Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Bad Egg

So a few days ago I was busily baking in the kitchen...

I got out my egg carton and cracked an egg, a normal thing of course.  On the counter, not the bowl, but more on that later. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:

 Look at that egg yolk!
 I don't know about you, but I've never seen an egg yolk so stinkin' tiny!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Foil-Pack Apricot Chicken

First of all, let me say that I know these pictures are under par when it comes to good food photography. I know I'm not a good photographer and I don't pretend to be. Im okay with that. I happen have a really nice camera that does the work for me. I've only edited my pictures twice, and that was using the auto-adjust button. There are many food bloggers out there that amaze me with their photography. I just don't have the eye for it; nor do I have pretty accents, dishes, towels, etc. to make everything look like it's from a magazine. So I continue with my humble photos to show you my real passion, which is cooking and baking for those I love, and then sharing it with you!

But enough about that, let's get on with this chicken. It is from my Hungry Girl 1-2-3 cookbook, so it's light and healthy. As an added bonus, it's unique flavor combination tastes good too! The sweet apricot pairs nicely with the savory onion, and the foil-pack ensures that the chicken will be tender and juicy. Go ahead and give this guilt-free recipe a try!

Foil-Pack Apricot Chicken (Print)
from Hungry Girl 1-2-3
Prep: 15 minutes / Cook: 25 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

1/2 tablespoon buttery spread (I use Smart Balance)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/2 tablespoon dry onion soup mix
2 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Resealable plastic bag
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place butter in a small bowl and microwave until just melted. Set aside.

2. In a bowl, combine vinegar, cornstarch. Stir until cornstarch is dissolved. Add preserves, melted butter, and soup mix. Mix well and set aside.

3. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible and seal. Using a meal mallet or heavy can, carefully pound the chicken until it is uniformly about 1/2-inch thick.

4. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the preserves mixture and turn to coat.

5. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet (enough foil to fold over the top and seal) and spray with nonstick spray. Lay chicken in the center of foil, and top with remaining preserves mixture.

6. Bring the long edges of the foil together and seal. Then pinch and roll the sides to seal. Bake for 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting the packet to release steam. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

NUTRITION FACTS: 233 calories, 3.5g fat, 274mg sodium, 13g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 3g sugar, 39g protein

My Review

Friday, March 11, 2011

mac n' cheese soup

You wouldn't believe how long it took for me to decide how to write mac n' cheese. I couldn't decide if it was mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese, mac 'n' cheese, mac n' cheese, or mac 'n get the picture! Well I decided to go with mac n' cheese, but no capitals, because Mac n' Cheese looked funny to me. Anyway, my sister is coming into town tomorrow and I am super excited! I wanted to share one quick recipe with you before the weekend because I'm not sure that I will do much blogging in the near future.

This soup is very simple to make, velvety smooth, cheesy, and delicious. While I often prefer to make food from scratch, sometimes convenience wins the battle. And I know that this is likely going to make all my fellow purist food bloggers cringe, but this soup uses boxed macaroni and condensed soup! I know I know, gasp and shun me for a few days, but it sure was tasty!

I know this soup could easily be made from scratch, and that is my next endeavor. But the fact is, we are all human, and besides, a little processed food once in a while won't kill you! Have a nice weekend!

mac n' cheese soup (Print)
from Pampered Chef
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

1 box macaroni mix
1 cup water
4 ounces broccoli, chopped small
1/2 cup white onion, diced small
2-1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
1 (10-3/4 ounce) condensed cheese soup
1 cup cooked ham, cubed

1. In a medium saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions and set aside. Cook only the pasta, don't add the cheese pouch, milk or butter. Save the cheese pouch.

2. In the same saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add broccoli and onion and boil for 2 mintues.

3. Add the macaroni, cheese pouch, milk, condensed soup, and ham. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes and serve.

Note: I actually didn't have any ham, so I left that out and it was still delicious!

NUTRITION FACTS: (1-1/3 cup equals) 380 calories, 14 g fat, 1438 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

My Review

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cinnamon Muffin Melt Copycats

Have you ever enjoyed the Cinnamon Muffin Melts from Tastefully Simple? They are delicious!

Well, they look like these, smell like these, and best of all, TASTE like these! I found a recipe in my Taste of Home Baking book for cinnamon doughnut muffins. I swapped out two-thirds of the white sugar for brown sugar, and voila! I had my Tastefully Simple copycats...and I was so excited!

The recipe in my book suggested filling them with jam. I filled two with grape and two with strawberry jam. But I didn't like them that way, so I say just leave it out. I considered that apple butter would be good, you can't go wrong with apples and cinnamon to be sure, but I didn't try that one. My husband and I thought that the jam almost tasted sour inside the sweet muffin. All in all, these are very addicting and fantastically scrumptious. And I'm so excited to be able to make these delicious muffins from scratch without the Tastefully Simple mix!

Cinnamon Muffin Melt Copycats
adapted from Taste of Home
Prep: 15 minutes / Bake: 8-10 minutes
Yield: about 30 mini muffins or 10 large muffins (I made mini)

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (I used light)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
3/4 cup milk (I used skim)

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or fill with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir until combined. In a small bowl, combine sugars, oil, egg, and milk. Beat with a fork or whisk until mixed. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

3. Fill muffin cups three-fourths full. If you have any unused cups, fill them with water to help the muffins bake more evenly and prevent the pan from warping. For mini muffins, bake 8-10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. For larger muffins, the original recipe states 20-25 minutes.

4. While the muffins are baking, prepare the topping. In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave and set aside. In another small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Immediately after removing the muffins from the oven, dip the tops in butter and then in the cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My Review

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Brownie Bite Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache

You may remember me mentioning how my husband's family was visiting us last month. Well, while they were here, my brother-in-law's girlfriend was going to be having a birthday...which meant that I had an excuse needed to bake something extraordinary! As soon as my brother-in-law told me what she liked, this little beauty of a cheesecake came to my memory.

You see, there's this blog I read often, and I had stumbled upon this recipe last fall. And I haven't stopped thinking about it since I first laid eyes on it. So you can believe me when I say that I jumped at the opportunity to make this cheesecake!

It was so much fun to bake this dessert, in secret, while she was in the next room! Hehehe I love being sneaky. I cheated and used my favorite box of brownie mix, and due to my time/facility restraints, I could not wait for them to cool before cutting them. This meant that I ended up making little balls of hot brownies, which may account for the somewhat muddled appearance when the cheesecake was cut into slices. But oh my, oh my! I cannot begin to tell you how delicious this was!

I'll start at the top. The chocolate ganache, amazing. Silky smooth and chocolatey, and it's there to cover any possible cracks that may have appeared on the cheesecake (or rogue brownie bites for that matter)! Just be sure that when you cover it, the plastic wrap doesn't stick to the wet ganache, because that happened to me and then my topping was a little messed up.

Next the cheesecake. Perfectly creamy and sweet. And mix it in with brownie bites? Heaven. My husband said that the cheesecake filling was a little too cream cheesey...but he doesn't like cream cheese, so his comment doesn't count, right?

And finally, the buttery oreo crust. You just can't go wrong there, especially when you double the crust recipe. I know the crust would have been too thin without doubling it, but I think that next time I would have done 1.5 times the original amount. The edges were a little thick and somewhat like hard rocks when you tried to cut it. But it was soft when you ate it. This remains a mystery to me!

To make an already long story longer, I'll have you know that my brother-in-law declared this the best cheesecake he had ever, ever, eaten; and it received rave reviews from the rest of the family as well. Happy baking!

If you would like to make the brownies from scratch, use this link. Also, the crust amounts listed are for a single crust only. I doubled it; you may want to do that also.

Brownie Bite Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache (Print)
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Prep: 40 minutes / Bake: 40-50 minutes / Cool: 10+ hours
Yield: 12 servings

1 Box brownie mix + ingredients to make brownies

1. Prepare brownies according to package directions.

2. Allow to cool and cut into 3/4 inch squares. Reserve 2 cups and eat the rest!

1-1/2 cups crushed oreos (1-1/2 rows of double stuff oreos package)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Grease a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan (mine is a 9-inch). Combine all ingredients and press in to bottom of pan and 1-inch up the sides. Using a glass cup to flatten the crust makes this process easier. Use right away or refrigerate for 2 hours.

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat softened cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Make sure there are no (or few) lumps in the cheese before adding the eggs. I have made two cheesecakes and they both had lumps! This seemed to be a major crisis to me, but after they are baked, you can't even tell!

2. Add the eggs and vanilla all at once, beating on low speed until combined. Scrape down bowl as needed. Avoid overbeating as too much air will cause the cheesecake to collapse when it cools.

3. Gently stir in the brownie bites. Pour batter into prepared crust.

4. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet (to catch dripping butter). Bake in the center of the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the edges are slightly puffed and the center (about 2 inches in diameter) jiggles slightly. You usually shouldn't use a knife/toothpick to check for doneness as this can cause the cake to crack, but if you really must, the ganache will cover any imperfections.

5. Cool the cheesecake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the inside edge to loosen the cake, do not remove the sides of the pan. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Then refrigerate, uncovered for 3-4 hours. After 3-4 hours, prepare the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

3 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (1-1/2 teaspoons for semisweet chips)

1. Place the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. Combine the butter and cream in a bowl. Microwave butter and cream on high for 1 minute.

2. Pour the butter mixture over the chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar, whisking until smooth.

3. Pour over the cheesecake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

4. Before serving the cheesecake, take the rim off the pan and slice. For best flavor, allow slices to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before eating.

My Review
  • Preparation: 2
    • This cheesecake is a lot of work, but most of the time is needed for cooling, so plan ahead!
  • Taste: 5
    • Exceptionally delicous. I think it rivals Cheesecake Factory!
  • Cost: 4
    • It's worth every penny!
  • Clean-up: 3
    • A lower rating, but technically, you can do dishes during all the cooling time!
  • Changes
    • As I mentioned before, I think the double crust was a little too much.
    • I also may potentially decrease the butter in the crust, maybe by just a tablespoon. It seemed a bit greasy to me, and there was a lot of butter on the baking sheet too. Maybe it has to do with the oreos, but the classic cheesecake I made didn't have any drippings.
  • Summary
    • If you're up for a challenge with a delicious reward, try out this cheesecake!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Eggs and Crackers

This probably looks gross and strange, but I promise that it's really good! My husband grew up eating this dish; it's one of those that each person can make on their own and tailor it to his or her liking. It's more of a method than a recipe, but it's hard to mess up eggs and crackers. I was first introduced to this recipe when my husband and I were dating. We ate it several times and I always enjoyed it. I had all but forgotten about it until a few weeks ago. Then I remembered how much I love to eat eggs and crackers.

Eggs and crackers are (is?) a great meal to have in your arsenal. If you're like me, you will be making this on one of those days when you stare in the fridge for 2 minutes and think, "we have nothing to eat!" Kiddos will enjoy the hands on fun too!

Eggs and Crackers (Print)
from the Cooper family
Prep: 8 minutes

Eggs (usually 2 per person)
Butter, to taste (real butter, spread, margarine)
Saltine crackers (8-12 per person)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large saucepan filled halfway with water to boil. Gently lower in eggs with a spoon. Cook eggs in the boiling water for 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

2. Carefully remove the eggs from the water. Now you will need to remove the shell. You can do this a couple of ways, but no matter how you choose, be prepared to handle hot eggs!
  • One method is to cut the egg in half with a knife (butter knife works fine), and then scoop out the white with a spoon. Be sure to have a bowl under you to catch the runny yolk.
  • Another method is to tap the end of the egg on the counter and then peel off the shell, similar to how you would peel a hard-boiled egg. As you can see from the picture, this is the way my husband did it and he was getting very good at shelling the egg in as few as two pieces!
3. After you have peeled the egg and have the yolk and whites in a bowl, cut up the egg in as small of pieces as you would like (your spoon works fine for this). You will want to work quickly because the eggs cool fast. Add a dollop of butter, for flavor.

4. Now you will want to add the crackers. Crush in a few at a time and mix. The number of crackers you use will depend on how much yolk you want absorbed.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

My Review