Sunday, May 30, 2010

Easy mac-n-cheesy corn casserole

Yummy note: I think I acquired this recipe a few years from a neighbor lady after she brought this dish to a block party and the people seemed to love it. Growing up I had the comfort food, like scalloped/creamed corn and baked mac-n-cheese, and when I tried this, I liked it a lot and it reminded me of a combo of the two! It has become one of my easy and quick side dishes to make, not to mention it qualifies in my book for the comfort food part, too!

Easy mac-n-cheesy corn casserole

Ingredients:
1 cup dry noodles (whatever you have will probably work, but we use the ready cut spaghetti noodles, as it resembles the "traditional" mac-n-cheese noodles we all love)
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn
8 ounces of Velveeta cheese (cut up in cubes)
about 1/2 stick butter (cut up in cubes)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions and then drain. Pour noodles and rest of ingredients into a 2 qt casserole dish.




Stir all together and place in oven. Bake for about 15 minutes and stir the casserole to ensure the cheese, corn, and butter gets incorporated well. At this point, if you'd like, you could add some more cheese on top then to create a cheesy top layer. Continue baking for about another 15 minutes and until a nice golden layer has formed.
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Grasshopper Cheesecake Cups

Yummy note: The inspiration for making my grasshopper cheesecake cups was from looking in my cabinet and seeing that big ole green bottle of alcohol that seems to get touched, except when making the green grasshopper ice cream drink, and a couple of partially opened boxes of minty cookies. So I thought, let's add it to something for a dessert. My recipe is a modified version of this recipe I found here (original recipe was here, Creme de menthe cheesecake) where they do something similar but in a whole pie form. I modified a few things and enjoyed the outcome, so I thought I'd share. It is a rich, yet minty and chocolaty cheesecake cup that is pretty darn yummy.



Grasshopper Cheesecake Cups

Ingredients:
Crust Ingredients:
2-3 cups finely crushed grasshopper or Girl Scout Thin mints
1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4 eggs
3 tablespoons green or white creme de menthe liqueur*
* May Substitute 1 teaspoon peppermint extract plus 6 drops green food color if you want to omit alcohol.
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Directions:
Note: Makes about 14-18 cupcake cups.
Heat oven to 325°F. Crush cookies in food processor, until fine crumbs. Pour in butter and pulse until mixed thoroughly. Press onto bottom and partial sides of cupcake wrappers and place in cupcake tins.

Beat the sugar and softened cream cheese in a large bowl until creamy. Continue beating, adding eggs one at a time, until well mixed. Don't try and overbeat this mixture. Next, stir in liqueur by hand. Next, toss the cup of mini chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon flour until coated, and pour into the cream cheese mixture. Pour filling into mini crusts. Note: I used an ice cream scooper to fill my cupcake liners with the cheesecake mixture. This will help you try and keep the cheesecakes all uniform and close to the same size for consistent baking. Bake in preheated oven and begin to check the cheesecakes at about 30-40 minutes. Continue baking until done, which is around 60 minutes or until firm to touch. The cheesecake cups may be slightly cracked on top. Remove cups from pan, and cool for 1 hour. Put in container and refrigerate at least 2-3 hours. Garnish top of each cup with whipped cream and cookie, if desired. Store refrigerated.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Buttercream Frosting (Icing)

Yummy note: This year for my daughter's birthday party, I decided to go the semi-homemade route for her cake. I fudged a little on the cake, as I used a boxed mix, but I made her frosting from scratch from one of the best recipes out there from Wilton. I know, gasp! :O But when a working mom, tries to get that cake just right, I see no problem with taking an easier way and use good old reliable cake mixes and tried and true recipes to do the job. Plus, they taste great too without a ton of fuss.
I really thought I took my pictures during the prep time of making her cake, so this was a bit frustrating as all I could find were the finished product pictures of the cake decorating. So I will just have to tell you what I did in the meantime, luckily it was pretty easy, so we should be fine.
So Alicia's birthday party was sunflower-themed this year. We had the sunflower cake, sunflower bouncy balls for the kids, take home sunflower seeds in little flower pots for them to plant, and yummy sunflower chocolate pretzel sticks (which can be another blog soon :) Needless to say, the cake was a hit! Everyone loved the shape of it, and how moist the cake was, and how NOT too sweet the frosting was. Here's the frosting recipe, I keep close in my collection... Wilton Cakes buttercream icing recipe, which I'm featuring here. Enjoy. Original recipe here: http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing

Ingredients:

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk
(Makes: About 3 cups of icing.)

Directions:

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in coloring as desired. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use.
Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using. For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.

A note on the sunflower cake:

I used a sunflower-shaped baking pan. In that, I used the cake release product you can buy to prepare the pan, which worked like a snap. Super easy. My biggest flop on this part was the waiting time. I turned my cake out too fast, without cutting/leveling off my cake, so it crumbled into nice little chunks! oh boy, did I goof! So box #2 cake mix, here we go. That one turned out perfectly, after I followed directions better that time. So please read the directions that come with your pan, or else you might have an accident.

When I decorated the cake, I let it cool completely, and used a simple powdered sugar and water/milk glaze (1 cup of powdered sugar to 1 tablespoon liquid and mix together to desired consistency, and really that's it.) to cover the cake before I applied the buttercream icing. I used a star-tipped piping bag and started to apply the frosting.
For the chocolate brown center, I used this recipe here and just scaled it down some instead of making a whole batch. http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Chocolate-Buttercream-Icing
Then I applied that brown frosting to the middle using the star again, and then finished it off using a round tip. After the fact, I saw this online here.. http://www.wilton.com/idea/Sunflower-Cake so you could always decorate it this way too!

Also, there are some great tips and tricks on Wilton's website here-- http://www.wilton.com/blog/
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

fish 'n chips

Yummy note: Let's start this off with, I LOVE the Food Network. I probably try and watch a show daily, doesn't really matter who is on, I just need to watch one. This post is from the Barefoot Contessa show staring Ina Garten and her homemade fish n' chips. I really didn't deviate from her recipe at all really cause it was sooo darn good. I left out a few ingredients that she had as I didn't have them all, and it still turned out great. Plus, I added some parmesan cheese at the end to the potatoes, as what doesn't taste even better with cheese on top?? :) Enjoy...

The original recipes are found here http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/parkers-fish-and-chips-recipe/index.html


Ingredients:

Fish:

fresh cod fillets
salt/pepper

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour

½ tablespoon baking powder
½ cup water
1 egg

canola or vegetable oil for frying

Chips:
2-3 large baking potatoes unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt/pepper
½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon vegetable seasonings
grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Fish: Sprinkle both sides of the cod with salt, pepper, and other seasonings if you'd like. Cut the fillets in about 3 inch pieces. Next, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Whisk in 1/2 cup of water and then the egg. In an electric skillet or fry pan, pour about 1/2-inch of oil (couple tablespoons or so) in and heat it to about 350-360 degrees F. Next, dip the cod into the batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place it very carefully into the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pieces. Cook the fish on each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Chips: P
reheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes, and cut them into smaller slices (about 6-8 wedges per potato). Place the potatoes on a sheet pan with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and seasonings. Toss all the ingredients together, making sure the potatoes are covered with oil. Spread the potatoes in a single layer and bake for about 30 minutes. Flip potatoes and bake for another 20-30 minutes until tender, yet crispy. Remove from pan, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and any other seasonings you wish.
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

simple goodness

Yummy note: Sometimes less is more, especially if you happen to have some really good quality ingredients on hand to use. Just recently, a new Whole Foods store opened nearby, and I just love their fresh vegetables and meat. Every so often I like to go there and splurge on some goodness. This time around, I picked up some fresh asparagus and some good looking proteins. Hmmm.. now this is just a nice simple meal in just minutes.



Ingredients:
steak, lightly seasoned
salmon, already seasoned
asparagus
olive oil
butter
mushrooms

Directions:
On the grill, this was super simple to cook. We use a grill basket, so the salmon stays together nicer and does not tear apart. The salmon does not take long to cook at all. Place seasoned salmon over medium heat and grill until the salmon turns opaque. Only turn once during cooking, probably only about 8 to 10 minutes total. (Temperature wise, I've seen anywhere from 135-160F... so with that in mind, who knows. I just watch it carefully, so it does not burn and start to tear apart.) Salmon is done when it can be easily flaked with a fork. For the steak, cook over a nice medium heat as well, turning once on each side. Grill until your doneness is preferred. With this, I go with a temperature, rather than look or how long it takes. It really depends on how thick your steak is as well. So go with this as guideline: Medium-Rare-145F; Medium-160F; Well-Done - 170F. Top steak with some sauteed mushrooms in a couple tablespoons of melted butter.

For preparing asparagus, you can either cut off a couple of inches of the stalk or just bend each spear until it breaks at its natural breaking point and wash spears. For steaming asparagus: In a sauce pan, put a little water at the bottom and begin to lightly boil the water. Place a steamer basket in the pot and place the spears of asparagus in the basket and cover. Let them steam for about 3 minutes or so, depending on how tender you want the asparagus. For roasting asparagus: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put asparagus on a baking tray and drizzle with plenty of olive oil and roll spears around to coat in the olive oil. Spread them out on baking tray evenly and sprinkle with salt/pepper. Bake in oven for about 10-15 minutes.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Fruit salad

Yummy note: This is a fun fruit salad I like to throw together for side dishes. It's a very simple, colorful, salad that always seems to please all. Its crunch, sweet, and tart flavors all pull together nicely; not to mention those few ingredients people always ask about, like "what's that," "is that what I think it is?" Yes, it is one of the special ingredients that makes my salad mine; it's the fruity mini marshmallows and can of soda pop mixed in. Plus, it always looks so pretty and the apples and bananas don't brown as fast as normal due to the soda added.



Ingredients:
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 can of Sprite, 7-up, Mt. Dew, or other lemon-lime like flavored pop works well
1 bowl for an assortment of fruit (really this varies to whatever type of fruit you want and how much you want to add in) Such as:
small container of raspberries
small container of blueberries
1 or 2 bananas
1 container of strawberries
1 or 2 apples
melon
pineapple
mandarin oranges


Directions:
Cut up desired fruit into bite-sized pieces and place in big bowl. Add in marshmallows. Add in about 1/2 can of pop or just until all of the fruit is slightly coated (not drowning in pop, but just enough to make sure it has mixed throughout). Stir together and make sure fruit is distributed nicely. Store in covered bowl in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Helper note: You can easily have extra hands in helping prepare this dish! Remember safety first, as a plastic knife works well for cutting bananas and strawberries well :) Also the pouring and the mixing is always a favorite, too!

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