Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Friday...let's have a GIVEAWAY!

Phew! I’m slowing catching up on all my blog reading this week. There are days that go by that are so filled with the “everyday” stuff that I just can’t find the time to sit and read (and sometimes drool) over all the fantastic blogs on my list.

If you peeked into my reader, you’d find blogs about decorating, crafting, entertaining, gardening, photography and of course lots and lots of food blogs.

Sandy’s blog The Reluctant Entertainer is a little of all the things I love about a blog rolled up into one. She’s a busy Mom of 3 teenagers (I can relate to that) who maintains a garden, entertains on a budget, makes delicious meals for her family and friends, teaches the power of gracious hospitality and shows you that entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful. You can be the hostess AND enjoy the party!

Sandy is also the author of The Reluctant Entertainer.

rel ent

Sandy on her book:

In my NEW inspirational book, The Reluctant Entertainer, I relate to many
apprehensive hostesses in real ways with genuine encouragement and advice.
Emphasizing the forgotten goal of entertaining – connecting deeply with others –
I show how women can use who they are and what they have to create memorable experiences.

Plus it’s packed with over 40 of Sandy’s delicious recipes.

Sandy contacted me and offered one of my readers a copy of the book! Thanks so much Sandy! Since spring is finally here and Mother’s day is approaching fast, just answer this question for me:

What is your favorite flower?

If you’d like another chance to win, follow this blog (if you do already, let me know in the comments and I’ll add another chance in for ya).

Deadline for entries is Tuesday, May 3rd, so hurry!

Please include an email address if you do not have a blog.

Can't wait to win it?? Buy it now on Amazon!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Amaretto Almond Pound Cake

Amaretto Cake tinted

There are times that the end of the day calls for a cuppa tea and some pound cake.

Days, for instance, when you plant over 150 bulbs, clean out your raised beds, weed the chives, pull out all of the dead leaves from the perennials, make two trips to Lowes, make a trip to the nursery (ok John did that without me), make a trip to your favorite local growers, transplant 6 pots of lambs ear for your co-workers, and get 4 spots in the yard ready for grass seed!

That was Friday for us. We were pooped!

When we take the day off, we mean business.

There's no loafing around or watching movies, no siree, we are going to cram as much into one sunny day as humanly possible....then we'll collapse on the couch.

Amaretto Cake tinted 1

Sometimes you want a non-fancified dessert. No-frills so to speak. This pound cake was the perfect ending to a very busy day.

Amaretto Almond Pound Cake
1 ¼ cups butter, softened (2 and ½ sticks)
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 oz cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoon almond liqueur
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Oven to 325.

Beat the butter and the cream cheese at medium speed with a heavy duty electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add the sugar beating a medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the liqueur and vanilla, beating until just blended. Gradually add the flour to the butter mixture at low speed just until blended after each addition.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition. Sprinkle almonds over the bottom of a greased & floured 12 cup bundt pan, or 2 loaf pans.

Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Amaretto Cake tinted 2

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just a reminder....

pink cluster tint

There is still good in the world and it’s growing bigger and
stronger and faster than ever. If you let it.

Thanks for that Ryan.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cheddar Stuffed Mini Meatloaves

Cheddar Stuffed Mini Mealoves

What it is about mini foods that makes you smile?

I'm tellin' ya, I was actually grinning ear to ear when these came out of the oven. I cooed at them like they were little meatloaf babies.

I was smiling when I made them and shaped them into little loaves too.

They just look so darn cute.

Cheddar Stuffed Mini Mealoves 1

I had stopped by Trader Joe's a few days ago and was walking the aisles looking for inspiration. Nothing really happened, although I did pick up a bunch of ranunculus, which is quickly becoming my favorite flower. So I grabbed a few pounds of their organic ground beef and decided I was just going to wing it.

Hmmm, now what could I make. I skimmed through one of my recipe folders and saw a few meatloaf recipes, but nothing really grabbed me so I decided I was just going to raid the fridge and look for inspiration there.

Parmesan cheese, a block of cheddar....I can make something with this.

The birth of the cheddar stuffed mini meatloaf.

It's cute.

It's little.

It's darn tasty.

Cheddar Stuffed Mini Mealoves 2

Cheddar Stuffed Mini Meatloaves
recipe from Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary

½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup ketchup, plus more for topping
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash (or other seasoning of your choice)
2 pounds ground beef
2 large egg
4 ounces cheddar cheese, diced (1/2 of an 8oz block)

Oven to 400.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the olive oil and onions and cook until onions are tender. Add garlic in the last few minutes of cooking. Cool slightly and put in a large bowl.

Add in all of the other ingredients except the cheddar. Mix gently with your hands. Yes, go on in there and get messy. Fold in the diced cheddar.

Shape into 6 (4 x 2-inch) loaves. I tried to cover up the cheddar with the ground beef so it wouldn't burn in the oven. Line a sheet pan with parchment and place loaves on the pan. Spread about 2 teaspoons ketchup over each loaf. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until done.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fudgy Cream Cheese Cake

Fudgy Cream Cheese Cake

Oh my aching arms and back and legs!

I've been working people. Working hard.

As soon as the sun is up and the the weather is warm we hit the yard running. Almost literally.

Winters are hard here. They are long and cold and they linger. Sometimes they linger into April.

This past weekend was the first really nice weather that we've had in awhile. It was a little windy, but hey, you take what you can get this time of year in New England.

So we took advantage of our sunny Sunday by trimming up all the hedges in the front, and then raking up all the hedge clippings in the front (ehhh my aching hands) and then we decided, kinda spur of the moment that we were going to rip out a rhododendron that I've hated since the day I moved into the house over 24 years ago. Guess I wan't in a hurry huh?

So John and our neighbor Tom (who is the best neighbor on the planet) sorry other neighbors, he just is. The man owns an ice cream factory. Come on, you cannot compete. Anyhoo....Tom and John tie a big ole chain on the back of the pick up and after 6 or 7 tugs (and huge tire tracks in my lawn) that sucker is outta here.

Farewell ugly rhododendron! I can't say I'm sorry to see you go.

And now for something completely different - CAKE!

This cake has absolutely nothing to do with the story I just told. Sorry no witty segway into this recipe.

I made this a few weeks ago. It was really good. It was gone the very next day, that's how good it was. I don't even have to tell you how delicious this was. Just look at that layer of cream cheesy goodness, and the frosting. Oh my. No we didn't eat it all, we always share.

Fudgy Cream Cheese Cake 1

Fudge Lovers Cream Cheese Cake

For the cake
1 box devils food cake
1 box (4 serving size) chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup hot water
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs

1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Oven to 350.

For the cake: Spray the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan with baking spray with flour (ummm that would be Bakers Joy people). In a large bowl beat the cake ingredients with a mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into pan.

For the filling: In a large bowl beat the cream cheese, sugar and 1 egg on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spoon the filling by the tablespoon full evenly over the top of the batter. Using a table knife swirl the filling through the batter. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.

Bake 40 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the chocolate. Cover the cake with frosting. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chicken, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Soup 2

It's spring right? I mean technically winter is over. I know that's what the calendar says but here in New England it's been a slow, slow process. We are preparing though. I've been clearing out the garden and flower beds, planning out the veggie garden, getting ready to purchase some new plants, and I'm ready to plant the ones we bought a few weeks back.

My chives are up, my garlic is sprouting and my tiger lilies and hostas are all peeking there noses out, so there are signs that spring is actually here. Now if the ground would just cooperate with me and let me dig dammit!

John built me a beautiful new fire pit. It's big and it's beautiful and I can't wait to spend my summer nights sitting around it. Makes me happy.

I know soup season is coming to a end. It kind of makes me a little sad.

I love a good soup. A hunk of bread and a bowl of steaming soup, and all is well in the world.

So even though most of us will be moving on to more springy/summery dishes, I couldn't pass this one up.

Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Soup 1

We all love rice in this house, and almost all of us (yeah I'm looking at you Evan) love mushrooms. Evan has learned to just pick the mushrooms outta things over the years.

I love that this was creamy, but still pretty light. It wasn't rich and heavy, but it still had a wonderful consistency.

I can see this being one recipe that is in heavy rotation during the cooler months.

We paired this with a nice spinach salad for dinner.

Chicken, Mushroom & Wild Rice Soup
2 – 6oz packages of long-grain and wild rice mix (hello Uncle Ben)
12 cups chicken broth, divided
4 tablespoons butter
1 – 8oz package of fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
1 medium onion, chopped (I also threw a few shallots in)
3 stalks chopped celery
¼ cup butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup half & half
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 cups cooked shredded chicken breasts
Garnish: fresh parsley, cracked pepper

Bring the 2 packages of rice, 4 cups of chicken broth and 1 seasoning packet from the rice mix to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (reserve remaining seasoning packet for another use.)

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat add the mushroom, onions and celery. Cook 10 to 12 minutes or until tender, stirring often.

Melt ¼ cup of butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute or until thickened and bubbly. Gradually whisk in the remaining 8 cups of chicken broth and cook, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Whisk in the half & half and wine. Stir in the mushroom mixture, chicken and rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until thoroughly heat. Garnish and enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oreo Filled Brownie Bites

Oreo Filled Brownie Bites

Cake Pops.

Red Velvet everything.

Bacon in everything.

Mini everything.


Is this Oreo filled everything next?

I know I'm not the first. I've seen variations of different treats stuffed with Oreos. My friend Amy just stuffed one into a chocolate chip cookie. Hi Amy! You are brilliant and you know I couldn't believe it when I saw that post cause I had this one churning in my head at the same time.

Oreo Filled Brownie Bites 1

I thought why not jump on the trendy bandwagon and stuff an Oreo in a brownie. You know now that I think of it I should have added a Hershey kiss, or a few M&M's in the middle. I could have had the turducken of desserts. Doh!

I had just bought a gigantic box of Oreos at my local warehouse club and I thought, what can I stuff these babies in? How about brownies?

Yeah I could have made them from scratch, but why bother when Mr. Ghirardelli can save me all the time and energy, and I just so happened to have a box of his fine products in the cupboard.

Next time I whip up a batch of these I need to get a non-nut mix. Evan was really disappointed that there were walnuts in these. Bad Mommy.

Oreo Filled Brownie Bites 2

It really couldn't have gotten any easier. Here's what I did:

Oreo Filled Brownie Bites
1 box of your favorite brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli's walnut mix)
1 package of Oreos, any kind you like
1 cupcake pan

Spray your cupcake pan with cooking spray. Put a good tablespoon of batter in the bottom of the cup, enough to fill the bottom. Place the Oreo in the middle of the batter and press down slightly. Cover with another tablespoon of batter.

Bake in a 350 oven for 25 - 35 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes, remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

This made 11 brownie bites.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Creamy Asparagus Puffs

Creamy Asparagus Puffs 1

Are you an asparagus lover?

I am.

I ask that question because I think asparagus is one of those foods like coconut, or Brussel sprouts, turnips, liver or even avocado. To me, those are foods that a lot of people dislike.

I can't even remember if I always loved it. I don't have any memories of eating it when I was younger. It was one vegetable that really wasn't served too much at my house. My Mom is not a big fan, so I'm sure that's why it didn't grace the table much.

Creamy Asparagus Puffs 2

I wait every spring for asparagus season to start and for the long thin spears to go on sale so I can buy pounds and pounds of it.

I swear I go through withdrawal every winter. That's when I have to resort to Trader Joe's frozen asparagus. It's really not too bad in a pinch, but nothing compares to the fresh stuff.

My favorite way to eat it is roasted in the oven with some lemon, spice and olive oil. I can eat a whole pound by myself. No word of a lie. Sometimes I grill it, I love it that way too. Sometimes I chop it up into a salad, or throw it in an omelet.

I love, love, love it. It may be my favorite veggie.

After these came out of the oven...I have to admit...I may have a new favorite way to eat it.

Creamy Asparagus Puffs

I adapted this recipe from one I saw in Taste of Home magazine. I was thrilled when I saw that it was combined with puff pastry. Genius! I made a few tweaks it to and I have to is insanely delicious. I'm talking, run to the rooftops and shout it out loud delicious.

The center is creamy and tangy and the asparagus roasts up just perfect, just a wee bit of a crunch to it, and I love how the ends puff up, almost like a little boat. So cute.

I was testing this recipe out to be an Easter appetizer.

It passed - with flying colors!

Creamy Asparagus Puffs
adapted from a recipe in Taste of Home
1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
2 sheets (1 package) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed
olive oil for drizzling
shaved cheese for topping (I used pecorino and asiago)

Oven to 400.

In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, grated Parmesan, lemon juice, parsley & basil.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Unfold the pastry and fold it in half. Cut the folded piece in half so you have 4 quartered rectangles. Place slightly apart on a baking sheet. Spread the cream cheese mixture to within a 1/2 inch of the edge. Trim the asparagus spears to 1 1/2 inches shorter than the pastry. Press the spears onto the pastry alternating directions. Drizzle with oil. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry.

Bake for 18 - 22 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with shaved cheese of your choice. Slice into thirds and serve warm.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Seafood Mac & Cheese

Seafood mac and cheese 11

Oh it feels good to post a recipe again. It feels good to have enough time to think about a recipe and shop for the ingredients and plan a meal.

See, I really did get in the kitchen during these past few weeks.

I wasn't making anything fancy. There were no long hours in front of the stove, no pouring over recipes and making ingredient lists. It was more like throw some burgers on the grill and make some mac & cheese.......from the blue box. I admit it. I'm not so crazy about it, but the boys love it and I swear they could each eat a box each by themselves.

This mac and cheese is nothing like that little blue box.

I added in some cooked shrimp to kick it up a notch...and it did!

Seafood mac and cheese

Creamy with just the right amount of richness, loaded with delicious shrimp, this recipe was a keeper. We love shrimp. We love cheese. We love pasta. This was pretty much a win-win recipe for us and could even be highfalutin enough to serve company.

If you don't like shrimp, you could always substitute crab. Yes, this would be great with crab. Guess I know how I'll be making it next time!

Seafood Mac & Cheese
2 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 pound frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and chopped
1 pound pasta (use a pasta that will hold the cheese, like elbows or fusilli)
2 cups shredded cheddar
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh chives (optional)
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large salted pot of water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking take a large sauce pan and heat the butter until melted, stir in the flour. When mixture thickens add in the milk and cook until mixture thickens. About 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta and add it to the large sauce pan. Add in the cheddar, parmesan cheese and chopped shrimp and gently stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a greased 9x13 inch pan or individual ramekins.

In the microwave melt the butter. Add it to the panko breadcrumbs. Add in chives, parsley and stir to combine. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta . Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 400. Check your ramekins at the 15 - 20 minute mark.
Let cool 5 minutes and serve.