2.28.2013

Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip & Baked Whole Wheat Tortilla Chips with Sea Salt

I have a serious issue with avocados.

A huge problem.

Why? 

Well, I just can't get enough of them. 

Just this past weekend, I even sliced and seeded an avocado, grabbed a handful of tortilla chips, and just plowed right through the dang thing right then and there. 

And guess what I did the next day?

The same thing.

So you can imagine when avocados were priced-matched at 4/$1.00 at the supermarket, I came home with a pile of 'em. Most of them have been used in egg wraps, eaten in our favorite tacos, and some savored during the aforementioned "chip attack" method. This dip, however, was by far the most amazing. There's something so sneaky about greek yogurt - it's so multifaceted, and with that trait, can be used equally in savory dishes, as well as in our favorite sweet treats. With this beautiful creamy dip, it tastes just like sour cream. You could easily slather this stuff on anything of the Mexican food genre and be satisfied.

The chips? Seriously. Sea salt is taking over my life. Fully welcomed, I dare say.

Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip

Ingredients:
1/2 C plain fat-free Greek Yogurt
2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 T jalapeno pepper, chopped and seeded
2 T fresh lime juice
1/4 t ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
1. In your food processor or blender, mix together yogurt, avocados, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, cumin and salt & pepper. Blend until very smooth. Serve with tortilla chips, fresh veggies, or in a wrap.

Recipe source: two peas & their pod

-------

Baked Whole Wheat Tortilla Chips with Sea Salt

Ingredients:
whole wheat tortillas (about 4 or 5)
EVOO
sea salt

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet.
2. Lay tortillas on top of each other, and slice into wedges with a pizza slicer or large knife.
3. On your cooling rack, lay out each tortilla slice without overlapping any of them. Drizzle or brush wedges with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt (more if you like sea salt, less if you only want the flavor of it.)
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, flipping wedges halfway through, until golden and crispy.

BwB original

Still in the running for the Top Food Blog of 2013 - you can vote once per day. Thanks again for all your support! All you do is click the link, and give Baking with Blondie a thumbs up!

2.27.2013

Bacon and Egg Toast Cups with Two-Potato Hash Browns


Breakfast. 

or Lunch. 

or Dinner. 

Man, whatever it is.

We're purists when it comes to what we can eat for breakfast. We don't have food that's usually designated for lunch/dinner for breakfast. But for some reason, we let our typical breakfast choices bleed into lunch meals, or on our dinner plate. It's strange, really, but happens more than occasionally. 

I'm sure there's a special law in the universe deeming what you can/should eat for these meals. But we completely ignore it when lunch and dinner come around. Why? I think one of our rules is better:

Eat what you have in your house.

Seems pretty straight forward to me. Why make an entirely new meal, if I have ingredients that need to be used up in the fridge, on my counter, or in my cupboards? I think it's kind of fun, actually. I love watching Chopped on the Food Network, and I think it's really fun pretending I'm on the show when I'm in the kitchen. The ingredients I have to deal with are much more tame and usable than the wrenches they throw at the chefs on the show. But it's still a blast thinking of an unplanned way to use up the last couple of potatoes on my counter, the 3 strips of bacon left in the fridge, and my final sprigs of parsley for the week. I feel horrible throwing away food - especially when it spoiled because I haven't been wise enough to use it in a meal when it was fresh. Dollars right down the trash, my friends. Creativity has so much room to flourish in the kitchen. We can transform our leftovers, and whatever other ingredients we have on hand, into a beautiful new meal for our family. This was one of those meals.

We ended up having this dish as a late lunch, and it (along with some fresh apple slices) filled us right to the core until long after dinnertime. These bacon cups are genius. Inside the cup, and underneath the baked egg is a small circle of bread, and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. I could see hiding maybe a little minced jalapeno in the cup next time, for sure. The egg cups were in the oven a little longer than I preferred, because I knew my son would be eating the eggs, and runny eggs aren't something he'd come even close to eating (even if Ryan and I like them that way). The potatoes were heaven - the sweet potato wasn't really supposed to go in the dish. But while I was dicing up the other potatoes, I wondered how in the heck I'd use up the sweet potato within the next couple days. Needless to say, it was tossed immediately into the mix. Turned out to be our favorite part. 

The original recipe mentioned using turkey bacon and wheat bread as a healthier alternative. 

Also, if you have a second, remember to vote below by clicking the box, and clicking the "thumbs up" :) I'm in the finals for 2013's Top Food Blogger - and so grateful to even be considered on the list. To answer the same recurring question: yes, you can vote more than once (once per day, I think). Thank you so much to those who have already voted!


Bacon and Egg Toast Cups 

Ingredients:
6 slices of uncooked bacon
6 slices of bread
1/2 C shredded mild or sharp cheddar cheese
6 eggs
salt and pepper

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fry up bacon in a pan or bake in oven until almost done. You don't want your bacon to be fully cooked at this point, it will still have time in the oven to bake later on. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
2. Grease your muffin pan (this recipe only makes 6 cups, so I used my half-dozen muffin tin).
3. With the top of a drinking glass, or circle cookie cutter, cut one circle out of each of your slices of bread. Save the bread scraps for making bread crumbs, bread pudding or croutons, or discard them, whatever you want. Press bread rounds in the greased muffin wells, curl a piece of bacon around the outsides of each piece of bread (positioning the bacon between the bread and tin).
4. Sprinkle a small amount of cheese in each bacon cup, and then carefully crack one egg over each cup - you might not need to use all of your egg whites. Be careful not to break the yolks.
5. Bake eggs until they are cooked to your liking - about 15-20 minutes. Run a knife around the outside of each bacon cup and pop them out. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Recipe source: the girl who ate everything, from annie's eats
-------

Two-Potato Hash Browns

Ingredients:
4 medium-sized Russet potatoes, washed and cubed
1 large sweet potato, washed and cubed
EVOO
1 T butter
sprinkle of garlic powder
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Method:
1. Add potato cubes to a large pot of boiling water. Boil potatoes until barely fork-tender (they take less time to cook through because they are very small pieces of potato), about 4-8 minutes. Drain, and set on a towel to dry (remove as much moisture as possible).
2. In a large pan, heat EVOO and butter, and toss in potatoes. Cook, stirring only occasionally and carefully (if you stir the potatoes harshly, they tend to mush up), allowing the sides to crisp and darken.
3. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Source: BwB original.

2.25.2013

A Grand Opportunity

Hello my amazing readers,

Apparently this little blog of mine has been selected as a finalist in the "Top 10 Food Bloggers of 2013" contest, and they're going purely on votes as to who will come out on top. I'm absolutely honored and grateful - If you have a second, and I promise I rarely ask my readers for anything, it would be amazing if you could click on the link below, and give my blog a thumbs up for a vote! I'm competing against people who have amazing and beautiful blogs, but their following is a bit intimidating. A huge thank-you to those who have already voted for me. You are amazing.

Here's the link to the website, and THANK YOU for your vote!

~Blondie

Simple Bruschetta & Mazola Corn Oil

It was a lazy and very snowy Saturday afternoon. Ryan had just come home from playing a couple basketball games. The Manchild and I were cuddled up in sweatpants, hoodies, and blankets in front of one of his favorite movies. We had nowhere we needed to be, and nothing we really needed to do. I love days like this. Sometimes I feel like we get to relax more on our Saturday afternoons versus our Sundays. (seems a little backwards, if you ask me). Our Sundays usually end up pretty jam packed with meetings, visits, and everything else. So these days, we try to relax and soak in our uninterrupted family time together, while we can.

We also had a pile of tomatoes in our fridge calling our names. I put the little Manchild down for his nap, and started chopping up those juicy rounds. Bruschetta seems more like a mid-to-late summer appetizer to serve on our table, but I didn't mind. The vine-on tomatoes were wonderfully ripe, and I was so excited to use our multi-grain baguette (versus the usual white french). It gave our afternoon a more rustic feel, and we ended up eating the bruschetta for dinner as well. 

I used my balsamic vinegar straight from Italy - from my darling mother-in-law. I felt so spoiled! Thank you, Ruth :)

A week or two ago, the fine people at Mazola contacted me - and I'm sure glad they did. They wanted me to try out using one of their amazing products in my everyday cooking. It probably goes without saying, but my everyday cooking is just that - everyday. I cook/bake on a daily basis for my little family. This gave me plenty of chances to fully try out their corn oil in my normal recipes, and see how it held up again my usual cooking oils.

It's really wonderful stuff. It's not heavy at all, and I used it in place of EVOO, in a salad dressing recipe, and even in place of vegetable oil in a baking recipe. Also, before putting my sliced baguette in the oven on Saturday, I lightly drizzled the corn oil over the slices, and they came out beautifully crispy.
Mazola cooking oils are made of 100% pure oil, with no additives. So your food isn't really masked by the heavy oil blanket - just the natural brilliance of the flavors you already chose for your dish. The oil is also cholesterol free, contains 0g of trans fat, and naturally contains plant sterols (which helps reduce the risk of heart disease). Instead of buying straight up EVOO as I usually do at the grocery store, this time I just filled up my oil drip with Mazola, and used it instead. I loved it! This week I'm putting it to the test while frying up some of Ryan's favorite fried chicken. And from what I've read on their website, Mazola cooking oils sounds like a fun choice for this type of thing, as well.


Simple Tomato Bruschetta

 Ingredients:
4-6 vine-on fresh tomatoes, washed and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T fresh chopped basil
1 T balsamic vinegar 
2 T Mazola Corn Oil - or EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
fresh baguette, sliced

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baguette discs on a cookie sheet, and lightly drizzle/brush slices with oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until slices are very golden. Flip halfway through if you want to. Remove from oven.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar, salt and pepper. 
3. Serve slices warm, and with about 2 T of the tomato mixture. 

Recipe source: BwB original. 

*This is a sponsored post by Mazola, but all opinions are my own. 


2.22.2013

Cafe Rio Inspired Slow Cooked Sweet Shredded Pork and Cilantro-Lime Rice

Ever feel like you have to get your "fix" of something? Usually this refers to a devilishly sweet treat or something wonderfully salty. I think it's possible to need your "fix" for something healthy. For me, though, when the weekend rolls around, I crave nothing else but that sweet and juice pork barbacoa from Cafe Rio.  

It's divine. And could probably fill you up for a couple days in one sitting. 

It calls to me, and I'd willingly go towards that call every weekend if I could, but the sound of our bank account screams louder with reason. So I do what I've done in many times past: I make the dang thing in my own kitchen. 

The beauty of Pinterest, and the food blogging community, is that there are already a bunch of copycat recipe out there to chose from - especially with Cafe Rio-inspired dishes. So all it took during "grocery-list-making-day" (Thursday of each week) was a quick search - and immediately I was staring at a truck load of recipes to use.

The meat fell apart perfectly (after marinading overnight, and cooking over 7 hours, it basically had no choice), and had that almost-spicy-but-delightfully-sweet familiar taste. The rice was even better, and we ended up making a couple rice-bowls with the leftovers the next afternoon. I adjusted some of the ingredient measurements to taste.

Also, we don't drink soda in our house (not because we're anti-soda, but we just don't care for the stuff). So instead of buying the 2-liter as we did this time, I think we'll just get a couple of smaller bottles next time. As wasteful as it may sound to some, we ended up just throwing the rest of the soda away because it just sat in our fridge forever. Are we weird? Oh well.

-------
Slow Cooked Sweet Shredded Pork 
enjoy Cafe Rio's Pork? This will have you well taken care of.

Ingredients:
2 lbs boneless pork ribs
3 cans Coke (not diet)
1/4 C brown sugar
garlic salt
1/4 C water
1 can diced green chilies
10oz can red enchilada sauce
1 C brown sugar - get over it. 

Method:
1. Marinade your pork overnight - in a large ziploc bag, or pyrex with fitted lid, mix together 1 1/2 cans Coke and 1/4 C brown sugar. Seal it tight, leave it in the fridge, come back later. 
2. Drain marinade and put pork, 1/2 can of coke, water, and garlic salt in crock pot on high for about 5 hours. Remove pork from crock pot and drain any liquid left in slow cooker. Shred pork and put it back into crock pot.
3. In a food processor or blender, blend 1/2 can of Coke, chilies, enchilada sauce, and remaining brown sugar. Pour over pork and cook on low for 2-3 hours. 

Recipe source: Favorite Family Recipes, Inspired by Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa. 

-------

Cilantro-Lime Rice  
light, fluffy, tangy, and just what the doctor ordered 

Ingredients:
1 C uncooked rice (long-grain, white rice)
1 t butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t freshly squeezed lime juice
15oz chicken broth
1 C water
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 t sugar
3 T freshly chopped cilantro

Method:
1. In a saucepan, combine rice, butter, garlic, 1 t lime, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil and then cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat
2. In a small bowl, combine lime juice, sugar, and cilantro. Pour over hot cooked rice and mix in as you fluff the hot rice. 

Recipe slightly adapted from: Favorite Family Recipes, Inspired by Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Rice 

2.20.2013

Maple Bacon Biscuits & Some Food for Thought

Today I want to do something a little different. Yes, these maple bacon biscuits are ridiculously delicious, perfectly classified under "heavenly comfort food" and I could probably go on for a few more paragraphs about how I made them, what I changed, how we served them, etc. But I feel like I've come across such a gem in the book I'm reading... and I want to share it with you (albeit long).

I think food and friendship go hand in hand. Food can be such a warm comfort in troubling times, and can bring people together - even save a life in need, if the occasion calls for it. Below is a beautiful story in which food (such as these lovely biscuits) and friendship played such a key role in helping another.

"My mother loves people by feeding them. She stuffs them with good food - meat, usually, with potatoes and dark gravy. The kind of gravy that has become a lost art, perhaps because we spend less time cooking, less time learning our cuts of meat, less time pushing food on loved ones.

For many of us mothers, feeding people is our love language. When we are too intimidated to express our feelings, particularly when sadness in involved, we resort to casseroles. We bake chicken, cut up carrots, and roll out pie dough. These are the hand motions of a friend who longs to soothe a mother's broken heart. And somehow, miraculously, they do.

When Lisa's husband, Brett, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the first person she called was Beth. Lisa's voice was icy with shock, Beth recalls. Then suddenly, as she was speaking, Lisa broke down and sobbed. Beth could hear her heaving, gasping for air between cries, and Beth remembers the quick conclusion she drew as well: with two small children only one nine months and the other two and a half years old, I wondered how Lisa was going to make it. What about the kids? I thought about the sadness of those two small kids growing up without their dad, but then I felt sorrier for Lisa. She was so young. No one this young should have to endure this kind of trauma, I thought.

Little did Lisa realize that first phone call what the next to years would bring, but what an incredible friend she had in Beth. Being a good ten year older, Beth knew about life with small kids and life with older ones. She knew the difficulties that lay ahead of her friend in venturing to raise the two all by herself. And because she had a background in medicine Beth also knew the gravity of Brett's diagnosis. He would have two years, tops, she knew, but kept it to herself.

There was nothing I could say to take the pain away. I wanted a gigantic magic wand to wave over Lisa and Brett and their kids. I desperately wanted to make the cancer go away. Then I felt so frustrated and I felt like was going to go crazy. So I did what I always do when I feel madness coming on. I started to cook. I'd make cookies and eat half the dough. I felt if the cookies were going to make Lisa and Brett feel any better, they might as well make me feel a little better, too. I made chicken casseroles, lasagna, burritos. Lots of them. I'd freeze them and give half to my boys. 

Pretty soon, weeks went by, then months, and Brett continued to progressively waste away. Sometimes I told Lisa to go out and I'd sit and take care of the kids and talk to Brett. But I found that even while I was at her house, the oven would mysteriously come on and before I even realized what I was doing, the aroma of sweet rolls or some other dessert would be seeping out of it. And the funny things is, I think that subconsciously, I thought that even the smell of food cooking in the house brought optimism. Cinnamon rolls really can counter the smell of death in a home. Or at least the aroma can make you pretend for a minute that life is normal and good. Maybe that's it. It's all about pretend. 

When Brett's last days arrived and he left his home for the last time to go the hospital. Lisa couldn't let him go alone. So she went, too. And who stayed behind? Beth. Without being asked, she simply arrived on Lisa's door with a packed bag to stay with the children as long as she was needed. She literally stepped into Lisa's shoes and took over where she left off, because that's what extraordinary friends do. She cleaned, played with the kids, put them down for naps, and took them grocery shopping.

During those last days, we went to the grocery store a lot. I was in a serious cooking mood. I felt so helpless. I wanted to love Lisa the best I could, but words, hugs, flowers, nothing did it. I don't even know if food did, but I know of one thing, that cooking at least made us all feel that some part of life - maybe the task of keeping it alive - was moving forward. We had to just keep moving forward. That's what cooking meals did for us all. 

Not many of us are fortunate enough to have women in our lives who will love us so well. Ironically enough, Lisa was one of the lucky ones - at least in the friendship department. The love Beth gave to Lisa might even have saved her life. And cooking great food was an integral, wonderfully simple part of that love.

Food doesn't soothe, but the intention does. Where loves stops, chicken pot pies can take over. There is an understanding that while the blender whirls and the oven preheats, the friend in pain is being remembered in her hurt. The cook is thinking of her, wondering how she is faring, what she is experiencing. While friends cook, they slide their feet into the shoes of the hurting Mom in order to participate a bit on the pain she feels. One mother to another. While I bake, give me some of your troubles and I will carry them as best I can, is what the activity sends as intention. I can't be you, but I can be like you in some way. Our common bond as mother is that we must cook for loves ones. So I will cook for you now, says that friend. I can pretend that you are with me and that I can make life better for you. So let me in, says the food."

-The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers, Meg Meeker, MD

 -------
Maple Bacon Biscuits

Ingredients:
3 slices of bacon
1/4 C maple syrup
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
4 T unsalted butter, chilled, chopped into small chunks
1/4 C buttermilk

Method:
1. Turn oven to 400 degrees. Place bacon on cookie sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes until bacon is very crispy. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon grease. If you're a baking-bacon-in-the-oven hater, use your pan and live in denial.
2. Place measured bacon grease in freezer. Seriously. 
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop bacon into small bits and place in a small bowl. Pour maple syrup over bacon bits and stir. Set mixture aside. 
4. Remove solidified bacon grease from the freezer - told you I wasn't kidding. Grease your baking sheet or line baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment. Throw in bacon fat and 4 tablespoons butter. Mix until mixture resembles coarse meal. 
5. Add in the maple-bacon mixture and buttermilk. Blend together until just barely moistened. Form into a dough with your hands and pad out dough to about 1-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into dough with a 2-inch glass/cutter (cookie cutter, whatever you use). Arrange biscuits on dish and bake for about 12-14 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve with fresh jam, light gravy, or eggs. 


2.19.2013

Pizookies

As stated in my previous post (on Valentine's Day), for lover's day, I was going to be staying in and making dinner together with Ryan. Well, it turned out dinner was a little more tricky to throw together... and dessert was even more ridiculous...

You see, in the middle of dinner prep, I received a call from our landlord saying there was a geyser outside on our lawn, and that they'd have to shut off our water for the night to fix the broken pipe. 

Yikes. 

I immediately filled up our two 2 gallon pitchers with water, and grabbed a couple half gallons from our emergency water stash in the basement. I was grateful I already had the water for boiling the potatoes, but doing dishes without a steady stream of hot water coming from the faucet is NUTS. Ever tried to wash your mountain of dirty dishes with a pitcher of cold water? It takes skills - and skills I don't have. (Plus, almost all my pans/pots were dirty from dinner/lunch that day... so heating up the water was nearly impossible).

Ryan was putting the Manchild through his bedtime schedule, so I had a little time to doll up our table, plate our dinners, and get the dessert in the oven. I thought having my sink overflowing with dishes (from the lack of warm running water to wash them) was going to be my only headache of the night, but when I opened the fridge to start the cookie dough for the pizookies, I noticed that I was COMPLETELY out of eggs.

Double yikes. 

That's when I scowered the internet for an eggless pizookie recipe. I felt like I had hit the jackpot when I found this recipe, and also grateful for the random extra can of sweetened condensed milk I found in the cup board. I mixed the ingredients together right away, and threw a couple ramekins filled with cookie dough in the oven. 

They came out beautifully, and surprisingly not too sweet. The cookie layer was gooey and hot, and topped with vanilla bean ice cream... really amazing. Despite the craziness of the evening, dinner and dessert turned out to be quite lovely for our night-in-for-two. 
Pizookies
individual servings of thick, eggless chocolate chip cookies, made with sweetened condensed milk, topped with a fresh scoop of vanilla bean ice cream

Ingredients:
10 T butter
1/3 C granulated sugar
1/2 C sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 C flour
1 C semi sweet chocolate chip cookies
vanilla bean ice cream

Method: 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the insides of 4 small white ramekins.
2. Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in condensed milk.
3. Add flour on low speed until combined, stir in chocolate chips.
4. Press about 1 full inch of dough into ramekins. Place in oven for about 35 minutes (if cooking all four at the same time). 15 minutes if cooking one at a time.
5. Remove from oven when slightly golden - immediately top with a fresh scoop of cold ice cream. Eat hot/cold :) 

recipe source: kirbie cravings
...a little behind the scenes with the Manchild. This is what happens when he wakes up from his nap before I finish the shoot...

2.14.2013

Creamy Potato and Asparagus Soup with Honey Bacon Crumble

Happy Valentines Day! I know many bloggers are sharing beautifully sweet desserts for today, but I thought we'd keep things 100% savory over here.

Ever since we invited the Manchild to our crew, we've had to make a few adjustments to Valentine's Day. You see, taking the kid out to dinner isn't usually a problem, but it's hard to be all lovey-dovey when you have to change a diaper explosion between mushroom-stuffed ravioli. We'd feel bad making someone watch our son on the lover's holiday, as well. So we decided that on Valentine's Day, we stay in. I love it. No busy crowds, no having to see anyone or anything. It's just me and my man at home with a beautiful candlelit dinner (after the Manchild goes to sleep, that is). I try to make something special for dinner - and this year Ryan requested we have Tomato Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes, and for dessert I might sneak in a couple pizookies.

This doesn't mean we don't already have a sitter set up for tomorrow so we can sneak out to one of our favorite restaurants together. :)

This beautiful soup would be perfect for a romantic-dinner-in. We're not total fans of asparagus, but we really enjoyed the almost pea-like taste it added to the soup. Each bite was seductively creamy, and left you begging for the next spoonful. After you crisp up the bacon, you marry it with golden honey - creating the most surprisingly sinful crumble you've ever tasted. The sweet cuts right through the savory. Lastly, you top each soup bowl with bacon-soaked asparagus spears; tastefully spreading that dreamy smoky flavor throughout the entire soup experience.

Happy Valentine's Day, lovers.

Oh, and if you didn't hear through Facebook-land, The Cooking Channel discovered my Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies here.
Creamy Potato and Asparagus Soup with Honey Bacon Crumble

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
1 1/2 lb russet potatoes, peeled and chopped 1/2 inch pieces
12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 t salt + more to taste
1/2 t ground black pepper
1 1/4 C water
2 T butter, optional
6 slices bacon
1 T honey

Method:
1. Reserve about 1/3 of prepared asparagus and set aside. Combine remaining asparagus, the potatoes, evaporated milk, salt, pepper, and water in large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.
2. Don't drain. Cool for about 30 seconds, then pour half of the mixture into a food processor or blender. Puree soup until very smooth. Repeat with second half. Stir in butter until melted.
3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Reserve about 1-2 Tablespoons of the bacon drippings in skillet. Add reserved asparagus spears to the drippings in skillet. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Stir occasionally.
4. Coarsely chop bacon and place on a microwave-safe plate. Drizzle bacon with honey and cover with vented plastic wrap (I just used my plastic microwave veggie-steamer cover). Cook for about 30 seconds on high power.
5. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with asparagus and crumbled bacon.

recipe source: better homes and gardens

2.13.2013

Almond Cream Cheese Frosted Rosette Cake

A could weeks ago, I was asked by a dear friend at my church if I could team-teach a cake & cupcake activity night. I happily agreed, but when I hung up the phone afterwards, my stomach immediately started practicing its sailor knots.
But then I thought it'd be a fun opportunity to share what little I know (I'm serious! I'm still learning so much!) about cake decorating. Plus, it gave me a fun excuse to teach myself the "rosette" cake decorating technique I've seen all over Pinterest. I ended up adding a few little yellow pears to dress it up a bit - I think it turned out lovely!
 If you're looking for my Almond-Infused Cream Cheese Recipe, aka my favorite recipe on the entire planet, it's here. 
I ended up making this almond cream cheese frosted carrot cake, a 4 layer-pink ombre cake frosted with white chocolate raspberry frosting (to come, my darlings), a red velvet cake frosted with almond cream cheese frosting, and a zebra-striped cake (inside striped with fudge and white chocolate cake) frosted with cocoa butter cream and coated with chocolate sprinkles.

Everyone was so nice, and I loved having a reason to make a few lovely cakes.

2.11.2013

Baked Southwestern Pork Taquitos

Dang taquitos.

We devoured these, but much too quickly after I had taken a photo of them. You see, I had this beautiful shoot set up, and snapped some photos that I just couldn't wait to put up on the blog last week. Then, the unthinkable happened...

My camera ATE the photos.

In one gulp.

I died.

I was more than a little cranky about it. Here I was with a sure-fire recipe, but also with no pictures to show. So I opened up the fridge to take a look over the not-so-lovely-looking-leftover taquitos from the previous day. I was positive we had eaten all the "pretty-looking" ones... and I was right.

So here's my second taquito-shoot of the week (UGH). I didn't care that they weren't as cripsy, or that I had basically thrown them right on a pile of cilantro ends. I wanted a picture, dang it! And after shooting them, I realized they tasted just as delicious as the previous day. 

Originally, this recipe called for rotisserie chicken. Apparently, at my busy local supermarket on a Saturday afternoon, everyone and their dogs cleaned house in the rotisserie section. So I just planned on trying again a few days later when I was making the recipe. With a half-of-a-beautiful-half-pork-roast sitting in my fridge from Sunday, on Monday I decided to use it up in this recipe (versus spending more money on a rotisserie chicken). I'm sure the chicken would have tasted lovely, but the slow-cooked pork really did well with these typical southwestern flavors. The insides of the taquitos were killer (why wouldn't they be? Check out those ingredients!), and the outsides were perfectly flaky. Using egg-roll wrappers was genius, and I'm pretty sure you can toss in just about any veggie in the chicken/pork mixture to sneak in a few more veggies to their day.

You could totally use these as an appetizer, but we used them as our complete meal (with fresh fruit on the side).

Baked Southwestern Pork Taquitos
makes about 20 taquitos

Ingredients:
1/2 slow cooked pork roast, or 1 rotisserie chicken (fully cooked and seasoned), shredded
2/3-1 C jarred (or fresh) salsa
1 C Mexican blend shredded cheese
1 can sweet corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 t cumin + more for sprinkling
1 t chili powder
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper
1 package of egg roll wrappers

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix chicken/pork, salsa, cheese, corn, beans, cumin, chili power, cilantro, salt & pepper together in a large bowl.
3. Add a couple spoonfuls of the mixture into an eggroll wrapper. Form the mixture on the eggroll into almost a small hot-dog shape (will make folding easier). Pull the two corners on the thin sides together, then flop over one of the remaining sides and tuck under. With remaining flap/side, wet corner section with water (generously, but not too much), and tightly (but carefully) pull over the rest of the egg roll on outside so it sticks to itself.
4. Spray cookie sheet generously, and arrange taquitos (I fit mine all on one very large pan). Spray the tops of them with cooking spray (or brush on egg/butter - whichever you prefer). And top with sprinkled cumin and pepper.
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Flip taquitos halfway through baking, if you can. Serve with salsa or sour cream.

Recipe inspired by: Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom

2.08.2013

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Friday is upon us. 

The end of the week tends to bring all kinds of warm feelings loaded with tasty anticipation. It's a much needed break from work, for some. Fridays have always been such a release for me. When I was in high school, the weekend was what I lived for during those endless weeks of rehearsals, class, homework, and boys. (for reals.) Either Friday or Saturday consisted of wonderful friends, and some crazy memories.

So I've always thought of weekends as the time to "get out and go out." After I got married, I had to reprogram that type of thinking. Going out to the latest movie or visiting a nice restaurant can sure add up quickly in the finance department. As newlyweds, we learned to save those types of dates for something special. As law school progressed a few years later, we stayed with the same type of practice. However, I grew pretty antsy, and felt like we still needed to have an official "date" with each other every weekend. And thus, mini dates were born. Ryan came up with this idea, and I've really loved it. We take turns every weekend on who chooses what we do (activity/food/etc) - and it has to be under $5 total. So you can imagine we had to get creative pretty quickly. It's been a lot of fun, and has allowed me to "feed my weekend beast" without breaking the bank. 

One of our favorite mini dates has been to walk to Gurus and grab some sweet potato fries (they are amazing, my friends). So when I told Ryan I was making some sweet potato fries, he went nuts. I think he thought I was making my usual homemade fry-em-up fries (here). This time, however, I put the frying oil away, and preheated the oven. 

These baked sweet potato fries were incredible. They tasted so creamy and warm on the inside, but has just enough crunch and seasoning on the outside for that perfect balance. Oh, and if you don't have a mandolin, you're all good. Just use a sharp knife, and a lot of patience. The beauty of these baked fries is that you can add/change the seasonings to adjust to your palate (and completely change the flavor altogether if you prefer - cinnamon/sugar/nutmeg? Heck, I'm in.) Sweet potatoes are so amazing that way - and I hear they're super-healthy for you. 

Psh. Whatever. 

Like I said, it's Friday. Eat whatever the heck you want, people. 


....but make sure these are on your plate, mmkay?

Baked Sweet Potato Fries 

Ingredients:
2 large sweet potatoes, washed (don't peel them)
drizzle EVOO
1 T rosemary
1 T thyme
3 cloves fresh garlic, grated (small holes, people)
1 t sea salt

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a cooking rack on a baking sheet (you will need about 1 set up per large potato). 
2. Slice potatoes using a mandolin - slice them between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. 
3. In two separate batches, toss potatoes with a drizzle of EVOO (add more if you feel like they need more coating. They don't need to be drenched). Sprinkle with all seasonings. 
4. Place the potato slices, in a single layer on the cooling rack. Bake 20-30 minutes - depending on how crispy you want the fries (at about 15 minutes, I flipped mine over). 
5. Sprinkle with more sea salt if desired. Ryan ate them with frysauce (mixture of ketchup and mayo - it's a Utah thing...). 

Recipe Source: Savoring the Thyme

2.06.2013

Raspberry Cheesecake Marbled Brownies


Originally a guest-post on Through the Eyes of the Mrs:

Hello darlings! This is Mandy from Baking with Blondie. I'm so happy to be posting for cute Beth again, and I can't wait to share this recipe with you today. It was a total success, and I already wish I had another batch cooling on my counter.

What a crazy month this has been. I thought this month was going to be pretty low key, but it's turned out to be even more busy than I could have expected. But, with all the craziness, comes a great deal of gratitude. I love blogging so much, and trying new recipes on such a frequent basis has become such a fun part of my life. My family doesn't mind being my constant taste-testers, either :) 

We had some company over this past Sunday, and I was so excited to try out a recipe from one of my favorite blogs of all time: Bakers Royale. This recipe is a combination of two of my favorite desserts, coupled with the fresh flavors of raspberries. I could see the possibility of using blueberries, blackberries, or even strawberries if that suits your family's palate. The cheesecake brownies are easy to make, but taste like you've put plenty of effort into preparing each beautiful morsel. I am in LOVE with the swirled/marbled look. I think it add a little extra touch of tasteful elegance and sophistication. 

To make thicker brownies, you can try this in a 9x9 baking dish, but with the rich cheesecake brownie slices the 9x13 produced, you'll still get plenty of brownie splendor with the smaller squares.


Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies
Makes 12 servings (9x13)

Ingredients:
  
brownie layer (adapted from Alton Brown)
1 C sugar, sifted
1 C brown sugar, sifted
1 C cocoa, sifted
1/2 C flour, sifted
1/2 t kosher salt
4 large eggs
8oz melted butter
2 t vanilla extract

Raspberry cheesecake layer (from Bakers Royale)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 C + 2 T sugar
1/4 C fresh raspberry puree or raspberry jam
1 large egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t kosher salt
3 T all-purpose flour

fresh raspberries

Method: 
1. To prepare brownies: Place both sugars in a food processor or blender and pulse to combine; set aside. Place cocoa, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine; set aside. 
2. In a mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in vanilla and both sugars, and mix to combine. Add in butter and mix to combine. Add remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Set aside to make raspberry cheesecake portion.
3. To prepare cheesecake layer: In a mixer fitted with whisk attachment, place all ingredients in bowl and beat until mixture becomes light and fluffy - and is fully combined; about 3-4 minutes. 
4. To assemble: Pour 3/4 of brownie batter into pan. Pour raspberry cheesecake layer on top. Using a spoon or spatula sprinkle remaining brownie batter on top of raspberry cheesecake layer. Then, using a fork, gently pull raspberry cheesecake through brownie mixture for a swirled effect. Insert fresh raspberries throughout pan. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Cool completely before cutting in brownies. 

recipe Source: Bakers Royale

2.05.2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

 
The weather is heating up around here - and when I say heating up, I mean we're hitting the mid-20's in the early morning. To us, though, it feels like Spring is peeking it's beautiful face around the corner. Unfortunately, I know darn well the Winter season won't leave us alone until May. I think it snowed here once in July, so I'm not holding my breath. One can dream, right?

This past week was absolutely insane. I remember looking at my schedule thinking: how on Earth am I going to get through this?! And not only surviving through the chaos, but making sure to pour my heart into each task. Then I remembered some wise counsel:

Take it one day at a time.

And if not one day at a time, one hour at a time, or minute at a time.

I'm happy to report: I made it through unscathed. And these cookies were the perfect treat to celebrate at the close of such a hectic week. I may have had more than my fair share in just one sitting.

A little bit of salt and a little bit of sweet can go such a deliciously long way. I am obsessed with sea salt - and I can't stop using it in my chocolatey desserts. These cookies were a match made in heaven. When you first bite into the warm chocolate-chip loaded cookie, you taste the rich and melty chocolate. Immediately after, the caramel sets in - it's like velvet, and is so incredibly soft. Then the grand finale comes in it's full glory: the sea salt ties everything together in this unforgettable symphony of flavor.

Needless to say, when I handed Ryan some of this cookie's heavenly dough, he instantaneously said:
 
This is my new favorite cookie.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
2 C all-purpose flour
2 T cornstarch
1 t baking soda
1/2 t sea salt
3/4 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 C brown sugar
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 t vanilla extract
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C caramel bits (Kraft has a really great version)
sea salt, for sprinkling

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prep a cookie sheet with cooking spray, baking mat, or parchment paper.
2. In a separate large bowl, combine dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and sea salt together with a whisk and set aside.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until smooth and creamy (about 2-4 minutes). Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients.
4. Throw in the chocolate chips and caramel bits. Combine with dough. Form cookie dough into balls for baking. Space on cookie sheet about 2 inches from each other. Sprinkle each cookie with a little sea salt.
5. Bake cookies for 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on baking sheet for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe Source: two peas and their pod

2.01.2013

Chocolate Dipped Pears with Salted Almond Crunch

This morning I'm on my way to sunny St. George to perform at music conference. It's actually my first time making the drive down there. Usually I'm just along for the ride! Luckily, it's only a few hours of driving, and I'll only be on the road during the morning time.

We just had our concert on Wednesday, and we're performing the same concert tonight at the conference. I love food blogging, but I absolutely love being a part of a professional Wind Symphony. There's only a handful in the country, and I feel so blessed to be able to channel my passion for music towards something so much bigger that I could have ever imagined. It's a dream-come-true, really.

We had some dear family watch the Manchild for us during my concert, so I wanted a simple, but delicious, way to say thank-you. Whenever we have someone watch our son at our home during the evening, we usually have dinner and dessert waiting for them to enjoy while they're here. But I was so dang cranky that these pears weren't ripe enough for dessert - I ended up leaving out our air-popper out for popcorn instead (still one of my favorite snacks, though). 

Yesterday, however, the pears ripened perfectly and were ready to be dipped in simple milk chocolate, and coated in salty crumbled almonds. They were a match made in heaven - and took minutes (well, after waiting for them to ripen...) to prepare. I thought of maybe using plain almonds instead - I'm so glad I didn't. The salty flavor of the almonds make this thing ridiculous. It was such a beautiful taste and texture to behold, and simply elegant to look at.
Chocolate Dipped Pears with Salted Almond Crunch

Ingredients:
ripe pears (room temperature)
milk chocolate chips
salted almonds

Method:
1. In a mini-food processor, chop up salted almonds into a small crumble.
2. In a metal bowl, slowly melt chocolate over a small saucepan of boiling water.
3. One at a time, slowly dip pear halfway into melted chocolate. Right after, dip into almond crumble. Let dry on wax paper until firm.

Recipe source: Bakers Royale