Friday, November 19, 2010
These are the cutest, yummiest, bite-sized cookies. I made these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Sandwiches for a game-watching night and received rave reviews. Careful though, their small size makes you think you’re not eating much, but they are so good you can’t stop! The base is prepared cookie dough, so they are cinch to make. The added pumpkin and spices make ordinary chocolate chip cookies phenomenal.
So, how’s it taste?
These are so good you’ll have a hard time not eating the entire batch. I’ve said it before, but I love the combination of pumpkin and chocolate. Those two were meant for each other. The chocolate chip cookie base mixed with sweet pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice is perfect. Instead of using plain cream cheese frosting, I added pumpkin pie spice to mine to really amp up the flavor. It was incredible. If you’re looking for something easy to make that will please a crowd, give these a try. You won’t regret it!
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Sandwiches
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin
1 package (18 oz.) refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup prepared cream cheese frosting*
*Jazz up the frosting by adding 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice!
1. Line colander with paper towel. Place pumpkin in prepared colander; drain about 20 minutes to remove excess moisture.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheets.
3. Remove dough from wrapper; place in large bowl. Let dough stand at room temperature about 15 minutes.
4. Add pumpkin, flour and pumpkin pie spice to dough in bowl; beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.
5. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake 9 to 11 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets 3 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
6. Place about 1 teaspoon frosting on flat side of cookie; top with second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies and frosting.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
After the title alone, who’s not running to the kitchen to bake these?! Milky Way Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream are heaven. I’ve made this recipe before in a cake version and it didn’t turn out so well, so I was determined to conquer it. I made the cake version years ago for Thanksgiving, where my impatience got the best of me and I didn’t wait for the caramel to cool before making the buttercream. BIG mistake! Halfway through dinner my cake layers started a slippin’ and a slidin’. I was mortified, but it still tasted good even though it resembled chocolate caramel slop!
So, how’s it taste?
Oh my my my. The chocolate cake is decadent and moist. You can still taste the Milky Way bars in them. What makes these cupcakes so special is the buttercream. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a tub frosting girl. Say what? Yep, I said it. I like the way it tastes way better than most homemade frostings. That is until I made this caramel buttercream. What made me do it? These beauties were Family Bites’s birthday treat and you don’t just make any ol’ cupcake for her and you don’t even think about using tub frosting. Take a look at her blog and see her yummy cupcakes, and especially check out the most fabulously decorated cupcakes ever! *Snicker *Snicker
Ok, ok, I’m getting off track. The frosting is really easy to make. It’s got melted Kraft caramels and milk for the caramel. You can taste that distinct Kraft caramel flavor, which is the point seeing as this recipe is from The Candy Bar Cookbook. Then add the COOLED caramel to butter and powdered sugar. Ta da! For an extra special touch, I drizzled caramel over the frosted cupcakes and added a chopped piece of a Milky Way bar. Scrumptious!
Milky Way Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream
3 Milky Way bars (2.05 oz. bars) (Buy an extra bar if you want for decoration.)
1 3/4 cup milk, plus 2 tbsp.
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
25 caramels (I use Kraft)
1/4 cup milk
4 oz. butter (1 stick), room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp. vanilla
*This buttercream recipe is enough for about 36 cupcakes. Double it if you prefer to make the layer cake.
1. For the cake: In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the candy bars with 2 tablespoons milk. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly butter and flour your cupcake pan (or two 9-inch round cake pans).
3. In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla on high until well blended.
5. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for 30 seconds on high, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
6. Add the Milky Way mixture and mix for 30 seconds on high.
7. Add 1/2 of the four mixture and 1/2 the remaining milk to the butter mixture and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and milk. Mix thoroughly until incorporated. Pour the batter into prepared cake pans.
8. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
9. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cupcakes onto a rack and cool completely before frosting.
10. For the buttercream: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the caramels, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in milk until smooth. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
11. In a medium mixing bowl, cream together the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla for 3 minutes on high.
12. Add the cooled caramel and mix on high for 2 minutes. Frost your cupcakes!
Monday, November 15, 2010
Finally, finally made my way to Rumba, located at 3009 West End Avenue. I had high expectations from all the good things I’d heard about it and they didn’t disappoint. I love the idea of ordering several of their small plates and getting a sampler of a variety of dishes on their menu. My friend Jen and I scored a Groupon and had a girls night out. Getting caught up on each other’s news over yummy eats and drinks, plus dessert…I’d say it was an excellent first trip to Rumba!
So, how’s it taste?
First up are the Stuffed Peppadews. Only because they were my absolute favorite and I’m pretty sure I could eat a crateful of these. Grilled South African peppers that are a tad bit sweet, stuffed with tangy goat cheese and sprinkled with chorizo. De-li-cious!
Next up was my beverage, the Whiskey Thai. Being a Jack Daniel’s kind of girl, it was a no-brainer for me to order this. Jack Daniel’s, lime, turbinado sugar, mint, coriander, and ginger lemonade. I quickly learned that Rumba drinks are strong. A little too strong for my taste. I didn’t hate this drink, but I wouldn’t order it again. A little too spicy for my taste. I liked it better as my ice melted.
On to more of our small plates. We ordered the Manchego Churros. How fun do those look?! Strips of fried manchego with a yummy romesco sauce. It was really, really good.
Next up, the Spring-Rolled Quesadillas. Spicy chicken, black beans, and cheese stuffed inside with a peanut dipping sauce. Super yummy. I loved the sauce. Peanutty good and went perfectly with the simple rolls.
Our last savory dish was the Fried Artichoke. Fried in tandoori seasoning and panko breading, then served with both hummus and romesco sauce, sprinkled with prosciutto chips. I loved the combination of the two sauces together on the artichoke. Even though they were fried, they weren’t too greasy.
To top our night, we ordered the Chocolate Bread Pudding for dessert. It wasn’t exactly what I was picturing when they brought it out, but wowza was it good! I was expecting a chunky bread pudding, but the two servings were smooth and super moist. What gives it the wow factor is the rum butter. The most decadent sauce I have ever eaten. Jen and I couldn’t stop talking about it. We licked that plate clean!
On a second visit to Rumba, I tried two more offerings. I ordered the Cumberland Sidecar. Once again, super strong for my taste, but I liked the flavor. It’s made with Four Roses Small Batch, St.Germain, Pimm’s, and house ginger beer. Better than the Whiskey Thai, but I wouldn’t order it again. My friend let me taste her Pacific Pearl (sorry no picture). It’s made with Pearl vodka, ginger lemonade, and mint. Now that is my drink! I finally found one I liked, make that loved, at Rumba. It tastes just like lemonade and goes down so smoothly. So much so, it can be dangerous!
I also ordered the Edamole. It’s a take on guacamole made with avocados and edamame, served with tortilla chips. I didn’t care for it. A few of us at the table ordered it and we all thought it was pretty bland. Even salting it didn’t do much for it. I felt like it was served too cold as well. I didn’t care for the chips either. Some were tortilla some were softer chips that may have been fried pita. I’m not sure. They weren’t very good. So skip this one, but they have a ton of other delicious bites that make Rumba one of my new favorites!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Pumpkin for breakfast! I am loving trying all these new recipes with pumpkin. I still have a pantry stocked with it (what pumpkin shortage?) and my list keeps getting longer and longer. I couldn’t wait to eat these Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins. Sweet muffins with crunchy pecans and bites of tangy cranberries. Who wouldn’t want that with a cup of coffee every morning?
So, how’s it taste?
They smelled ah-may-zing while they were baking. Like the best sweet treat that has ever been baked in my oven. I was salivating the whole time. The first one I tasted was insanely good. Hot from the oven, delicate, filled with a sweet pumpkin taste, then bits of pecans, and a delicious burst of tart cranberries. The cinnamon and ginger add a nice warmth and don’t you dare skip the coarse sugar on top! The muffins are so moist and soft, and then you bite into those crunchy bits of sugar. It’s so good! And it goes incredibly well with a cup of coffee. Sounds like the breakfast of champions to me!
Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Coarse sugar, if desired
1. Heat oven to 400°F. Grease 12 regular-size muffin cups with shortening or line with paper baking cups.
2. In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Stir in pumpkin, oil, eggs, cranberries and pecans just until moistened. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle coarse sugar evenly over batter in each cup.
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan to cooling rack. Serve warm.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I love cooking meals in a slow cooker. It’s incredibly easy and it makes your house smell amazing. This time of year it seems like my slow cooker is never off my counter. Anything that comes out of it could most likely be called comfort food. This Country French Beef Stew is no exception. Chunks of beef, herbs, two kinds of tomatoes, veggies, and bacon! Now you understand why this recipe made the list.
So, how’s it taste?
Surprisingly, this stew took a few servings to grow on me. I was disappointed at first because with all that goes in it, I was expecting some major flavor. The bacon was pretty pointless. Once it’s cooked for so long in the slow cooker, its flavor disappears. For some reason, this dish got better with the leftovers though. My first couple of servings were over noodles and then I tried it over rice. The rice worked much better. I also added some shaved Parmesan and the dish really perked up. The beef was outstanding. I used red wine in my recipe and the beef was filled with a great taste from it. I also liked the hint of sweetness from the sun-dried tomatoes. With my first few servings, I was expecting a traditional beef stew taste and this recipe doesn’t have it. It’s very different than your meat and potato variation. I’d make it again and leave out the bacon and add beef bouillon to up the flavor a notch or two.
Country French Beef Stew
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 lb), trimmed of fat, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
3 cups ready-to-serve baby-cut carrots
1 cup red Zinfandel wine or nonalcoholic red wine
3/4 cup beef broth
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 package (8 oz) sliced fresh mushrooms (3 cups)
1/2 cup julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
Hot cooked egg noodles or cooked rice, if desired
Chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves, if desired
1. Spray 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Place bacon in cooker. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat in skillet. Cook beef in bacon fat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown. Stir onion into beef. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Spoon mixture into cooker.
2. Stir carrots, wine, broth, flour, basil, thyme, salt, pepper and canned diced tomatoes into mixture in cooker.
3. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 7 to 8 hours.
4. Stir in mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 20 to 30 minutes longer or until sun-dried tomatoes are tender. Serve beef mixture over noodles; sprinkle with parsley.
Monday, November 8, 2010
About a month ago, a few of us girls got together for lunch at The Yellow Porch, located at 734 Thompson Lane. I had never heard of this place before, but was excited to try something new. It’s a cozy dining experience with a lunch menu full of salads, sandwiches, and heartier entree selections. I opted for the Herbed Chicken Salad Wrap with potato salad.
So, how’s it taste?
It was ok. The chicken was chopped a little too fine for my liking, but it did have a nice flavor. Not as flavorful as most chicken salads, but good. I liked that it wasn’t swimming in mayonnaise, but combined with the potato salad, it was mayo overkill for my meal. I’m also not a fan of celery and both had bits of celery, which skewed my liking of the meal as a whole. I would order the wrap again, but wouldn’t pair it with the potato salad. The potato salad was tasty, but I had to add some salt to it.
There were only a few other items on the menu that appealed to me. I wouldn’t visit The Yellow Porch weekly, but I do have my eye on trying the Tomato & White Cheddar Melt. I hear it’s pretty tasty.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Ok, ok, don’t turn your nose up just yet. Yes, it’s cauliflower. Yes, it stinks when you cook it…really stinks. But this Cream of Cauliflower Soup is incredible. I was flipping through my Taste of Home archives before bed (some read novels, I prefer cookbooks), found this recipe, and had to convince myself to wait until morning to start making it. I was that excited about it.
So, how’s it taste?
Nom, nom, nom! I don’t know where to begin. It’s so creamy and FULL of flavor from such a simple list of ingredients. It’s a very rich soup with the cream and all that glorious cheese. I used sharp cheddar and it was outstanding. One bowl of this will definitely fill you up. I plan to experiment with the added potato flakes though. I found the soup to be just a bit on the thick side. I’m going to make my next batch with 1/2 of the amount of potato and see how it turns out. I’ll update this post with my findings.
I made this soup a few weeks back, when it was still fairly warm here in Tennessee. Now that it’s officially cold weather, I’ll be making this soup again soon. I can’t explain in words how good it is. I froze several servings and it held up very well. It looks odd while you’re reheating it, but a few stirs and it’s back to normal. I was so bummed when I ate my last bowlful. This should be at the top of your list of comfort foods.
Cream of Cauliflower Soup
1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. chicken bouillon granules (or 6 cubes)
2 cups half-and-half cream
2 cups milk
1 medium carrot, shredded
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup mashed potato flakes
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1. In a large saucepan, combine the cauliflower, broth, and bouillon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Mash cauliflower.
2. Transfer to a 3-qt. slow cooker. Stir in the cream, milk, carrot, bay leaves, and garlic powder. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours. Stir in potato flakes.
3. Cook 30 minutes longer or until thickened. Discard bay leaves. Cool slightly.
4. In a blender, process soup in batches until smooth (or use an immersion blender in the slow cooker - much easier). Return to the slow cooker; stir in cheese. Cook until soup is heated through and cheese is melted. Garnish with paprika.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Surprise! It’s another recipe with pumpkin! Can you blame me? This time of year just calls for all these yummy pumpkin treats, and it doesn’t hurt that I stocked my pantry with 12 cans of pumpkin. Those cans are just begging to be turned into something delicious. Delicious is definitely what you get with this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. I don’t know what it is about pumpkin and chocolate, but they go so well together and the pumpkin makes this quick bread incredibly moist. Good thing about this recipe is it makes two loaves. So bake one for yourself and one to give away…if you can bear to part with it!
So, how’s it taste?
Ah-may-zing! I almost hate to refer to it as a bread because it’s more like cake. The pumpkin really shines and the mini chocolate chips add just a touch of richness without overpowering. The original recipe calls for a combination of cinnamon and nutmeg, and I decided to turn it up a bit and used pumpkin pie spice in place of the nutmeg. It was outstanding! A warm slice of this bread with a dollop of spiced whipped cream would be heaven. I thought it was a bit odd that the pecans are only sprinkled on the top instead of spread throughout, so if you’re not feeling the pecans, leave them out. I think this bread might be better without them. It also gets sprinkled with regular sugar and next time I think I’ll use coarse sugar for a nice crust on top. This might be a recipe that makes my fall baking list every year!
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup water
1-15 oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. mini semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp. chopped pecans
2 tsp. sugar
1. Heat oven to 350. Grease bottom only of two 8x4-inch loaf pans with shortening; lightly flour (or use cooking spray and do not flour).
2. In medium bowl, stir flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice until mixed; set aside.
3. In large bowl, beat 2 cups sugar and the butter with electric mixer on medium speed 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in water and pumpkin on low speed. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed about 1 minute or until moistened. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Spread evenly in pans. Sprinkle tops with remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, the pecans and 2 teaspoons sugar.
4. Bake 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
Monday, November 1, 2010
One pot meals are perfect for weeknight cooking. This Beefy Rice Skillet is a cinch to make and is filled with fresh veggies. What caught my eye in the cookbook were those ripe, juicy, red tomatoes. My mouth was already watering. Then I read it calls for a box of four-cheese rice, which happens to be my absolute favorite (I use Rice-A-Roni). I knew I had to make this dish for dinner asap.
So, how’s it taste?
It was fantastic. The seasoning in the Rice-A-Roni really jazzed up the beef. I really enjoyed the addition of the veggies. Sweet carrots, a slight crunch from the broccoli, and I finally got my juicy tomatoes. I loved them so much I added more to my serving. If you don’t feel like beef, you could easily substitute ground turkey (and make it lighter). The only thing I would change when I make this again, is when to add the seasoning packet. The directions on the box suggest that you add the seasonings after the rice has cooked. In this version, the seasoning packet is added before and cooks with everything for about 20 minutes. It really loses its cheesy goodness. Next time I’ll add the seasonings toward the end with the broccoli. I bet this dish would be out of this world with that cheesier flavor coming through. This meal also works great for leftovers.
Beefy Rice Skillet
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 1/2 cups hot water
3/4 cup baby-cut carrots, cut lengthwise in half
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 package (6.4 ounces) four-cheese rice and pasta blend (try Rice-A-Roni brand)
1 1/2 cups broccoli flowerets
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1. Cook beef in 12-inch skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain.
2. Stir water, carrots, butter, pepper, rice mixture and contents of seasoning packet into beef. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and cook about 15 minutes or until rice and carrots are almost tender.
3. Stir in broccoli. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in tomatoes. Cook uncovered about 1 minute or until heated.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
This is my final entry about my eating adventures in New York City. And what better way to end it than how you end any meal…with a delicious dessert! Here’s a recap of three spots Carol and I “popped” in to on whims just to have a sweet treat. That’s what I love about NYC. It never sleeps, so you can always find dessert at any hour!
So, how’d those desserts taste?
First up is the Ferrara Bakery & Cafe located at 195 Grand Street. Carol and I walked around Little Italy and couldn’t resist stopping in. They were selling gelato and sorbet right outside so that’s all it took to get me in!
I opted for a scoop of the Key Lime Sorbet. It was so refreshing and perfectly tart with a hint of bitterness. We had eaten a big dinner before walking around Little Italy and a scoop of this sorbet hit the spot. The shop was so cute. I could have stood for hours staring at all the cheesecakes and pastries. Ferrara has been open since 1892 and definitely worth paying a visit.
A few days later we went to see Rock of Ages. Sounded totally cheesy and right up our alley with 80s music from Journey, Styx, Poison, Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, etc. It had the potential to be really, really bad, but we loved it. It was hilarious and the music was fantastic. I’d see it again in a heartbeat.
We got to the show a bit early and decided it was dessert time. We went right next door to Maria Pia, located at 319 West 51st Street. I picked the classic Tiramisu. I mean I’m in New York at an Italian restaurant. I had to get it, right? It looked pretty enough on the plate, but it left me wishing I had ordered something else. It was kind of bland for tiramisu. Where was the creamy, decadent mascarpone taste? And the hint of coffee on the soaked ladyfingers? The ingredients were there, but not the flavor I wanted. It seemed like a nice restaurant, but I’m not sure I’d go back to an Italian spot that can’t get tiramisu right.
Our last stop was the cream of the crop. Carol and I had just taken the night double decker bus tour (which was awesome) and the tour ended in Times Square. As we headed toward the subway, Carol suggests, “Hey, want to just walk home?” Um, home is about 50 something blocks…say what?! But after hearing she’s done the walk before and it’s only about 45 minutes, I was game. Plus I’d eaten like food was going out of style all week, so some exercise would do some good!
On our walk, we started pondering what to do next. Stop in a bar along the way? Nah, once again, it’s dessert time! (We deserved it after all that walking!) Carol remembered Cafe Lalo, located at 201 West 83rd Street, was on our way home. You know, it’s the cafe seen in You’ve Got Mail! It was so cool on the outside. Windows open and white lights strung outside around the trees.
I ordered the Brownie Chunk Cheesecake. Oh baby was it a tough decision! I must’ve stood at the counter for 20 minutes trying to narrow my decision down. I was so excited about dessert I dug right in before snapping a pic. Just look at those big chunks of chocolatey brownie, surrounded by dreamy cheesecake. I chose wisely. Paired it with a cup of coffee, my BFF Carol, and good conversation, and we had ourselves one fabulous NYC night! 54 blocks of walking and all!
Part 1, Flavors of NYC Food Tour
Part 2, Throwdown
Part 3, What the Locals Eat
Part 4, Fun Foods