October 30, 2013

Strawberry Tiramisu

My step-daughter's birthday was this past weekend, so we had her and her new husband over for dinner.  I wanted to make a special dessert for her birthday, but since she's been eating her wedding cake all week I decided to not go the cake route.  Strawberry cake and shortcake are some of her favorite desserts, so I knew I wanted to do something with strawberries.  That's when I remembered seeing a picture somewhere of strawberry tiramisu and thought that just might be the perfect birthday treat for her!  She gave little jars of strawberry jam away at her wedding as favors, and I had a bunch of them that were left from the wedding.  I thought using the leftover jam would make her birthday dessert even more special.

I found a recipe for Stawberry Tiramisu from Bon Appetite, but after looking it over I decided to do my own thing.  This dessert turned out to be absolutely delicious!  I loved how light it was, yet full of strawberry flavor.  I really loved this and will most definitely be making it again in the future!  Here's how I made it:

Strawberry Tiramisu

2 packages lady fingers
1 cup strawberry jam
1/2 cup warm water
2 tbsp strawberry liquor
1 1/3 cup whipping cream
4-5 tbsp confectioner's sugar
16 oz mascarpone cheese, softened
1 lb fresh strawberries, sliced
3 oz white chocolate, shaved

In a medium bow whisk together the jam, water and liquor then set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream and confectioner's sugar together until it forms stiff peaks.  In another medium bowl, fold together the mascarpone cheese and 1/2 of the whipped cream until incorporated.  Pour this mixture into the bowl with the rest of the whipped cream and fold it together until well blended. 

In a 13x9 baking dish, pour half of the strawberry jam mixture and spread it evenly over the bottom of the dish.  Layer 1 package of the lady fingers over the jam mixture, making sure to dish the pan completely.  Spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers, then add a layer of 1/2 of the sliced strawberries.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the shaved white chocolate over the strawberries.  Next, pour the remaining strawberry jam mixture evenly over top of the strawberries and white chocolate.  Repeat layers:  add the rest of the lady fingers, then the rest of the mascarpone cheese mixture, then the last of the sliced strawberries and top with the remaining shaved white chocolate.  Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours before serving. 

October 25, 2013

Cranberry Streusel Muffins

My son loves cranberries.  He's always asking me to make cranberry bread, but sometimes I just can't find cranberries at the store.  However, this time of year they are everywhere.  So when I was shopping the other day and I saw the bag of cranberries on the shelf I knew I needed to make something for my boy.  Since soccer season just ended and he's home after school again, I decided to make cranberry muffins for him to snack on.  Cranberries can be a bit tart so I decided a streusel topping would be the perfect finishing touch.

These came out beautifully.  Light and moist muffin with just the right amount of sweet and tartness to them.  In fact, they remind me of a muffin I once had from a bakery a long time ago.  They are delicious...especially warm with a little butter!  You can make 18 muffins, or you can do what I do sometimes - make 12 muffins and divide the rest of the better into two miniature loaf pans.  I like to make mini breads this time of year and freeze them for hunting season so my husband and son can take an easy snack or breakfast with them into the woods.  It's gonna be riffle season soon up here - yay! 

Cranberry Streusel Muffins (makes 18)

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups cranberries, chopped 

4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp flour

Topping:  Pulse 4 tbsp butter, 4 tbsp sugar and 5 tbsp flour in a food processor until little crumbs form. If you don't have a food processor you can just cut the butter into the sugar & flour. 

Preheat oven to 400 and spray your muffin tins with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with 1/4 cup of sugar and set aside.

Add the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder and salt to a large bowl and stir to combine.  Cut in the 1/2 cup of butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla then gently stir it into the flour mixture until just combined.  Fold in the cranberries, and fill your muffin tins 2/3 thirds full.  Sprinkle the topping on each muffin, then bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

October 21, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower

I realized recently that I've tried roasting pretty much every vegetable under the sun, except cauliflower.  After giving it some thought, I still couldn't come up with a reason why it never occurred to me to roast cauliflower.  I usually steam it when I cook it, but half the time I overcook it and it turns into mushy cauliflower (which is still yummy).  In my opinion, every vegetable tastes better when roasted.  So I decided it was time to roast up some cauliflower and see if that theory holds true. 

The result - the best cauliflower I've ever had.  NO MUSH!  The roasting intensified the flavor of the cauliflower, and it tasted amazing.  Love, love, love this!  If I had my way, this would be the only way I'd ever cook cauliflower for the rest of my life.  However, my husband said that he still prefers it steamed....even though he said this was really good.  He's such a creature of habit, but I still love him!  Try this for yourself and decide if it's the best cauliflower you've ever had ☺

Roasted Cauliflower (serves 4)

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/4 cup garlic infused olive oil (you could use regular olive oil if you prefer)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (grated or shredded is fine)
Salt & Pepper 

Preheat oven to 425 and place the florets into a 9x13 baking dish.  Pour the olive oil over the cauliflower, and sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.  Toss to make sure all the cauliflower is covered in the olive oil.  Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Remove from oven (the cauliflower should be a nice light golden color) and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

October 18, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Bites

My step-daughter is getting married tomorrow!  It's been fun watching her grow over the years into a beautiful, smart and successful young woman.  Her husband-to-be is a wonderful guy, and we are thrilled to have him as part of the family (officially anyway).  We are looking forward to celebrating this special day with them tomorrow - so exciting!

Today, however, I am sharing with you a cute little appetizer.  I love finger food type appetizers, or appetizers that you don't need a plate for.  Especially if you are at a party - it's nice to grab little bites and keep moving around the room without having to carry a plate.  This appetizer is the perfect finger food, and it is absolutely delicious.  I couldn't stop eating these little bundles of joy, and each one seemed like it tasted better than the last.  So, if you are throwing a party, impress your guests by serving these yummy little bites.

Spinach Artichoke Bites

Spinach Artichoke Dip - CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE
Wonton Wrappers

Put together the spinach artichoke dip, but don't bake it.  Preheat oven to 325. and spray 3 mini muffin pans with cooking spray.  Press the wonton wrappers into each little cup of the muffin pan until they are all filled.  Place the pans in the oven and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until they just start to get golden brown around the edges.  

Remove pans from oven and spoon the spinach artichoke dip into each little cup until they are all full.  Cover each pan with a piece of aluminum foil, but tent it so the foil isn't touching the the pan in the middle.  Place in oven and cook for 12 minutes.  Remove foil, then cook another 2-4 minutes, or until mixture starts to bubble and the edges are browned, but not burned.  Remove from oven and place each bite onto a serving platter.  This recipe should make about 36 little bites, but it really depends on how much filling you put into each one.

October 15, 2013

Butternut Squash & Spinach Quinoa

I am always on the hunt for vegetarian lunches that are not salads.  I eat salad for lunch most days, but twice a week I like to eat something else.  I am not a vegetarian, however, I only eat meat at dinner.  It's not always easy to find or come up with dishes that have vegetables, protein and is gluten-free!

The other day I had some left over mashed butternut squash, so I knew I wanted to use it to make something for lunch.  After looking around the fridge and contemplating what to make, this is what I came up with.  I have to pat myself on the back for this one because it turned out to be a very delicious and satisfying lunch.  My husband tried it and even he liked it (my meat & potatoes man)!  This one is a keeper for me.

Butternut Squash & Spinach Quinoa (serves about 4)

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked & mashed butternut squash (add a tsp butter when mashing)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp garlic, minced
5 oz fresh spinach

Add the olive oil to a large pan and heat on medium.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir and saute one minute.  Add the spinach and cook until wilted down, about 5 minutes.

Add the cooked quinoa and butternut squash to a medium sized bowl and stir well to combine.  Add the onion and spinach mixture and stir well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Breakfast Squares

One of my favorite breakfast dishes is banana breakfast squares (click here for recipe).  For some reason I just love incorporating bananas into breakfast.  Like banana pancakes are my favorite pancakes...you get the drift.  However, in keeping with the season, I've been trying to come up with a pumpkin breakfast dish.  That's when it hit me - use the banana breakfast squares recipe and substitute pumpkin for the banana!  Genius.

So, that's what I've done here.  This turned out to be so delicious.  I couldn't stay out of it....a bite here, another bite there.  Oh man - so good!  Perfect fall breakfast dish.  Try it.  You'll love it.

Pumpkin Breakfast Squares

1, 17 oz can Pillsbury cinnamon rolls 
1 cup pumpkin pure (2-3 medium)
3 eggs
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 butter, softened
1/4 cup walnuts
maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350, and spray a 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, nutmeg, cloves and sugar until well blended.

Cut each cinnamon roll into 8 equal pie-shaped wedges.  Add the cinnamon rolls to the egg mixture and stir gently to combine.  Spoon mixture into the baking dish.  In a separate bowl, mix flour and brown sugar together.  With a fork cut in the butter until it looks like coarse crumbs.  Stir in walnuts, and sprinkle mixture over pumpkin dough mixture.  

Bake 35-40 minutes or until center is puffed and set, and edges are golden brown.  I took the icing that came in the cinnamon roll package and microwaved it for 10 seconds to loosen it up a little then drizzled it over top of dish.  To serve, cut into squares & drizzle with a little maple syrup.  Mmmmm, so good!

October 6, 2013

Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas

My son went to his friends house a few weeks ago to watch football, and when I picked him up he came out holding a delicious jalapeno popper type appetizer (if I remember correctly, it was a jalapeno stuffed with cream cheese and the thing was wrapped in bacon).  It was super yummy (Susan, if your reading this, nice job!) and my son loved them!  I made a mental note to remember how much he liked them.

Fast forward to recently when he complained there was nothing to snack on, and that appetizer came to my mind (thanks for the idea Susan!).  Since my son loves quesadillas and they are an easy snack to throw together, I started contemplating how I could incorporate the two.  So, these quesadillas are what I came up with.  I had some left over chicken so I decided to throw that in there too.  These could be a snack, appetizer or meal.  

My son loved them and I will admit that I thought they were really good as well.  How you cut them and what you use them for (appetizer, snack or meal) will determine how many you make, so you may need to adjust quantities accordingly.  Here's what I did:

Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas

1, 8oz block cream cheese, softened
3 small jalapenos, chopped
4 strips bacon, cooked
1 cup chicken, cooked & shredded or chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar
4 quesadillas (if you want this extra cheesy & extra filled then just use 4, but you could stretch this to 6)

Cook the bacon and set aside.  While the bacon is cooking, in a small pan coated with olive oil, saute the jalapenos until softened, about 6-8 minutes.  Add the jalapenos to the cream cheese and stir well to combine.  Spread the cream cheese mixture on each quesadilla (all 4) until evenly distributed.  Sprinkle half a cup of shredded cheddar on 2 quesadillas, then lay two strips of bacon over the cheese.  Add 1/2 cup chicken to each of the 2 quesadillas, then place the tops on each.

Heat a medium size pan on medium heat and spray with cooking spray.  Gently place one quesadilla into the pan and cook until the cheese melts or it is golden brown, then gently flip it and cook for another couple of minutes.  Remove from pan and cut in half, and then cut each half into three wedges (one quesadilla will cut into 6 wedges).  Add the second quesadilla to the pan and cook the same way.  Enjoy!

October 3, 2013

Pumpkin Chia Pancakes

Have any of you been experimenting with chia lately?  It's such a great way to add protein to any meal, so I've been trying to think of ways to use it.  Breakfast is always a meal that I have a hard time with getting enough protein in because I only eat eggs once a week and no meat for breakfast ever (except once in a while).  So, finding protein filled breakfast options is key for me.

Since it's fall, apples and pumpkin are on the minds of many this time of year.  I decided to whip up a batch of these pumpkin chia pancakes over the weekend to freeze in individual servings so I could pull them out for a quick weekday breakfast.  Super good for you and super yummy! 

Pumpkin Chia Pancakes (makes 14-16)

2 cups milk
1/2 cup pumpkin pure  
4 tbsp butter, melted  
1 tsp vanilla  
1 egg  
2 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar  
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg  
1 tsp baking soda  
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 chia seeds

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder & soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and chia seeds and stir to combine.  In a separate bowl whisk together the milk, pumpkin, butter, vanilla and egg.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Heat griddle and spray with cooking spray.  With a 1/4 cup scoop, pour batter onto griddle - or make them whatever size you like (small, medium or large).  You'll know it's time to turn them when bubbles start to form and the one side is a nice golden brown.  Remove when cooked thru, and serve with maple syrup.