October 31, 2008

Tricks are for Kids - Bring on the Treats!

Happy Halloween!! I hope everyone is in store for some fun today and will be able to spend the rest of the weekend on a nice sugar-induced high. I just wanted to quickly share with you these pumpkin whoopie pies that I made to bring to a Halloween party tonight. 

These are two fluffy pumpkin cookies, sandwiched together with a huge smear of cream cheese frosting. The cookies are very moist and have more of a muffin texture than a cookie. And the frosting, well I'm a sucker for anything with cream cheese, so it was a total hit for me. Plus they are so cute and as easy to eat as cupcakes. I think they would also be an appropriate treat for the whole next month as we begin gearing up for the big turkey day. I made a double batch for the party, which made 24 big sandwiches, but the recipe below only produces 12.

After a healthy breakfast of one of these whoopie pies and a mini-snickers, I'm off to prepare for the big night. I'm going to be Minnie Mouse and the hubby is going as a tourist (am I a Floridian or what!). What are you going to be?

Happy Halloween!!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups flour
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Whisk together the sugar and butter until smooth.
  • Whisk in all remaining ingredients, except the flour, until combined.
  • Fold flour into the mixture.
  • Drop 24 generous mounds of the mixture onto two baking sheets (about the size of a heaping tablespoon).
  • Bake until cookies feel slightly springy, or for about 10 minutes.
  • Place cookies on wire racks to cool.
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pinches of salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • Cream together the butter and cream cheese using an electric mixture.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients on a low speed until combined.
  • Beat for 2 minutes on a high speed, or until the frosting is fluffy.
To Assemble:
  • Allow the cookies to cool completely, the spread the flat side of half the cookies with a generous portion of the frosting.
  • Top with the flat side of an unfrosted cookie.

October 28, 2008

Gotta Love the Slow Cooker

I know I love mine! It's one of my favorite wedding gifts, and God's gift to busy (or lazy) cooks. Isn't it the greatest feeling to come home after a long day and for your house to be filled with yummy smells? Not to mention the fact that you haven't touched a pot in 8 hours. It's like someone lovingly came over and made you dinner and it was ready the second you walked through that door. Plus, slow cookers always make way too much food, so you have leftovers that only get better as the week goes on.

In this cookbook I have, there are like 20 different beef chili recipes. I have only made one before and it turned out more like a pasta sauce instead of a chili, so this time I wanted to go for one that looked a bit more meaty. And boy was this sucker meaty! It's more like a stew than a chili really. The recipe says that you can add an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce to make it more tomatoey (I can make up words, right?). I didn't, but I liked it chunky. We served ours on top of some steamed rice, and it was a big hit. Great leftovers for days too.

Favorite Chili
Adapted from Fix-It and Forget -It

2 lbs. coarsely ground beef
2 16-oz cans red kidney beans
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. chili powder (more or less depending on personal preference)
1 tsp pepper
2.5 tsp salt
  • Brown the meat, drain and set aside.
  • Place ingredients in slow cooker in the order listed and then stir briefly just until combined.
  • Cook on High for 5-6 hours, or Low for 10-12 hours.
  • Optionally top with sour cream & cheese, and serve with rice.

October 24, 2008

Sausage & Peppers Penne

When I first started this blog a few months ago, I was hoping that it would inspire me to really learn some of the basics of cooking and become more familiar with our kitchen. It definitely has! I cook now more than ever, and after watching so many cooking shows I feel like I'm beginning to get the hang of things. I had decided to base my recipes off of those I saw on cooking shows because I figured actually watching someone do/explain a recipe would be the best way to learn. Like when one of Ina's recipes called for a double boiler, I originally thought that meant I would have to go buy another expensive pan from WS, but after watching her do it I realized it was just a bowl over a pot of simmering water. I know, I'm slightly pathetic, but that's why I'm a wannabe! :)

I've recently decided to open the flood gates though and start branching outside of just cooking shows. I mean there is a lot out there to learn! Don't get too excited, I'm not going to be making something hard to pronounce anytime soon, but maybe attempt to get a bit more adventurous.

With this new gig, I present to you one of my all time favorite really easy and hearty dishes - Sausage and Peppers Penne. Just as it's starting to get cold outside, this is the kind of food you crave at the end of a long day. It combines chunks of delicious sausage (the recipe calls for hot italian, but I used sweet cause I'm not so into the spicy), slices of brightly colored peppers and penne in a tomatoey sauce. It takes under 30 minutes to come together and is really satisfying. It's definitely man food as my hubby makes requests for this even in the dead of summer.

On a very happy and exciting note - Two Peas and their Pod (who are fantastic and always have amazing looking food and great stories - go check them out!) gave me this Kreativ Blogger Award. Yippee!! I've never gotten an award before!!! Thanks so much guys!

I had such a nice surprise out of this, why not pass along the fun to some other wonderful blogs - Sugar Plum (she is soo creative and has great pictures and stories) and Under the High Chair (who always has great writing/food/pictures and also makes being a mom look glorious).

Sausage & Peppers Penne
Adapted from It's Good for You

8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
1 lb turkey sausage (hot or sweet)
3 bell peppers (colors are best - like red, yellow & green)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (not drained)
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons Pantry Italian Seasoning Mix
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Boil a large pot of water for pasta.
  • Cook sausage over medium-high heat until no longer pink (14-16 minutes).
  • Cut peppers into slices and roughly chop onion.
  • When sausage is done cooking, remove from pan and diagonally slice into 1-inch pieces.
  • Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. When done, drain and set aside.
  • Add peppers, onions and garlic to pan over medium heat and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until veggies become slightly tender.
  • Add sausage, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasoning to pan. Stir to combine and cook until heated through (1-2 min).
  • Pour sauce mixture over pasta and toss with Parmesan before serving.

October 21, 2008

To Semi or not to Semi

Sandra Lee takes a lot of heat for not necessarily being a "real" cook. Her Semi-Homemade method encompasses a majority of store-bought items paired with some fresh ingredients to create a full meal. I think she has definitely struck a cord with many a busy moms who are just working hard to get something on the table for their hungry families. But she is still under intense scrutiny from many people who think her methods are cheating a bit, or not necessarily what cooking is all about. 

Considering that Kraft dinner is A-OK in my book, I am certainly not one to judge. I will admit that there is something nice about spending time in the kitchen and really putting effort into creating a meal for people you love, but this kind of time is not a luxury for most. In fact, most of the recipes that I have gotten from friends and family that have become some of my favorites, really embrace the whole Semi-Homemade concept.

This all being said, I still had yet to make one of Sandra's recipes until now. First off, it's very hard to find some of the ingredients she uses in our oh-so-small NYC grocery stores. They barely have enough room for tomatoes let alone Jiffy mix. Oh, and ps for all you southerners, no, there are absolutely no grits up here (or breakfast gravy mix! gasp!) - they all have to be lovingly sent up here from Mom. :) Secondly, sometimes her flavor combinations sound totally unappealing. Like a quesadilla with strawberry jam and applesauce. No thanks.

Now that I've gone on my little rant, let's move on to what did sound appealing to me, and how it somehow went terribly wrong. These bars are loaded up with lots of raisins, chocolate chips, peanut butter and oats. And with the help of Bisquick, they easily bake up into a cakey texture. It's this cakey texture that absolutely killed this one for me. I mean, have you ever heard of a peanut butter cake? I haven't, and I beginning to think there is a reason for that. The peanut butter leaves this sticky after taste in your mouth, similar to eating a big spoonful of PB, but then you have a dry cake to go along with it instead of something gooey and yummy. Totally not good. I tried many times to eat them (they had lots of chocolate!), and they just never got any better.

So much for my first one of Sandra's recipes. It might be a while before I try one of these again!

Please visit the link below for the recipe:

October 15, 2008

I'm Back!!!

We made it through the wedding and honeymoon and everything was absolutely picture perfect! The weather was the absolute best for the wedding and we practically spent two weeks in paradise without a drop of rain. After being gone for 3 weeks though, I'm glad to be home and back to our puppy and "real lives."

I'm also glad to not be eating any more restaurant food! After so many days of heavy food and constantly feeling full, I was passing on the delicious banana french toast and craving a bowl of plain rice krispies for breakfast. The food was utterly amazing, but seriously, there is only so much that a person can take before they just want a pb&j for dinner.

So now that we are back and have somewhat woken up from our time change coma, I decided to make the one thing I craved the whole trip but couldn't find anywhere -- grilled cheese. Of course I made our favorite grilled cheese, but since my blog seemed to be feeling a bit lonely over the past few weeks I wanted to make something new too. Hence, this hearty tomato soup. I mean who doesn't love grilled cheese and tomato soup?

The soup was a cinch to put together, even the whole transferring hot soup to a blender and back again, which honestly had me a bit hesitant since I've been known to cover an entire room in margaritas before. The consistency turns out really lovely, kinda thick without being chunky, and gets a bit of creaminess from the added sour cream (which I added instead of creme fraiche). The lemon also added a nice freshness to the soup. The weird thing to me was that it didn't taste much like tomato soup. I thought it would have been much better with a stronger tomato flavor, perhaps the addition of tomato paste would have helped? It tasted more like a pureed veggie soup, which is good in it's own right, but not what I was expecting or craving on this particular occasion. Overall, I would say give this one a pass unless you have some ideas on how to create a stronger tomatoey taste.

Thanks to everyone for all the wonderful well wishes!! It means the world to me - and all of your hopeful thoughts must have worked because everything was a total dream!!

Please visit the link below for the recipe: