Friday, August 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals Reveal Day - August

This is my second month participating in the Foodie Pen Pals hosted by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. It is always fun to"meet" other bloggers and blog readers and of course get a package in the mail! You are paired up with another blogger or blog reader and have a $15 spending cap to send your pen pal a package with items you have made or enjoy. My favorite part is that you must include something handwritten, whether it is a note, recipe, etc.

I was paired with Katie from If I Knew You Were Coming I'd Have Baked a Cake, who asked some very thoughtful questions and sent a package that was definitely catered to my favorites.. She baked some yummy snicker doodles that we enjoyed and may or may not have snuck some before I was able to take a picture.  She knew I had tea every morning instead of coffee and included some flavorful chai tea and honey sticks to stir in and sweeten it up yet in a healthy way. There was also a big fancy square of chocolate and chocolate snacks that even had protein in them so I didn't feel too guilty indulging. And of course some adorable cupcake liners that I can't wait to use. Looking forward to participating again next month!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shrimp Stir Fry

Stir fry is such a quick, easy and versatile meal. They are a great way to use up any vegetables you have and make a quick healthy weeknight meal. I used a bag of stir fry mix vegetables to save time, and added in some snow peas we had on hand, but feel free to use your favorite vegetables or what you have in the house. I also enjoy baby corn but didn't have a can around. By making your own sauce you are able to control the sodium compared to buying a pre-made bottle and as you can see it is only a few ingredients and very simple with a big flavor. If you want more heat my go to is always a few crushed red pepper flakes. You can also substitute the shrimp for another protein. We like shrimp because they are full or protein but not a lot of calories, and we usually have a bag of frozen ones in the freezer that we can take out what we want when we needed.

Shrimp Stir Fry
Source: Gourmet Magazine
Serves: 4

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1lb Large shrimp, shelled and de-veined
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups broccoli and cauliflower florets
1 cup baby carrots
3 Tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Asian sesame oil

In a large wok or skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil until hot. Add shrimp and salt & pepper to taste and stir fry over medium-high heat for 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Transfer shrimp to a plate.

Add remaining vegetable oil to the wok. When hot, add ginger and garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add broccoli, cauliflower and carrots and stir fry fo1 minute. Add broth, rice wine, and soy sauce, cover and steam for 2 minutes.

Return the shrimp to the wok and stir fry 1 minute until heated through. Swirl in sesame oil and transfer to serving dish. Serve on top of brown rice and enjoy!

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Low Fat Banana Bread

With Tropical Storm Isaac in town we were stuck in the house for most of the weekend with heavy rain and wind. Hope everyone else is safe and sound and not as bored as we are. What better to do than some baking to keep busy AND use up the brown bananas. I like that the recipe used applesauce instead of butter and it kept the bread nice and moist. Now I spoiled the low-fat and added chocolate chips but you could use the recommended chopped walnuts for a crunch. This made a great breakfast and snack during the day, assuming we don't devour it before then.

Low Fat Banana Bread
Source: Six Sisters' Stuff

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (3-5 bananas)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional) I used chocolate chips

In a medium bowl combine eggs, mashed banana, sugar, and applesauce. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well.

Pour batter into greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes for one 9x5x3 pan or bake 40-45 minutes for two 7 1/2x 3 1/2x 2 inch pans.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Black Bottom Cupcakes

I had my first black bottom when I moved to Baltimore years ago and instantly fell in love. Where had these amazing treats been all my life?!  It only seemed appropriate to finally make them when I had a visitor from Maryland who understood how good they are.  We used to work together and the caterers would bring these as dessert for lunch meetings and other events. These delectable bites combine some of my favorite flavors, chocolate cake with chocolate chip cream cheese filling...can't get much better than that. My filling was little bit liquidy and turned it into a topping instead of a dollop but tasted just as delicious. I will definitely try the minis next time.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes
(Source: David Lebovitz The Great Book of Chocolate , as seen on Brown Eyed Baker)
Yields: 12 cupcakes or 30 minis

For the Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the Cupcakes:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 Tablespoons naturally unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the Filling:
Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate pieces and set aside.

Make the Cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups.

2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.

3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring just until smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few Tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cilantro Thai Grilled Chicken

It has been HOT and humid here with the daily downpour. So I have not been in the mood to turn on the oven and make it even hotter. Instead I turn to the grill, which also means that Jason gets to help with cooking dinner...lucky him ;) Recently, I have gotten into Pinterest. Sometimes I feel like Pinterest was invented to make life so much easier and other times I think it is a big time sucker. On this particular day I was glad it is around because it allows me to see different recipes from blogs I don't normally read and enjoy something new. Grilling and chicken both are big staples in our house so I am constantly looking for new ideas. The cilantro in this recipe has a bold fresh, slightly citrus flavor that held up really nicely on the chicken against the grill. The liquids helped keep the chicken moist and tender, which can be hard to do with boneless chicken breasts. If you want to add a bit of heat you can add in some red pepper flakes and still stick with the Thai flavors.

Cilantro Thai Grilled Chicken
Serves: 4
Source: Artsy Foodie

2 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
2 Tablespoons Asian fish sauce or low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Place all of the ingredients except chicken in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Prick the chicken with a fork to allow the marinade to seep in. Pour marinade over chicken breasts in a zip lock bag and let flavors sink in for 30-60 minutes in the refrigerator.

Prepare your grill or broiler. Cook until temperature registers 165F on the meat thermometer. Let the chicken breasts rest for 5 minutes before serving, this prevents the meat from drying up.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

Whole chickens were on sale last week and I was feeling brave enough to tackle making one. I was definitely surprised at how easy it was to cook! The bonus part is that we had left overs so it meant only 1 night of cooking for multiple meals. This is also a lot healthier than grabbing a pre-made chicken from the grocery store that can be packed with sodium. Not to mention there is something impressive when you bring the whole bird to the table, not quite Thanksgiving, but still seems fancier than when it is all in pieces. You can eat leftovers as is or turn it into chicken salad for lunch or another dish altogether. Definitely something to try for a family dinner or even your next dinner party.

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon
Serves: 3-4
Source: Skinnytaste

1 (3 lb) chicken, washed and dried, fat removed
1/2 onion, chopped in large chunks
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 lemon
2-3 sprigs rosemary
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence (or dried rosemary)
salt and fresh pepper

Heat oven to 425°. Season chicken inside and out with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence. Squeeze lemon juice on the outside of the chicken and stuff the remains of the lemon along with onion, garlic, rosemary sprigs inside the chicken.

Roast the chicken until the internal temperature is 165°F, about 50-60 minutes (Insert thermometer between the leg and the thigh). Let the bird rest for 10 minutes before carving.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Cookies and Cream Cookies

Happy Monday! This weekend a few girlfriends got together for a game night. We played Loaded Questions and Quelf and not only had a lot of fun but got to know each other a lot better. We each brought a snack, so I took it as an opportunity to try out another new cookie recipe. I made these for the  girls and they basically disappeared from there and even the few left at home were gone. Not only did Jason claim them as the best cookies I have ever made but a few girls claimed it was the best cookie they have ever had! You can't beat those compliments as the best feedback. One of our favorite ice cream flavors is cookies and cream so this is a perfect match and tastes pretty similar. You can't go wrong with crushed up Oreos in anything! The only problem was that they disappeared too quickly!

Cookies and Cream Cookies
Yields about 26 cookies
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
6 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 Oreo's, broken up into small pieces
Directions:Preheat the over to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add egg and vanilla and beat until well mixed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Gently fold in Oreo pieces.
With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 1-2" apart.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges JUST start to brown. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Strawberry Scones

Good morning! The weekend is finally here... now time for a nice home made breakfast! I happened to be bored last weekend and actually watching Food Network on tv. I love Barefoot Contessa and was lucky enough to catch her show. On it she made these strawberry scones using dried strawberries. They looked so good through the tv that I had to make them. Turns out I had her cookbook sitting on our kitchen counter for years with the recipe but never thought to make them. It's funny how watching something on tv makes it that much more appealing than reading it in a cookbook. Finding dried strawberries was a bit tricky, they weren't in the local grocery store like other dried fruit. I was able to find them at Fresh Market and stocked up.

For me these will make the perfect breakfast or snack to go along with my cup of tea! They would be great for a brunch, bridal shower or tea party. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Strawberry Scones
Yields: 14-16 scones
Slightly adapted from: Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 Tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream (I used skim milk)
3/4 cup small-diced dried strawberries
1 egg beaten with 2 Tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 4 cups of flour, 2 Tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the cold butter at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour and butter mixture.

Combine until just blended. Toss the strawberries with 1 tablespoon of flour, add them to the dough, and mix quickly. The dough may be a bit sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is well combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into squares with a 4-inch plain or fluted cutter, and then cut them in half diagonally to make triangles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the tops with egg wash. Sprinkle with raw or granulated sugar and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outsides are crisp and the insides are fully baked.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Addicting M&M Cookies

I recently discovered the Six Sister's Stuff blog and have become hooked. They have a lot of simple, flavorful and family friendly recipes in addition to cute craft ideas. Recently we have had a ton of rain so what better to do when it is pouring outside than bake! I don't need a lot of excuses to bake so I took this one to try out a new cookie recipe. These chewy cookies tasted like a combination of buttery sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies rolled into one and elevated by M&M's. I used traditional milk chocolate but feel free to use your favorite flavor. This will be a good recipe to have on hand for halloween with leftover mini bags of candy. These were definitely addicting not only for me but even Jason snuck a few. Luckily I was able to snap a quick picture before the plate disapeared. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

M&M Cookies
Yields: about 6 dozen
Source: Six Sister's Stuff

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened to room temperature
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups M&M's (or other candy-coated milk chocolate pieces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla thoroughly. Add flour, salt, and baking soda to creamed mixture. Blend well. Add 3/4 cup of M&M candies. Drop dough by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Slightly push a few candies on top of each dough ball with remaining candies.

Bake at 350 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes, or until slightly golden.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Baked Coconut Shrimp

This weekend some of our friends from our time in Baltimore happened to be going on a family vacation near us. They were kind enough to come a day earlier so that they could come visit us...yay! It is always so nice to have visitors, especially when you can pick up where you left off. They stopped at our house for appetizers before we all went out to dinner at one of our favorite farm to fork restuarants. Here is a cute picture of us all before I get to the all important food!
Jason and I ordered coconut shrimp at a restaurant the other night where it was served with orange slices and did not deliver. Then I saw this post for a baked coconut shrimp instead of fried and using panko instead of heavy bread crumbs and an apricot sauce. I will admit I was a bit leary of baking the shrimp and losing some flavor. Boy was I wrong, these had the perfect crunch and were light and airy with the sweet coconut flavor. The apricot sauce was sweet yet spicy and hot from the red pepper flakes. We ate the entire plate and left me wanting more the next night. I definitely put this in the book as a great party appetizer because it was easy, flavorful and healthier and lets be honest, who doesn't love coconut shrimp?!

Baked Coconut Shrimp
Source: Skinnytaste
Serves: 8  Serving Size: 3 shrimp

1 lb (24) large shrimp, peeled and de-veined (weight after peeled)
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
½ cup panko crumbs
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 large egg
pinch salt
non-stick spray

For the Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce:
½ cup apricot preserves (you can use sugar free if you wish)
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
¾ tsp crushed red pepper flakes


Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine coconut flakes, panko crumbs and salt in a bowl. Place the flour on a small dish. Whisk egg in another bowl.
Lightly season shrimp with salt. Dip the shrimp in the flour, shaking off excess, then into the egg, then in the coconut crumb mixture.

Lay shrimp on the cookie sheet then spray the top of the shrimp with more cooking spray; bake in the middle rack for about 10 minutes. Turn shrimp over then cook another 6-7 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and serve with dipping sauce.

For the sauce, combine all the ingredients and place in a small bowl.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Jason loves bell peppers so this dish was made especially for him. While peppers aren't my favorite vegetable, I enjoy quinoa, which was the other main component to the dish, making it a great combination of foods we both like. Traditionally, stuffed peppers are made with meat and I have tried them with ground turkey before but these were way better. The quinoa with black beans, onions and jalapeno were extremely filling and packed full of flavor with a bit of heat from the jalapeno and the baked bell peppers have an almost sweet flavor to them. I guess I bought smaller peppers because I couldn't fit all of the filling inside. However, the quinoa and black bean filling was perfect over some lettuce for lunch or another dinner. If you want to make this not only vegetarian but vegan just omit the cheese.

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers Serves: 8 (1/2 pepper each)
Source: Eat Yourself Skinny

1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed, drained
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, celery and jalapeno for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add cumin and garlic and cook for additional minute. Stir in drained tomaotes (reserving liquid) and cook for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. 

Stir in black beans, quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender.  Stir in 1 cup of cheese and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Preheat oven to 350F and pour reserved liquid from tomatoes in the bottom of your baking dish.

Fill each halved bell pepper with 3/4 cup quinoa mixture and place in baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes.  Transfer stuffed bell peppers onto serving dish and drizzle pan juices over top. 

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