this Sweet Chex Mix in connection with the Super Bowl before (click here for the recipe). I make it just once a year for the Super Bowl because it is so good that if I made it more often, I would most certainly have an addiction issue.

    In addition to the Sweet Chex Mix we will be having:

    • Mexican 7-Layer Dip
    • Spinach Artichoke Dip (this is one of my better recipes, people. I’ve nailed it. Not to get all conceited or anything.)
    • Cupcakes (my friend is making this amazing-looking recipe from The Pioneer Woman. I can’t WAIT to eat them.)
    • Homemade oreos (cupcake friend is making these, too. she is too good to us.)
    • Frozen cheese pizza…keeping it simple and the kiddos happy
    • Buffalo wings
    • These quichey appetizer thingies that another friend is bringing over
    • Soda

    I think that is sufficiently unhealthy, don’t you? Party on!

    Please feel free to share your Super Bowl menu plans as well!

  8. Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Cooking and Memories

    Last night I peeled a few potatoes to go along with dinner. Along with making salads, this is one of my least favorite kitchen tasks. At least until last November, when I cooked Thanksgiving dinner with a good friend of mine. As we were peeling potatoes, she started to talk about her father, who passed away a few years ago from cancer. She was very close to him and the pain of that loss is still quite tangible. She recounted how her dad was an amazing potato peeler, super fast and efficient at this seemingly random task. I learned that he had honed his potato peeling skills in the military, where he regularly rotated through that duty. Peeling potatoes always reminds her of her father, this good man that she misses so dearly. And now peeling potatoes reminds me of my friend and that moment we had together reminiscing about someone so dear to her.

    peeling potatoes2web

    Smells, tastes, sounds…they all can elicit powerful memories. Last night as I was peeling away at my potatoes, I was thinking how the act of preparing food can cause the same flood of memory. Nate’s Gram Maynard was an angel who we all loved more than I can describe. The night I heard the news that she had succumbed to a very quick and painful bout of pancreatic cancer, I was in the process of making dinner. I hung up the phone and cried my way through chopping tomatoes. The song I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You by Colin Hay was playing while I chopped, which further fed the sadness I was feeling. To this day, every time my knife breaks through the skin of a tomato, the emotion of that night overcomes me.  Sometimes I cry, but most often chopping tomatoes simply causes me to take a moment to remember this great woman I was blessed to have in my life.

    The act of cooking and preparing food is oftentimes an act of love. We are nourishing ourselves and those close to us in the most basic and necessary way possible. It comes as no surprise to me that the act of making food can be so strongly associated with certain memories.  I am grateful for these moments that force me to ponder the people I love, to think about why I love them, why I am grateful they are in my life and, in some cases, why I miss them so much.

    I’ve been feeling very subdued and thoughtful the last few weeks. Good friends of ours just suffered a tragic loss in their family – a young, vibrant, wonderful 19-year old boy who had everything to offer the world who fell victim to the debilitating effects of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and took his own life.  My heart has broken for him, for his amazing parents and for his family members. And I have been feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for every moment I have with my own children and husband. I am hugging them more and playing more Go Fish {and trying not to cry at the drop of a hat}. Life is too short, I need to embrace every moment I am blessed with.

    As you prepare your food, let it be an act of love rather than a simple, mundane task. Let the act of cooking remind of you a time gone by. And while you’re at it, hug your loved ones extra hard tonight.

  9. Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Chunky Blonde Blondies

    I love the idea of “blondies,” but whenever I bake them they’re never that great. I just can’t find a decent recipe. When I was a kid, I remember my mom and her sisters finding a recipe for macadamia white chocolate blondies that were buttery, rich and delicious. I suppose the trouble with my quest for a good blondie recipe is that no bar can live up to the memory of that particular blondie from years ago, a memory which may or may not be accurate, I know!

    chunky blonde blondies web

    I found this post on Sweet and Savory Tooth recently and knew I had to try the recipe for Chunky Blonde Brownies that she shares. Nate was skeptical of yet another blondie endeavor, but in the end he gave his seal of approval. Success! They were very good…especially right out of the oven! And I thought the proportion of batter to the size of the pan was perfect, so they cooked nice and evenly.

    The big question: does this recipe live up to the ideal in my head? As Larry David might say, it’s pretty pretty pretty pretty close.

    Chunky Blonde Blondies
    From Taste of Home Baking Book, via Heather
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 2 dozen bars
    • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup white chips
    • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    • ¾ cup macadamia nuts, chopped, divided
    1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the white chips, chocolate chips and ½ cup nuts. (Jane note: for the ½ cup that I mixed into the batter, I pulsed the nuts in my Cuisinart processor, so they got chopped up pretty good. I liked how the small bits spread throughout the batter. For the ¼ cup of nuts I sprinkled on top, I hand chopped for a little bit bigger pieces.)
    2. Spoon into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan; spread to evenly cover bottom of pan. Sprinkle with remaining nuts. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until top begins to crack and is golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack, then cut into bars. Makes about 2 dozen bars.