February 25, 2011

Jello Popcorn

{printable recipe here}
My friend Lonica's family used to make jello popcorn almost every time we had movie night at her house. I hadn't had it in years but decided on a whim to make it for my little man one weekend. I used strawberry because, well, it's the only flavor of jello I had. Probably because it's the best, really! You can use any color and next time I remember to buy an orange box I'm pretty sure my son will flip out. After I made it I thought, why don't I make this all the time? Well, probably because it's SO healthy- but it's also SO good and definitely worth the splurge. As for the popcorn you start with, be sure to follow Lonica's tip- "The microwave kind doesn't really work, it needs to be plain corn without any butter." If you don't have a popper, though, you can do it on the stove in a big pan.

Lonica's Jello Popcorn
from Anne Strawberry
{printable recipe here}
*notes- I didn't have enough Karo so I took some tips from this recipe from the Kraft website and used a little less and added a bit of butter. You can also bake the popcorn at 350 for 10 minutes after you mix it up if you like it crunchy (but yeah, not so around here!)

2/3 cup popcorn, popped (in an air popper or in a heavy pan on the stove top- see AB's instructions here)- one huge bowl popped
1/2 cup light Karo syrup (Lonica called for twice as much but that's what I had on hand)
1 cup Sugar
1 small box of Jello (any flavor, of course I prefer strawberry)
2 tablespoons Butter (optional- that's my addition but it worked out great)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine corn syrup, sugar, and jello. Stir until everything is dissolved and bubbly (a couple of minutes). Stir in the butter, if desired. Pour over the popped corn and stir quickly to combine. Enjoy! Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 if you'd like it crunchy.

February 24, 2011

Yogurt Waffles

Yogurt Waffles
{printable recipe here}
My husband loves breakfast. It makes sense since his nickname is Mr. Carbohydrate and most breakfast foods seem to be carb layered on carb. When I saw these gorgeous waffles on the lovely Whisk and a Spoon I knew they would make a great, easy weekend dinner. Please tell me you do breakfast for dinner too, right? Right? Well anyways, I like serving breakfast and calling it a decent meal because I don't love going to the grocery store, so occasionally I run out of regular "meat and potatoes" kind of meals. And for some reason my husband persists in being hungry every single night when he gets home from work. I omitted the spices hoping that he wouldn't miss the usual Bisquick. Nonetheless, he still prefers the boxed variety. But as for me and the little mouths I feed, we are going to stick with these waffles. Easy, yummy, and full of creamy, healthy plain yogurt. I served them with peanut butter and syrup (and fruit if you have it). Don't knock it till you try it. The peanut butter is all melty and delicious. Besides the inevitable sugar coma, it's a great dinner!

Yogurt Waffles
Yogurt Waffles
from Anne Strawberry
adapted from Fine Cooking via a Whisk and a Spoon
{printable recipe here}

9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon (I omitted this but will add it next time)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (same as above)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves (same as above)
1-1/2 cups plain full-fat or low-fat yogurt
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, separated
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 200°F and heat a waffle iron, preferably a Belgian waffle iron. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, milk, egg yolks, vegetable oil, and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, with a wire whisk or electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites to soft peaks.
With a spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the yogurt mixture until just combined (the batter should be a little lumpy). Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter until just incorporated.

Brush the waffle iron with a little vegetable oil. Working in batches, cook the batter in the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions until crisp and golden. Set the waffles directly on the oven rack to keep warm. Do not stack them.

Serve the waffles with syrup and peanut butter (I freeze the extras and toast them later for an easy breakfast).

Irene's Maple Syrup
from Anne Strawberry
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Water
1/2 cup Dark Karo Syrup
1 teaspoon Maple extract
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes and serve over pancakes. Store leftovers in a screw-top glass jar for a few weeks (reheat in the microwave or on the stove).

February 22, 2011

Toasted Almond Pecan Scones

Toasted Almond and Pecan Scones
{printable recipe here}
We've had a busy weekend and I wasn't sure I woul get to making this recipe but I knew I should. So this morning I opened up the fridge, armed myself with a stick of butter and my container of eggs. I opened up the cookbook and realized I did not have enough nuts, didn't have any heavy cream, didn't have any nerve to head to the grocery store with my kids after we'd spent all weekend in the car with Baby Strawberry screaming her head off.

Toasted Almond and Pecan Scones 
Thankfully, Little Miss is a whole milk addict and we always have plenty of that on hand, so I just subbed out the cream for the delicious whole milk, added some pecans to my toasted almonds, and figured the butter would make up any difference. This is the first batch of scones I've made that were actually light and fluffy and delicious. To say I'm a perfectionist is, well, kind of like saying it's hot in Arizona. I have a hard time not mixing in every bit of flour and making sure every piece of butter is evenly incorporated. But I tried my OCD best not to overdo it and they turned out great (finally!) Thanks Mike for the fun recipe choice (see the real recipe on his blog and see the rest of the scones from the TWD group here!)

Toasted Almond and Pecan Scones 
Toasted Almond Pecan Scones
from Anne Strawberry
adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan
{printable recipe here}

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (5/8 cup)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cube of butter (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons), cut into small pieces
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional- for garnish)

In a medium saute pan, toast the nuts for five or ten minutes over medium heat, until fragrant (watch them closely!) Take half the nuts and roughly chop. Take the rest and combine with the sugar in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Blend egg, milk, and extracts (I like to use a glass measuring cup and a fork). In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, powder, salt, and pureed nuts. Add the chopped butter and, using your fingertips, cut and blend the butter into the dry ingredients, until it's all pebbly and well mixed (but the pieces will be different sizes, oatmeal to peas, and that's just fine). Pour over the wet ingredients and lightly mix together with a fork or spatula, being careful to be gentle. Turn the dough onto a floured board, pat out with your hands until about 3/4 inch thick and slice up or cut out with a biscuit cutter. I got twenty five using my 2 inch circle cutter. Place on a baking sheet with about 1/2 inch between each. Garnish with sliced almonds if desired.

Bake for 20- 22 minutes until slightly golden brown. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven and allow to slightly cool before serving with jam and butter.

February 18, 2011

Thin Mint Cheesecake

Thin Mint Cheesecake
{printable recipe here}
Some things, you just know they're going to be delicious. My mom and I always laugh at my beloved Barefoot Contessa when she says, "Butter, chocolate, sugar, how bad can that be?" but we really tend to say the same thing. When I pulled out the cream cheese, thin mints, butter, and sugar, I knew this recipe would end well. Crush up the cookies, add a little butter, press it into the pan. Blend the softened cream cheese for a minute or two in the mixer. Pour it in and you're good to go. 

I originally adapted this recipe from Picky Palate. Jenny is so creative and never ceases to amaze me with the things she comes up with. Thin mint cheesecake is brilliant and delicious. I've lightened up the original recipe a little bit with plain yogurt instead of sour cream (I used Stonyfield) and upped the flavor with some vanilla. I also took out a little bit of the butter from the crust. To further lighten up, you can replace the cream in the ganache with "cashew cream", a blend of raw cashews (I get mine at Trader Joe's) and cold water. A few whirls in the blender and you have cashew cream that can subbed in for the regular, heavy cream in the ganache to top the cheesecake (and tastes the same!) Whether you make this cheesecake full size, in a tart pan, in a pie pan, in muffin tins- whatever- how bad can that be? You know it's going to be great!

PhotobucketThis recipe yields 24 mini muffin size mini cheesecakes or 12 muffin size cheesecakes. I doubled the recipe and ended up with 16 muffin size cheesecakes and two 4" cheesecakes using my mini springforms. The whole thing start to finish was about an hour (including baking). This is the kind of dessert that makes a huge impact for minimal effort. Besides the thin mints (or mint oreos if the girl scouts aren't around), the rest of the ingredients are "staples"- at my house anyways. Cream cheese, sugar, eggs, cream/sour cream/or yogurt, and butter. Easy. Now go get some cream cheese out to soften and track down a girl scout, you're going to want this...

Thin Mint Cheesecake
Anne Strawberry's Thin Mint Mini Cheesecakes

{printable recipe here}
1 sleeve Thin Mint Cookies, ground in food processor or blender (or Mint Oreos)
2 Tablespoons melted butter
8 oz softened cream cheese (Neufchatel reduced fat works great)
1/2 Cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons Fat Free Yogurt (or Sour Cream, Buttermilk, or Heavy Cream- I like the yogurt for more tang, but if you like it sweet and smoother go with the cream)
5 Thin mint cookies coarsely crumbled

Ganache Topping

1/4 Cup Chocolate, chopped
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
6 Thin mint cookies, crumbled (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine ground cookies and butter in a medium bowl. Drop about 1 Tablespoon of cookie mixture into 24 mini cupcake tins prepared with liners. Press crust into cups with back of a spoon.

In an electric or stand mixer cream the cream cheese and sugar until well combined. Add egg, yogurt, and vanilla until well combined as well. Fold in crumbled cookies. Pour cheesecake mixture into cupcake tins filled almost to the very top. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until cooked through. Carefully remove cups from tin and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bring cream to a simmer and pour over chocolate. Set aside for one minute then stir until smooth and shiny. Spoon over each cheesecake cup and sprinkle with additional crumbled cookies.

Cashew Cream Ganache
(adapted from Enlightened Cooking)
1/3 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup cold water
7 ounces good-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Place the nuts and cold water in a blender and blend at high speed for 2 minutes. Stop the blender and scrape down the sides. Blend at least 1-2 minutes longer until the mixture is smooth (mixture will be very thick; add 1-2 additional tablespoons water, if needed, to blend until smooth).

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and cool slightly. Stir in cashew cream, vanilla and salt until well-blended. Top torte with your "healthy" ganache, and enjoy! 

February 17, 2011

Caramelized Onion BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Caramelized Onion BBQ Chicken Sandwiches 
We've had some crazy weather around here. A week or two ago there were icicles hanging from our swingset, which has never happened before. Today we have a forecast of 70 and lots of time spent in the backyard. This morning we've been busy making Girl Scout Thin Mint Mini Cheesecakes and that's probably all the time I'm going to spend in the kitchen. Fortunately I have a quick and easy plan for dinner- caramelized onion BBQ chicken sandwiches. When I was pregnant with Baby Strawberry I wanted caramelized onions ALL THE TIME. That and chocolate chip cookies, but those don't make a very good/healthy dinner. These sandwiches fill that need and are hearty enough for a cold day, in case that's what you're having right now. They're also quick and flexible, in case you're having such great weather that there's not time to make something fancy.

You can dress up or down these sandwiches as much as you like. Depending on the time, I use rotisserie chicken or chicken I've roasted myself. Buns from the deli, or homemade, if you're feeling ambitious. I slice up the onions and saute them over medium low heat while I prep the rest of my ingredients. It takes no time and tastes SO good. I know it's not really a fancy recipe, but more of a suggestion for a yummy dinner (that will leave you time to bake up something really great!)

I'll be back next with Thin Mint Mini Cheesecakes- the perfect treat to dress up those delicious cookies that those rotten, adorable girl scouts are bringing around trying to ruin everyone's new years resolutions (we're still thinking about those, right? Maybe?)

Caramelized Onion BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
from Anne Strawberry

2 cups shredded chicken
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices your favorite cheese (I prefer pepperjack)
1 cup of greens- spinach, romaine, etc, washed and dried
1/4 cup your favorite bbq sauce  (homemade recipe below if you're feeling ambitious)

Saute the onions over medium low heat with olive oil until browned and delicious. Stir frequently. Assemble sandwiches with bbq sauce, meat, greens, any other veggies, cheese, and onions. Enjoy!

Homemade Barbeque Sauce
from Anne Strawberry
1 C. Ketchup (spring for the Heinz... you know it's the best!)
1/3 C. Brown Sugar
1/4 C. Soy Sauce
2 T. Worchestershire Sauce
1 T. Chili Powder
1 t. Sriracha hot sauce
2 T. Dijon Mustard (use more if you like a really mustardy sauce... but it's strong!)
1 T. Tomato Paste (I like the kind in the tube you can store in the fridge)
1 T. Garlic Powder
Dash of Ginger
Dash of Cumin

Whisk all ingredients into a bowl and refridgerate. Serve with BBQ chicken. If desired, baste meat with sauce in the last few minutes of cooking so the sugar doesn't burn. Be sure to throw out the extra sauce after basting (or cook it up) so it's not contaminated from the raw chicken.

February 7, 2011

Lemon Velvet Cupcakes

Lemon Velvet Cupcakes 
{printable recipe here}
I tend to post a lot of lemon recipes but not only is lemon one of my favorite flavors, but my parents also have an enormous lemon tree that produces hundreds (maybe more) of lemons each year. When I'm over, it's super convenient to run out to the tree and grab a handful of fruit, to make homemade lemonade, lemon curd, lemon poppyseed muffins, garlic rosemary lemon chicken, etc. Lemon cake of course is delicious and the simple addition of lemon zest to the frosting and the cake makes all the difference.

We started calling these "lemon velvet" when we had to come up with a new red velvet replacement after my tall man couldn't eat chocolate any more. I still enjoy red velvet but we make this crowd-pleaser more often. It doesn't stain like the red velvet but is based off the same easy recipe. Instead of starting with a German chocolate cake, I used a lemon mix and add the zest of two lemons (in addition to the vanilla, sour cream, and extra eggs to doctor the mix). Then for the light cream cheese frosting, I replace the milk with fresh squeezed lemon juice and add the zest of another lemon. Now is the perfect time of year to make these, but even when I don't have fresh lemons on the tree, I reach for my stock of zest and juice in the freezer that I've built up during the winter. It's not a lot of work but has a huge impact on flavor.

I've had a lot of people ask me about the meringue powder I put in my cupcake frosting. I buy the Wilton brand- you can get it at Walmart, Michaels, or Hobby Lobby (or at Amazon of course). I usually buy the big can at Michael's with a 40% off coupon for the best price. It lasts forever and just a tablespoon mixed into the frosting with the powdered sugar will help "set" your icing so it holds its shape after you frost the cupcakes. The end result is a lot better and there's no taste difference. Try it and let me know what you think.

Lemon Velvet CupcakesLemon Velvet Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

from Anne Strawberry
{printable recipe here}

1 cup sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
zest of one or two lemons
1 box lemon cake mix (I prefer Betty Crocker and stock up when they are on sale)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine all ingredients in stand mixer and beat for two minutes until combined. Using a 2-tablespoon scoop, scoop into 24 paper-cup lined muffin tins.

Bake for 21-24 minutes or until cupcakes spring back slightly when touched and a tooth pick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool on racks and frost once completely cooled.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened (I like to use Neufchatel, less fat and I don't notice much difference)
1/2 cup butter, softened (one stick)
juice of one lemon (about two tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of one lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
dash of salt
6 cups of powdered sugar (more or less to achieve desired consistency, this is a baseline)
1 Tablespoon meringue powder

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add in the lemon juice, vanilla, zest, and salt, and blend.

Next, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, cover the bowl of the mixer with a dish towel, and turn it on low until everything is combined. Then increase the speed for a minute or so until the frosting is light, fluffy, and delicious. The meringue powder will help set the frosting after it dries so it holds its shape.