Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Well, it's my first post from Boston. How do I feel? Completely liberated. As imagined, I am still on the job hunt, but I know that time will unfold my path. I'm pumped.
Before I left, a big group of my friends got together at my house for one last hurrah. Of course, we just insisted on making almost everything. Was it delicious? Yes. Was it very time consuming? Yes. But all in all, totally worth it. If you're looking to host a cocktail party, I will be posting several recipes in the next few weeks. Get inspired!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 - 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a small baking dish. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Gently stir in artichoke hearts and spinach.
3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with mozzarella cheese (I go with the notion that more is better). Bake in the preheated oven 25 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Toasted Marshmallow S'more Cake

Four days. Four days until I will no longer sleep in my icy blue painted bedroom. Four days until my mom will never (other than holidays) make my dinner again. Four days until my pot of oatmeal will not be cleaned on its own. Four days until I am a big girl out in a new city. A new life. A new circle of friends. A new job. A new apartment. Four days.

That's crazy talk. And scary talk. And though I am ready, a part of me is clinging onto my youth. I am gripping onto the long summer nights I spent playing manhunt in my neighborhood. I am gripping onto the mornings where my friends and I showed up five minutes late to high school because we were seniors. I am gripping with all of my might to hold onto the little girl who is slowly growing up right in front of me. It's almost time to let go.

Yesterday, I spent time with two girls I coached for the past two years. Like me, they are about to embark on a new journey. They are heading to college. The best years of their lives, I tell them. But I'm sure, like me, a part of them is gripping onto the days where prom issues and boy problems were their biggest headaches. To the days where they were angry at their mothers and had curfews.

And so, for just a short hour, we sat in a kitchen and made a cake that could only remind us of summer nights. A cake that represented childhood bliss. A cake that, for just a few moments, could help us cling onto our youth a little longer.

Toasted Marshmallow S'mores Cake
(Recipe adapted from Baking Bites)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated whites and yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips + more for sprinkling
1/4 cup half and half
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp corn syrup

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Working in four additions, alternate stirring the graham cracker mixture and the milk into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.
3. In a third bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly and carefully fold egg whites into graham cracker mixture, mixing until no streaks of white remain. Divide batter into prepared pans. (Don't be alarmed that the consistency isn't of a normal cake). Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
4. Let cakes cool in pans for 3 minutes, then invert onto wire racks (remove parchment paper) to cool completely before filling and frosting. When cooled, turn oven up to 450 and thoroughly grease a cookie sheet. Pour marshmallows onto cookie sheet and place in oven until lightly browned. Meanwhile, in a medium, microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate, half and half, butter and corn syrup until melted. Stir with a fork or small whisk to ensure that everything comes together smoothly.
5. Place one layer of cake on a serving platter. Remove marshmallows from oven and put directly onto cake layer. Top with a small sprinkle of chocolate chips. Top with remaining layer and drizzle chocolate glaze over the top in an even layer, allowing it to drizzle down the sides. Store in the fridge, if you have any leftover.

Tribute to Monet: Alfredo with Roasted Asparagus

Most bloggers read other blogs and I am no different. There are a few that I am loyal to and Anecdotes and Apple Cores is one of them. Monet is the author and for the past year or so, I've read of her move back to Texas, her cozy and busy kitchen and the stories of her family. Most have been bright but along the way, and especially recently, she has lost loved ones to terrible things.
A few bloggers, Kate and Lizzy, got together to make a scrapbook of comfort food to send to Monet, and I was more than thrilled to share a recipe that she commented on months ago. So here is to Monet, and anyone out there who may need more than a little encouragement. Happy thoughts and well wishes are coming your way!

Alfredo with Roasted Asparagus
2 cups low fat milk
1/3 cup cream cheese (regular OR low fat.. not fat free)
2 tbsp AP flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
Cooking Spray
8 oz wheat spaghetti, uncooked
8 oz white spaghetti, uncooked
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1. Combine first four ingredients in a blender; process until smooth.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add milk mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until mixture simmers, stirring constantly. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Cover.
3. Place asparagus on jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° 10 minutes or until browned, stirring once.
4. Cook both pastas according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.
Place pastas and asparagus in a large bowl. Add cheese mixture, tossing well. Add olive oil and pepper; toss gently. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Best Carrot Cake

I'm very close with my Dad. Like, extremely close. I think most little girl's admire their fathers, but in a "Daddy's girl" sort of way. That wasn't the way I was raised. I was more like the little boy Dad never had.
We spent hours upon hours together in the backyard dribbling through cone after cone, at the high school track running lap after lap, and at the basketball court shooting free throw after free throw.
He drove me all over the east coast for every game, every practice and every college visit. He missed less games (and I've had thousands) than I could count on my hand.
My dad taught me how to deal with assholes (sorry for the profanity), how to push when you hurt the most and how to grin and bear it when times were tough. He deserves so so much more than this carrot cake but hey, most dads do.

The Best Carrot Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (3 1/2-ounce) can flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
Sweet Milk Cream Cheese Frosting (Recipe Follows)
Chopped Pecans (optional)

1. Line 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with wax paper; lightly grease and flour wax paper. Set pans aside.
2. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in carrot, pineapple, coconut and pecans. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
3. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Sweet Milk Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.
4. To put chopped nuts on the side of the cake, take a handful into your palm and press it into the side of the cake.

Sweet Milk Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
3 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
12 oz powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup evaporated milk
Pinch of Salt

1. Whip cream cheese until fluffy. Add butter and brown sugar and mix until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat at high speed for three minutes.
2. Add milk and salt. Beat thoroughly for 2-3 minutes. Frost or pipe onto cupcakes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Coca-Cola Layer Cake

To me, there is something about a glistening glass bottle of Coca-Cola that screams summer. The beads of condensation sweating from the sides represent the hot hot heat beating down from the sky. When I was a little girl, I can remember bottles of soda being a few and far between treat. My mom was (and is) a bit of a healthy-foods nut. I can just picture the CD-sized chocolate chip cookie sitting on the counter top being split four ways so that I could "enjoy it more than one night." How lame. So no soda and no desserts.
If you told my seven-year-old self that I would one day be eating a chocolate and Coca-Cola cake, I might just die happy on the spot. Good thing I held out for 16 years before I tried it.

If you are thinking that you've seen this recipe before, you're right; however, it is good enough that it deserves another plug.

So, whip out your nostalgia for the days where you drank coke at the swimming pool with skinned knees and one piece bathing suits. Make this immediately... you will be glad you did!

Coca-Cola Layer Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup coca-cola
1/4 cup milk
1.5 sticks softened butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 335degrees and place the baking rack in the middle position. Grease two 9x2 inch round pans and line with parchment paper. Measure dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, salt and marshmallows) in one bowl and wet ingredients (coca-cola, milk) in another. Whisk each to combine and set aside.
2. Combine butter and sugar in a bowl and mix with mixer on low speed for about 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time without pausing between additions.
3. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake about 30 minutes (edges will be just crispy and a toothpick should come out clean in the center). Cool cakes 15 minutes and invert onto a wire rack.
4. Allow cakes to cool completely before assembling with buttercream. Finish the cake by adding chocolate curls on top and mini marshmallows along the side(To make chocolate shavings, run a veggie peeler along the slightly softened bar of chocolate (make sure it's good quality!) allowing a curl to form. Let the chocolate fall all over the cake.

Old-Fashion Chocolate Buttercream
1 cup milk
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-3 oz of bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Quickly whisk together 4 tbsp of the milk with flour. It will be thick, so make sure you whisk it until smooth. Press out any lumps.
2. Whisk in the rest of the milk and coca powder and transfer mixture into 2-quart heavy bottom sauce pan. Bring to a simmer for about 30 seconds over medium, whisking constantly
3. Remove pan from heat, cover with lid, and cool for about 15-30 minutes. You can also cover with plastic wrap directly against surface. (This prevents a film or skin to form on the top of the chocolate).
4. Meanwhile, combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat on high speed. Add contents from the pot to mixer and continue to beat on high until the buttercream is smooth (about 4 minutes or so) Beat in vanilla and and chocolate slowly.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Creamy Italian Chicken Casserole

When I think of a great meal now, I think of grilled vegetables, fresh proteins with lots of flavor and something that leaves me feeling light and satisfied.
When I was fifteen, a great meal was cheesy, creamy, and filled with pasta.
When you are entertaining for twenty-four teenage girls, save yourself a lot of trouble and make this dish.
You will save yourself a lot of headache, and they will love it.

Creamy Italian Chicken Casserole
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs chicken, cooked and chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
10 oz pasta, (I used a combo of macaroni and angel hair)
Oregano, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package and keep warm. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
2. In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 3 minutes, or until tender. Stir in chicken, tomatoes and cream. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, let boil for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat, and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened.
3. Add cream cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Cook while stirring constantly until cheeses are melted. Add pasta, tossing gently to coat.
4. Spoon entire pan into prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with oregano and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

More-is-Better: Margarita Cake

In the words of Tom Petty, "I wanna free fall, out into nothing. Gonna leave this, world for a while."
Eek! We really did it! Sorry Mom (for the 20th time). This weekend was absolutely incredible. Time spent jumping out of planes, waterskiing, jet-skiing, hanging on the pontoon boat, grooving to just dance, drinking high quality beverages (no Natty here) and eating Mama J's good cooking.
Who is Mama J you ask? Check out More is Better, the home of Judy's cooking and of one of my favorite summer tastes thus far.
We did it!
To celebrate our safe arrival back to earth from the sky, we feasted on Margarita Cake and I just had to share the recipe, though it is not my own. Check it out here, and all of the other great recipes at More-is-Better!!
I have so many great recipes that need to be posted, and I promise, they are coming soon!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mini Boston Cream Pies

I am the type of person who likes a plan. I like organization. I like schedule. I like routine. I am also the type of person who likes fun. I like surprises. I like to be random. I like to be impulsive. So you could see why I might not sleep much at night. Where I love to be social and having fun I crave order and responsibility. I think I may be crazy.

So, in a perfect combination of my personality, I decided many months ago that I would move to Boston. With or without a job. With or without a home. I am going and nothing will stop me. I am taking a plunge, taking a chance, counting on faith. And you know what? It feels fantastic.

Mini Boston Cream Pies
1 package (Betty Crocker) yellow cake mix
1/3 cup applesauce
3 eggs
1 cup cold milk
1 (3.4 oz) Jell-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
1 1/2 cups thawed Creamy Cool Whip, divided
4 squares Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine cake mix, applesauce, eggs and water and mix until well combined. Line 30 muffin tins with paper linings and spray well with cooking spray. Scoop batter bake in 30 greased medium muffin pan cups about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 19-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.
2. Beat milk and dry pudding mix with wire whisk 2 minutes or until well blended. Let stand 5 min. Meanwhile, use serrated knife to cut cupcakes horizontally in half. Gently stir 1/2 cup of the whipped topping into pudding. Spoon about 1 tbsp of the pudding mixture onto bottom half of each cupcake; cover with top of cupcake.
3. Microwave remaining 1 cup whipped topping and the chocolate in small microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1-1/2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended. Let stand 15 minutes to thicken. Spread onto cupcakes. REFRIGERATE at least 30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

*These are much much better served chilled, unlike most baked goods in my opinion. So please, wait until they are cooled in the fridge before diving in!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

I remember in seventh grade, a girl Erin got me a package for Oreo's for my birthday. It wasn't the single serving sizes but it also wasn't the entire package. It was probably 15 cookies. It was probably my favorite gift ever.
I remember sitting in my basement, my awkward seventh grade self with the palate expander that gave me not only a gap in my teeth but a lisp, knobby knees and indoor soccer shoes on. What a gem I was! I don't know why I wasn't on more guy's "top fives." What a horrible time. I think I cried almost every single day at Frost middle school when I came home. I wanted to be way cooler than I was but for some reason I guess my training bra wearing self wasn't Grade A material. If they could see me now! Alas, I have grown out of that stage, and my taste for Oreo's has mostly come and gone. Well, with the exception of these, as taken from The Picky Palate.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks softened butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 oz bag chocolate chips
1 bag Oreo Cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a stand or electric mixer cream butter and sugars until well combined. Add in eggs and vanilla until well combined.
2. In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips until just combined. Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top of an Oreo Cookie. Take another scoop of dough and place on bottom of Oreo Cookie. Seal edges together by pressing and cupping in hand until Oreo Cookie is enclosed with dough.
3. Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake cookies 9-13 minutes or until cookies are baked to your liking. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.