Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

At one point I was on a quest to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, but then I realized there can't be a best- there are too many good ones that are unique and can't be compared. They can be good in their own way and and everyone has their unique cookie characteristic preferences. I made these for Nick's birthday, and they earned a spot in one of the "top few" recipes. He really liked the texture of them- they were a little crispy towards the edges but  become chewy as you eat towards the middle. They also had good flavor, which seemed even better the second day.

Click here for the recipe!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Real Simple's Cuban Braised Beef

There are three reasons you should make this for dinner:
1. It is so easy, and takes very little "active" prep time!
2. It's tasty!
3. Flank steak is fairly lean and a good source of iron!

This recipe is from Real Simple, and it is just that! I don't cook beef very often at home, but I saw the recipe for Cuban Braised Beef and Peppers and thought it would be a good one to try. I'm glad we did because it turned out great for the little work it required! It also was great as leftovers since it made much more than the 2 of us could eat. I served it over steamed brown rice and with a side of steamed green beans. I made a couple of changes which are shown below. Here is the original.


  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak (trimmed)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced


  1. In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, oregano, cumin, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Nestle the steak among the vegetables. Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.
  2. Twenty-five minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.
  3. Using two forks, shred the beef and mix it into the cooking liquid. Serve with the rice and top with the avocado and cilantro.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Happy Valentine's Day! I saw these cute treats on Annie's Eats and immediately knew that I wanted to make them for my valentine! Red velvet and cream cheese frosting were made to go together, and this recipe is great way to show off what great combination they are outside of the typical cake form. They can also be made in the traditional round shape rather than hearts and be eaten year round- not as just a valentine's treat. Or you could make them in heart shape to share the love all year long :)
I followed the directions exactly as written on Annie's blog, and they turned out great!  My hearts didn't turn out perfectly, but they aren't too bad :)

For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 oz. red food coloring

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.
2. Using a heart template (I cut mine out of a paper plate), trace evenly spaced hearts onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets.  Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside. 3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
5. Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
6. Blend in the vanilla.
7. With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat. 
8. Blend in the food coloring.
9. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip (I just cut an opening in the corner of a quart sized ziploc).  Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide.
10.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets  for at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack.  Repeat with any remaining batter. 
11. To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.
12. Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.
13. Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.
14. Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair.  Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press together gently.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Acorn Squash Rings

I am always looking for delicious and nutritious snacks, but often it is just so easy to grab something packaged when you can easily make great snacks. I wanted to start eating more vegetable for snacks so recently I have started roasting acorn squash rings and then eating them as snacks throughout the week. These only takes a few minutes of prep time and about 20-25 minutes of cooking time, which can be done one night of the week and then separated into bags for a quick grab n go snack! They are so tasty and now I don't go a week without making them!
* acorn squash
* olive oil spray
* salt
* cinnamon
* pumpkin pie spice

1. Preheat oven to 400. 
2. Cut squash in half crosswise.
3. Remove seeds with a spoon.
4. Slice squash into rings.
5. Arrange slices on a baking sheet, spray with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until squash is tender.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Elvis Fluffernutter Cake

If the name of this cake isn't fun enough to make you want to bake it, maybe the delicious combination of banana, peanut butter, marshmallow, and chocolate chips is! I was actually surprised at how much I liked the combination of all those flavors in a cake. I thought that it might be too overwhelming, but it really wasn't. It was rich but delicious. I saw it on Cookie Baker Lynn's blog and immediately added it to my list of things to make. I followed the recipe exactly as written (except added a little extra milk to the frosting), and it turned out perfectly. I apologize that the picture does not do it justice.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
3-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 mashed bananas, about 1 cup
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling on the cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 2 round cake pans with cooking spray with flour.
2. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating just to combine. Stir in vanilla and mashed bananas.
4. Pour batter evenly between the two cake pans. Sprinkle the mini chips over the top of the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
5. Let pans cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Carefully invert layers onto the rack to finish cooling.

2 sticks of butter at room temperature
1 cup of smooth peanut butter
4 cups of powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp milk (Original used 2 Tbsp, I used 3)
1 cup marshmallow fluff

1. With an electric mixer cream together the butter and peanut butter until it's smooth. Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time. Add as much of the milk as you need to achieve the consistency you want.
2. Place 1/3 of the frosting into a separate bowl and fold in the marshmallow fluff till completely incorporated.
3. Frost the top of the first layer with the marshmallow frosting. Top with the second layer. Frost with the rest of the frosting and sprinkle mini chips over the top, pressing them into the frosting slightly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ellie Krieger's White Chili

After coming in from an afternoon of sledding, this white chili was the perfect thing to have for dinner! We had never had a white chili before, but when I saw this recipe from Ellie Krieger and all the good reviews it had gotten, I thought it might be time to try it. I love her recipes because they are always healthy- unlike most of the other Food Network chefs. This recipe did not disappoint- it was delicious and really filling! I did make a couple of changes, which are reflected in the recipe below. Although, I will say that it did need a little more salt so we just seasoned our individual bowls to taste. If you're looking for a new twist on chili, you should try this!

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 large poblano pepper, seeded and white ribs removed, finely diced 
  • 1/2 of 4.5 oz can of diced green chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound ground white meat turkey
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans white beans such as cannelini, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can hominy, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt
  • Lime wedges
Heat the oil in large pot or Dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onion, celery, poblanos, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink about 2 minutes. Add the white beans, broth, green chiles, and oregano. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.
Add the hominy and salt and more cayenne pepper, to taste, and continue cooking, partially covered, 10 minutes longer. Ladle into individual bowls and top each serving with 1 tablespoon of yogurt. Garnish with a lime wedge.