Sunday, July 31, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Salad

My Husband LOVES buffalo anything. Buffalo wings, buffalo chicken wraps, buffalo chicken salad, buffalo chicken pizza, buffalo chicken flavored pretzels. If it has buffalo chicken in the name, he'll eat it. This man has a heat tolerance I've never known before. I can never ask him if something is too spicy, because to him it's not. However, when I take a bite, I feel like my lips will start on fire. There have only been a few things to ever make him sweat from the heat. One of them being my Mom's salsa. Nobody else in my family can manage her salsa, but he loves it!

We had some bags of lettuce to use up so I figured buffalo chicken salad would be a light, yet tasty, meal. I was at the grocery store and was prepared to buy chicken breasts from the meat section but decided that a rotisserie chicken would work just as well and would probably be much easier.

Our salads ended up being HUGE. Seriously. Neither of us could finish our plates! We had plenty for leftovers the next day and it was delicious even on the second day.

The only recipe I have for this is for the hot sauce coating. The rest is up to you. Use whatever lettuce you like and whatever veggies you like. I preferred ranch dressing but my Husband chose bleu cheese for his dressing of choice.

Hot sauce coating
Amy's Kitchen Creations original recipe

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup buffalo sauce
2 tablespoons worchestshire sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper

To start, take all of the meat off of the rotisserie chicken and shred it to your desired size. In a small frying pan turned to medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of butter. Let it melt. Add the chicken pieces to the butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine. Make sure all of the chicken pieces are coated. Cook until the sauce isn't as thin as it was originally (about 10 minutes or so).

Let cool a bit and then top your salad with the chicken pieces and dressing!


Alfredo Pasta Bake

When I saw this recipe on Carrie's blog I knew that this dish would be something that I would enjoy as well as my alfredo' lovin Husband. I haven't made it for us yet but I did make it for a friend after she had surgery. She said that her kids loved noodles of all varieties and I knew that her Husband, a meat and potatoes kind of guy, would enjoy this as well.

Because I was making this for kids ranging in ages from 1-8, I didn't use italian sausage because I knew that it could be a little spicy and would make dinnertime more hassle than delicious.

Below is the recipe that I used. Remember, I made this for a friend so I had to alter the way I prepared it a little. I wanted to make sure that it was ready for her to just put in the oven and not worry about it. Carrie has the original recipe on her blog.

Alfredo Sausage Bake
Recipe from: Carrie's Sweet Life

2 jars of Alfredo sauce
2 bags of frozen tortellini, cooked per package directions
2 cups of mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1 package of ring bologna, cut into slices

Cook the tortellini per the package directions. While the tortellini is cooking, place the bologna in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. Fry them until they're cooked through. Drain on a paper towel.

When the tortellini and bologna are cooked, combine the tortellini, sauce, bologna, parmesan cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella. Stir until well combined but be careful because the tortellini will be soft and you don't want to break them.

Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

Like I said, I didn't make this myself but the recipient gave rave reviews and everyone loved it. I know that my Husband was bummed that I didn't make two batches, one to keep for ourselves, so I'll have to put this on the menu for us soon. It was super simple to make!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ice Cream Cake and Cupcakes

On a Monday morning I was contacted and asked to make an ice cream cake and 1 dozen cupcakes for a 6th Birthday party on that same Wednesday. [insert panic here]

I was so extremely nervous for two reasons. #1: I've never made an ice cream cake before and #2: I've never made a cake/baked good for anyone other than family or coworkers before.

Everything turned out fine. They were to pick up the order at about 4:00pm Wednesday. At 3:50 I slid the decorated cake back into the freezer to freeze a little more before they picked it up, at 4:02 my doorbell rang. Talk about finishing in the nick of time!

I googled countless ice cream cake recipes, watched an ice cream cake video on youtube and just went with my own plan of attack. I didn't follow a specific recipe, but I had the idea in my head. I event went to a local Dairy Queen to check out their cakes, prices and decorations.

Marble cake was the Birthday girls choice!
Ice Cream Cake
My original recipe

1 baked and cooled cake, flavor of your choice
96 oz of your favorite ice cream, softened (I used chocolate and vanilla)
2-3 sleeves of crushed up oreo cookies (I purchased the family size oreo box)
Hot Fudge sauce
Cool Whip or Homemade whipped topping
Buttercream frosting to decorate your cake with
9x13 disposable pans (regular cake pans would work fine, but I was giving this away and didn't want to give away my glass 9x13 pan)

Once my cake was baked and cooled, I knew I wanted to transfer it to a pan other than the pan it was baked in so I took it out and noticed that I needed to cut it down. I used my cake leveler to cut it in half lengthwise. I put the half that I was using in the disposable pan and set the half that I wasn't going to use aside. (I had intentions of making cake balls with it, but it really didn't end up to be that much so I just tossed it.)
Set your ice cream out now for about 5-10 minutes to let it soften up. You want it to be smooth and stirable but not soupy. Put a layer of ice cream on top of the cake. I did about 1/2 to 3/4 of my container of ice cream.

 Freeze for at least 1 hour (this is when I made the cupcakes for the same order)

 After the vanilla ice cream has refroze somewhat, I prepared the cooke fudge layer. I crushed up oreos and ccombined them with hot fudge sauce. I wouldn't recommend this again. The hot fudge got very thick and wouldn't spread as I was hoping it would. I revamped my plan and instead, I sprinkled the crushed oreos on the vanilla layer and drizzled some chocolate ice cream topping over the crushed cookies. I was very generous with both the oreos and the chocolate topping because I wanted them to be very noticeable in the cake in both presentation and taste.

I also sprinkled some Nerds candies on the fudge layer because I heard that the Birthday girl loves candy. Looking back, I should have sprinkled more nerds to create more of a layer rather than a sprinkling.

After you've taken the cake out after freezing it with the cookie fudge layer, you're ready for the final ice cream layer. In this case, chocolate. I tried to go a little heavier with the chocolate ice cream because that was a request from the chocolate lovin' Birthday girl.

At this point, it was about 10pm at night and I was ready for bed. After I had spread the chocolate layer on, I popped it in the freezer and froze it overnight and all day while I was at work the next day.
On Wednesday when I got home from work, I quickly frosted the top with my cool whip, added a few decorations/writing in Buttercream frosting and sprinkled more nerds on top. I can't believe I don't have a picture of the final cake uploaded yet. I'll upload that and edit this post soon.

It was a lot of fun to make and I'm glad to have had the experience. I was so relieved when the Mom of the Birthday girl text me and gave me rave reviews. Her Daughter loved the cake, they all loved the cake!

Whew! Ice cream cake = success.

Here are a few picture of the cupcakes. Both the ice cream cake layer and the cupcakes were box mixes-Duncan Hines marble. Easy & tasty!


White Buttercream Frosting
Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything
Review: I really loved this frosting. I'm not a fan of usual buttercreams and tend to go with the whipped toppings but this was really tasty. It wasn't too sweet or thick. It was so easy to make and light to work with too. It was a very smooth frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Source: Hershey's 'Perfectly Chocolate' Chocolate Frosting
Review: I was sort of 'meh' on this recipe. I realized that I didn't follow the steps exactly though. It says to alternately add the powdered sugar and milk and without realizing I added all of the milk and then added the powdered sugar. The frosting had a little of a gritty taste to it which could be in part to my error. I'll definitely make this again and make sure to follow the instructions. My Husband who is a chocolate frosting lover, really liked the frosting but also commented on the gritty texture.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Baby Back Ribs

I don't know about you but I'm definitely a meat girl. Not so much meat and potatoes, but I definitely enjoy having meat. Steak, ribs, burgers... I enjoy them all. I remember when Matt and I first started dating, we went to dinner at Applebee's one night before a movie and they had some sort of ribs as a special. I ordered it and it was very tasty. Matt later told me that he was shocked that I ordered ribs. He may deny it but I bet that's when he knew he wanted to marry me. ;-)

We don't have ribs too often, but when they're on sale at the grocery store, we'll buy a rack. They're a very tasty and often simple to prepare meal. We usually have a salad with our ribs or a lighter side. If we feel like splurging a little, we'll have some mashed potatoes or a baked potato.

This recipe is all Matt's creation. He's usually the cook when we have ribs. Up until now, his best recipe was the steamed ribs he did on the gas grill.

Baby Back Ribs
Amy's Matt's Kitchen Creations original recipe

1 rack of ribs (peel the skin off the backside of the ribs)
1 cup of brown sugar
1-2 Tablespoons of Tastefully Simple Seasoned Salt*
1-2 Tablespoons of Tastefully Simple Everyday Grilling Seasoning*
2 Tablespoons of Tastefully Simple Awesome American BBQ Sauce

After you've removed the skin off the backside of the ribs, rub 1/2 cup of brown sugar on each side of the ribs. Let sit in the refrigerator for 40 minutes while you prepare your charcoal grill. (a gas grill would work too, but honestly, these ribs were the most tender, flavorful ribs we've ever had)

Just before placing on the grill, season both sides with the Tastefully Simple seasonings. *Matt wasn't sure exactly how much he used, he just sprinkled the seasonings on. Use your own judgement.

Grill for about an hour and a half rotating every so often. At the one hour mark, spread the BBQ sauce over the ribs. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes. Let rest slightly before enjoying!

Monday, May 30, 2011


This is actually a recipe that Matt whipped up for Breakfast on Friday morning. I had taken a PTO day so he made us breakfast that morning. He scrambled some eggs up with a chopped vidalia onion and some cut up sausages. He added this smoothie to go with it and it was perfect! 

I really like smoothies but don't want to purchase them everyday. Our only options around our house for smoothies are either McDonald's or Caribou. Neither of which I consider to be real smoothies.

This one is super easy and our magic bullet makes it even easier! Smoothies in about 5 minutes flat for uber cheap!

Source: Amy's Kitchen Creation Original

1 cup frozen fruit (we used a blend of strawberries, blueberries, melons and grapes from Aldi)
1 cup (8oz) orange juice

Put both ingredients into the magic bullet and blend until you reach your desired consistency. We like ours thin but not too thin.

What I love most about the bullet is that there is no additional cleanup. You make your smoothie in the same cup you'll drink from. One dish is dirtied and no time is wasted!

Here's something my dear 'ol Husband doesn't know... when I made his smoothie tonight (he's been sick and requested a smoothie for 'dessert') I added 2 tsp of flax seed. hehehe Feel free to add flax seed or any other extra ingredients for added nutrition, I bet you'll never notice!

We were at Aldi again the other day and picked up a different fruit blend. I can't wait to try it. Smoothies are definitely an easy way to get in your daily recommended fruits. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

My Mom recently had a Birthday and I offered to make her Birthday dessert. I was eager to try my hand at red velvet cake and this was the perfect occasion. I asked her if she wanted a cake or cupcakes and she chose Birthday cupcakes! Awesome! Cupcakes are easy, transportable and always well received.

I've never eaten red velvet cake before. I always had this preconceived notion that it would taste 'funny'... as if there was an absurd ingredient in it or something. Who knows. I was wrong. I was so wrong. These were phenomenal. They were perfectly moist and oh so delicious. Oh, and that cream cheese frosting? It was TDF (to.die.for). Definitely the perfect companion for my new beloved red velvet.

Annie never lets me down. I found this red velvet recipe on her website and it was perfect.

The batter is a beautiful, deep red color!
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: Annie's Eats
Yield: about 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

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

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat 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. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. In my picture I used a Ziploc bag with a hole snipped at the end. My Mom doesn't have piping bags on hand (not many people I know do) and I didn't think to bring one with.

*Annie recommends to increase the quantities by 50% to make more frosting. This will allow you to have more frosting on your cupcake and if you're swirling it by using a large star tip, you'll want to have the additional frosting. You may end up with some frosting leftover, but hey, you'd rather have that than to be short frosting, right?

I had these cute edible decorations left from Christmastime and I used those to decorate a few of the cupcakes. Although they are edible, I don't think they're desirable. I don't know about you but when I'm eating a cupcake, I really don't want to bite into a hard crunch. I think they're really pretty on these cupcakes though. It really makes them look elegant; like little pearls.

Banana Walnut Muffins

Eeek. I didn't realize my picture was that bad. I guess that's what I get for taking pictures at 10:30pm  in an already dark kitchen. See that cute stand that I have my muffins on though? I saw my Mom had one when we were visiting and she said that she got them at Walmart for $3! When I was there the next day, lo and behold they still had some in stock! I grabbed two of these black ones and a white wire bowl that is currently housing my apples.

Anyway... back to the muffins... My Mom had made some muffins a few days ago and passed this recipe along.

Banana Walnut Muffins
Adapted from: Giada De Laurentiis

2.5 cups of flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flax seed
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup applesauce (original recipe calls for vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
4 mashed bananas

Preheat your oven to 350*. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, table salt, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, flax seed and walnuts, . Stir to lightly combine.
In a separate large bowl, combine your sugars, oil or applesauce, vanilla, eggs and mashed bananas. Make sure to mash your bananas completely or you'll end up with banana chunks that won't bake properly during the baking time (trust me, i know.)

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
If you're not using cupcake liners, generously grease a muffin pan with baking non-stick spray. Divide the batter evenly into the cups. I filled them 3/4 full to almost completely full. I got two pans out of the recipe, so 24 muffins total.

WW info: 5pts per muffin

These would be a great breakfast combined with a smoothie and a small yogurt. Light, refreshing and filling!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

I'm really not a fan of peanut butter in treats like this. If I'm going to eat peanut butter I'd rather have a PB&J sandwich. I know, I know some people may now be considering me insane. But, it's true.

These little morsels may be a game changer though. My willpower and I can beat these little guys. I had a few of them the day I brought them to work, but that was it. I was satisfied without them. Yay!

They're really very easy to make. If you've got some pretzels, peanut butter, melting chocolate (I used almond bark) a few other ingredients and a little bit of time set aside, you too can make these! 

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp butter, room temperature
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pretzels (round pretzels or even the square ones will do!)
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (or almond bark)

In a small bowl, beat the peanut butter and butter together until smooth and creamy. Beat in the powdered sugar, light brown sugar, and vanilla extract until well mixed – you may need to add more to get the filling thick and stiff enough to hold its shape.

Roll teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture between your palms to form balls. Sandwich between two pretzels and put on a plate or cookie sheet. Freeze the pretzel sandwiches for half an hour.
Melt the chocolate according to package directions. (I put mine in the microwave for 30 seconds and then stirred it around and it was good enough. It all melted together nicely after being stirred around)

Dip each pretzel sandwich in chocolate, about halfway. If you're really feeling crazy, dip the whole darn thing. People will get a surprise bite of pretzel-y peanut butter-y goodness when they bite in. Kind of like those Take 5 candy bars! 

I set each dipped pretzel sandwich on waxed paper to let them all dry.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

This was a fabulous, filling meal. I've had taquitos at restaurants before, usually in their appetizer samplers. They've always been pretty good. I'm pretty certain that they're always fried though. Which is obviously, why they taste so good :-)

This recipe was SO simple to prepare. Honestly. I cooked the chicken the night before, let it cool, put it in the refrigerator and then the next night it took all of about twenty minutes to prepare and only about 15 minutes in the oven. Super simple!

As you can see, there was enough filling to feed an army! I used a whole package of 10 tortillas. I made burritos with it because I knew I'd need to break into another pack of tortillas with all of that filling and I really didn't want to.

I love how crispy these got in the oven without getting too crispy. I wish I would have been better prepared. These would have gone great with some lettuce, fresh salsa, gresh guacamole and sour cream. A very quick and delicious meal for any night of the week. These would be perfect as an appetizer as well.

Go easy on the spice and you've got yourself a perfect kid-friendly, finger food meal! You could even reserve a bit of the chicken mixture, without any of the seasoning to make some for the kids; then continue on and spice it up to your tastes.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos
Adapted from: Annie's Eats

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup Vine Ripened Salsa from Tastefully Simple
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (I used bottled)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin (I omitted)
1/2 tsp onion powder (I omitted)
2 tsp Garlic Garlic from Tastefully Simple
3 tbsp chopped cilantro (I used cilantro cubes)
2 tsp Onion Onion from Tastefully Simple
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese (any cheese will do)
10 tortillas (approx. 6 inch size)
1 tbsp Ole Ole Fiesta Sauce from Tastefully Simple
a pinch or two of coarse salt

Preheat your oven to 425. I lightly sprayed a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. You could use parchment paper or a silpat as well.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, spices, cilantro, chicken, fiesta sauce and shredded cheese. Mix thoroughly until well combined.

If you need to, microwave your tortillsa just a little to make sure that they're flexible enough for tightly rolling.
Spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto the tortilla. Roll the tortilla up tightly around the filling. Place them seam side down on your baking sheet. Continue this process with the remaining filling and tortillas. Filling them more/less to your liking.

Line them up, evenly spaced on your cookie sheet and lightly spray the tops of them with cooking spray. Take a pinch of your salt and sprinkle it over the tops. Don't skip this step. It may sound odd, but it'll be delicious.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Serve plain or with your favorite toppings.

I'm bummed that I didn't take any other pictures. If you want a drool-icious photo, go check out Annie's post.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Perfect Party Cookies

I've really been on a baking kick lately. I just love to be in the kitchen and baking. I love when my recipes turn out, I love when my kitchen smells of whatever is happily baking in the oven, I love the smiles on faces when someone tries something I make and they enjoy it. Baking is also a great stress reliever for me.

The only thing I don't love? Having cakes, cookies, muffins, cupcakes sitting at home and staring me in the face. I do not have very strong willpower. I will eat them. So, when I can make something and bring it to someone or somewhere I'm the happiest! I get to do something that I enjoy, gift it to someone and call it a day without adding any calories to my daily intake.

I made a double batch of these cookies one day last week to bring to my Dentist appointment and to a staff meeting at work. Who brings a box of cookies to their Dentist, right? Well, my Mom used to work at this Dentist office so I know them pretty well. I knew they wouldn't mind getting a little box of sweets for a lunch time treat.

They went over well at both locations. The Dentist emailed me and said "I just ate one of those chocolate chip cookies and thought I had died and gone to Heaven. THANK YOU soooo much for bringing them in. You are the best." Now, if that's not a compliment, I don't know what is. At our staff meeting, a coworker had three of them before we even left the meeting room. Again, I'd say that's a pretty good compliment.

You will not be disappointed when you make these cookies. They're so easy to prepare and not to mention, you don't get that many dishes dirty. You don't even need a kitchenaid/stand mixer! I mixed this all up with a spatula! One thing to note, if you're doubling the batch like I did, make sure you have enough sprinkles on hand. You'll need 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) of sprinkles. I might have a sprinkle obsession and had plenty of them, but I don't know if non-baking households will have a sprinkle surplus like I did.

This would be perfect  to make with kids. Not too many ingredients, simple measurements and they look fun and festive. They're sure to catch a kid's eye!

This was my second time making a double batch. Can you tell I had to get creative with my sprinkle options? We've got a little Christmas sprinkles, some Spring-time sprinkles and some rainbow sprinkles.

Perfect Party Cookies
Source: Stephanie Cooks

1 cup of flour
1 cup of boxed yellow cake mix
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter melted & cooled slightly
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
4 tbsp sprinkles of your choice

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together your flower, cake mix and soda, set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter, egg, egg yolk and vanilla until slightly creamy. Add the sugars and stir well.Add the flour mixture, stir well to combine. Add your chocolate chips and sprinkles, sitr well to combine.

(At this point in Stephanie's recipe, she says to refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes because the dough will be runny. I've made these twice now and did not have runny dough either time. Use your discretion. If your dough is runny, refrigerate for 30 minutes. If it's not, you could charge on and not worry about refrigeration.)

Using a cookie scoop, place dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Keep dough cool in between batches. I did put mine in the refrigerator while a batch was baking.

Bake 12-15 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the center sets. Cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet and remove to a wire rack.

Personally, I love a cookie that is a little crisp but also a little chewy so I took them out at the 12 minute mark, let them cool on the sheet and then transferred them to the wire rack to cool completely.

These cookies were even worthy of me taking out my cookie jar from the cupboard! I still have some dough at home in the refrigerator. I think I'm going to bake up some cookies and sell them, bake sale style, at my garage sale this weekend. Like I said, I don't want to add too many calories to my daily intake!

For some reason, when I made these last night again, they ended up being really thin. They spread out so much on my cookie sheet. I ended up only being able to put 6 on a cookie sheet at a time because they spread so thin. Personally, I loved them this way. The outside was just crisp enough, but they were still chewy. My Husband said "I feel like I'm eating a wafer." However, her liked them enough to still eat two.

I'm not sure what I did. I think because I was multi-tasking in the kitchen, I probably added a little bit too much, or not enough, of something. I still enjoy them, but just make sure to watch your measuring!  

Or else you'll end up with a giganto cookie!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Creamy Vanilla Pudding Cake

This dessert is one that I made as a teenager one time when my Grandma came down to Minnesota to visit when she lived in North Dakota. She had one bite of this dessert and was forever in love with it! Whenever she visited us she requested that I make this dessert. If we were up in North Dakota visiting her, she made sure she had all of the ingredients on hand so that I could make this for her. She eventually coined it, "Amy's Dessert." That's how I have it written on my recipe card. I don't even remember where I got the recipe from. I'm going to start calling it "Creamy Vanilla Pudding Cake" but deep down, it'll always be "Amy's Dessert." I always felt very special that she wanted me to make this dessert for her. We didn't live near either set of my Grandparents growing up so visiting them was always at least a weekend long visit. We'd go shopping, go to garage sales or just hang out at their house.

Grandma would always make us supper, at least once during the weekend, in her teeny tiny townhouse. There'd be 6 people, at minimum, in her townhouse but she always made us a homecooked meal in that cramped kitchen. My favorite meal? Her homemade mac and cheese. I think it's just elbow macaroni and velveeta, but as a kid, I loved it. I should get her recipe for that so I can always remember it the way Grandma used to make.

If you make this dessert, I hope you enjoy it as much as my Grandma did.While making it, I had faint memories of making it in my Parent's kitchen.

Creamy Vanilla Pudding Cake
Recipe origin: unknown
Ingredients for the crust:
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar

Ingredients for the filling:
1 8ounce cream cheese, softened
1 cup cool whip
I cup powdered sugar
I also added about 1/4tsp of almond extract to the filling but that's not called for in the original recipe

Ingredients for the topping:
2 pkgs vanilla instant pudding (5oz size box)
2 1/2 cups cold milk
Cool whip per your preference (if you want a lot of cool whip on top, use a lot; if you want a little, use a little)

*cool whip note: I used almost all of a 16oz container of cool whip between the 1 cup used for the filling and the topping.

ix the crust ingredients until they're well combined and the result is a moist but crumbly mixture. I used a pastry blender to help me with this process. Once combined, press mixture into a 9x13, lightly greased, pan. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until light golden brown.

The crust needs to be completely cool before you can top it with the filling.

When you're ready to make the filling, combine the softened cream cheese and the powdered sugar together. I put the cream cheese in a medium sized mixing bowl first. I whipped it up a little with my hand held mixer until it got really creamy and soft. Then, I added the powdered sugar and used a spatula to help mix the two together knowing that I'd create way too much powdered sugar dust if I went at it with my hand held mixer! Once they were well mixed together using the spatula, I used my hand held mixer for a minute or so to make sure that they were completely combined. Fold in the 1 cup of cool whip and spread out evenly on the crust. After they're mixed together, it sort of resembles marshmallow fluff I thought. It's a stirable mixture but it looks really sticky.

Then, it's time to prepare the filling! Combine your 2 packages of pudding mix with the 2 1/2 cups milk in a medium bowl (I used the same bowl I used for my filling) and whisk until it's thick. You don't want it to become set in your bowl, but you want it to be thick and pourable.

Pour the pudding mixture onto the filling layer and make sure it's spread out evenly. The final topping is the cool whip layer.

Top with as much or as little cool whip as you'd like. I top mine with just enough so that it's almost touching the top of the sides of my baking dish.
I think I should work on making my layers more even, don't you think? Oops! It's not too pretty when you look at it from this view.

I do think that the next time I make this, I may make the crust layer a double batch so that it's a bit thicker. There is so much on top of it that I just feel the crust should be thicker.

I'll be eating this tonight for an early Easter meal with my Husband's family. I'll definitely be back to share how it was received by everyone. I hope it's as good as I remember it being.
If you make this, I'd love to hear how you like it!

Edited to add: Well, it got rave reviews at dinner! My Husband's Grandma even asked for the recipe. I think that's always a compliment. I still think I'd double the crust layer next time and be careful to not be cool whip heavy for the topping.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Burritos

Coming from someone who doesn't typically enjoy black beans, this was really good and I will likely make them again. They were very simple and it was a fun, filling dinner that both my Husband and I enjoyed.

Spicy Black Bean Burritos
Recipe from: None other than Annie's Eats
Yields about 6 servings

Ingredients for the bean fillings:
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp minced chipotle in adobo sauce
1/4 tsp kosher salt
A dash of cayenne peppper
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 (15oz) cans of black beans, drained & rinsed
6 tbsp salsa
6 tortillas, warmed (9-inch or 10-inch size)

You'll also want your choice of toppings such as:
Shredded cheese
Diced tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
Chopped green onions
Sour Cream

To make the bean fillings, heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, chili powder, chipotle in adobo sauce, salt & cayenne pepper. Stir and cook just until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds.  Add the beans and the broth.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the skilled from the heat, stir in the salsa and mash the mixture with a spoon.

Spoon about a third cup of the bean mixture down the center of each tortilla.  Top each with your desired toppings.  Roll the tortilla up tightly, burrito style, and serve immediately.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chinese Chicken & Broccoli

I apologize for the 'in your face' picture. We had finished our meal and I realized that I didn't take a picture. So, after we packed up leftovers for lunch for the next day, I snapped a photo. It works, right?

We love Chinese food. A little too much probably. I was excited to see this recipe on Annie's blog. (Side note: You'd think I'm BFF with Annie or that I'm getting paid to say her name all the time. Nope, I'm not. I do wish I were BFF with her so that she could be my one-on-one cooking instructor though! I just love her recipes and they're always tasty. Not to mention, beginner friendly recipes!)

This was a great weeknight meal and I'd bet that you have all these ingredients in your kitchen right now! If you love Chinese food you should definitely try this recipe. I can't wait to make it again, really. I can see using this sauce base as the sauce for Kung Pao chicken. Or, make this recipe as it states but add all the veggies that Kung Pao calls for, a little extra spice and you've got... Kung Pao Chicken & Broccoli! 

We also made homemade cream cheese wontons with this meal. Actually, Matt did. He's the 'fryer' in our kitchen. They were also so very good. The cream cheese was still ooey and gooey a little on the inside. When we order Chinese, by the time our food gets here, the cream cheese has hardened and it's not as enjoyable as if they were fresh.

Chinese Chicken & Broccoli
Recipe from: Annie's Eats

1 tbsp peanut oil (see directions for specifics)
1 and a 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
¼-½ tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups broccoli florets
6 tbsp chicken broth, divided
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 and a half tsp cornstarch
3 scallions, chopped
Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
Heat a half tablespoon of the peanut oil and the 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté until golden brown and cooked through.  Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and cover with foil to keep warm.  Add the remaining half tablespoon of peanut oil to the pan.  Add the garlic and ginger
(I forgot/didn't have ginger so I omitted) and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the red pepper flakes and broccoli florets to the pan.  Pour in about half of the chicken broth – it should steam and boil quickly.  Allow the broccoli to cook until crisp-tender and the broth has mostly evaporated.  Add the oyster sauce and hoisin sauce to the pan.  In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and cornstarch, and add to the pan.  Stir in the remaining chicken broth.  Return the chicken pieces to the pan.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the scallions.  Serve over rice and garnish with sesame seeds, if desired.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chocolate Almond Cake with Pecans

I was excited to see this cake on Annie's blog. I've never made a bundt cake of any kind and they always come out looking so nice. I've used my bundt pan many times before when making monkey bread, but never any cake.

It was fairly simple to make, and I had most all of the ingredients at home. The almond extract really adds a nice flavor to the cake. It's the cake's secret ingredient!

Chocolate Almond Cake
Recipe: Annie's Eats

For the cake:
2¼ cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1½ cups sour cream
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

For the ganache:
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. I had a 9.75 cup pan so that's what I used and it worked just fine.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla and almond extracts.
With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating each addition just until incorporated. Mix in the melted chocolate just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack and gently remove the cake from the pan.
Like I said before, I've never made a bundt cake so I'm not sure this is supposed to happen. When I inverted my cake onto the cooling rack, I noticed that it had a lot of, what seemed to be, extra at the bottom. "Feet" as you will. I've never known bundt cakes to be raised up that high. I've always thought they should be more flat at the bottom. Do you think I did something wrong?

To remedy this problem, I simply just cut off the excess.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circular motions until the mixture is well blended and the ganache is smooth. Stir in the corn syrup. Drizzle the ganache over the cooled cake and garnish with sliced almonds before the glaze sets.

Don't forget to add your corn syrup or you'll wonder why the ganache is more like a frosting and not very drizzle-y. Not that I'd know from experience or anything...

Because of my error, I decided I'd just spread the ganache around, like a frosting and add the pecans all around. I loved the idea in my head, but I'm not sure how I feel about it once it was said and done. I just hope it tastes ok. We tasted the cut off part and that seemed dry. However, that was after it was sitting out while I made breakfast and such, so that could largely be the problem.

I took this cake to my Grandparent-in-Laws house for dinner. I also brought some vanilla ice cream to go with it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Saturday Breakfast: Eggs Benedict

I've never had Eggs Benedict before so you can probably understand why I've never made it either. I saw this post on Joelen's blog and thought it would be perfect for our Saturday Morning Breakfast.

I figured it should be easy but yet something 'special' that we wouldn't have time for each weekday morning.

I struggled with this recipe. I don't know if it was too much to focus on in the morning or what. Maybe it's because I've never poached an egg so I didn't really have any clue what a poached egg looked like? I was really bummed and was starting to get very cranky in the kitchen.

First of all, I over poached my eggs. I ended up with hard boiled yolks but poached egg whites. Ugh.

So, I decided to fry up a couple eggs for our eggs benedict. It worked well enough. Although, on one of my fried eggs, I overcooked it and it was cooked through. Dangit. I'm sure one of the best parts of Eggs Benedict are the creamy yolks.

Secondly, the hollandaise sauce calls for vinegar and you could definitely taste the vinegar. The hollaindaise wasn't very creamy either.

I was so bummed that this breakfast wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. (Get it? Egg humor!) I'll definitely try again. I may try this recipe for Eggs Benedict. It's more simple for me, the beginner poacher.

Here is the recipe that I followed from Joelen's blog. 

Eggs Benedict
Recipe: What's Cookin, Chicago?
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
12 large eggs
6 english muffins, split & toasted
12 slices Canadian bacon
1 recipe for Foolproof Hollandaise

Fill a large 12 inch skillet nearly to the rim with water. Add the vinegar and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, remove off heat.

Crack an egg into a small bowl and one at a time, carefully pour the egg into the skillet. Repeat with the remaining eggs,being careful not to crowd the pan. (You may want to only poach 6 eggs at a time to avoid crowding.)

Once your eggs are in the skillet, cover the pan and poach the eggs until whites are set but yolks are slightly runny, about 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a paper towel-lined plate.

Meanwhile, preheat your broiler. Arrange your toasted English muffins, split side up, on a baking sheet and place a slice of bacon on each. Broil until they begin to brown, about 1 minute.

Arrange 1 poached egg on top of each English muffin. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of hollandaise sauce over each egg. Garnish with minced fresh parsley and serve.

Foolproof Hollandaise
makes 2 cups
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
salt to taste

Whisk butter and egg yolks in a large heat resistant bowl set over a medium saucepan filled with 1/2 inch of barely simmering water. Be careful not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Slowly add the 1/2 cup of boiling water into the bowl and cook, whisking constantly. It will eventually thicken when the sauce registers 160 degrees, in about 7-10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir the lemon juice and cayenne if using. Season with salt to taste and serve over eggs benedict above.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mom's Banana Bread

My Husband's coworker brought him some bananas that were ready for baking. I know, I know, your first thought is... what? This guy is single and doesn't do any baking for himself. But, he knew the bananas could be used by someone and he knew that I liked to bake so he brought them to work for my Husband to give to me. I thought it was a very nice gesture.
As I was looking through my recipe books, my recipe box & my blog, I realized that I did not have a recipe for banana bread. Growing up, my Mom often made banana bread and it was so good. Moist, flavorful and delicious. I couldn't believe that I didn't have it written down somewhere!

Luckily, when I text her "SOS -- I need your banana bread recipe!" she was happy to oblige and called me with her recipe. Although we don't know the origination of this recipe, we assume that it came from my Grandma, her Mom. My Mom has been using this banana bread recipe for many years. It's the banana bread I've grown up with. As soon as I tried some of my fresh banana bread, I was happy that it tasted just like Mom used to make.

Mom's Banana Bread
Recipe: Amy's Kitchen Creations Family Recipe

3 1/2 cups of Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking soda
3/4 cup Butter
1 1/4 cup Sugar*
4 Eggs
2 cups Banana

Mix all ingredients into a bowl until well combined. You can add raisins or nuts if you'd like. When adding them, put a tablespoon or two of flour in a separate bowl, add the raisins/nuts and mix them up with the flour a little. They'll be coated with the flour. This will keep them from falling to the bottom of the bread when baking. This recipe makes two loaves of bread. If you're like me and only have one loaf pan, you'll be baking bread for a couple hours. It's worth it though!

Bake at 350 for 60 minutes.

Enjoy your slice with a little bit of butter or plain, whichever you prefer!

*My Mom said that she does half Brown Sugar and half White Sugar in her recipe. I did 1 cup White sugar, 1/4 cup Brown sugar.

PS- I now have the recipe securely in my recipe box! I will definitely be making this more often now that I have the recipe stored.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pork Chop & Hashbrown Bake

This recipe is definitely comfort food. Carrie received it from Madelyn and I've seen it on a few blogs since then. It's so easy, so delicious and ultimately comforting. I'm not sure if it's a family recipe from Madelyn but it really doesn't matter. You should definitely make this!

Pork Chop & Hashbrown Bake


5 pork chops
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Sour Cream
24oz package of frozen hashbrowns, thawed
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 large can french fried onions (French's onions)

I made the mistake of not reading my recipe before I got started so I used frozen hashbrowns and it worked just fine. Also, the original recipe calls for 6 slices of pork tenderloin, but all I had available was 5 pork chops so I just used what I had and again, it was just fine.

I baked our pork chops in the oven at 400* with a few seasonings on them. I cooked them about 30-40 minutes I think, until they were done.

While the pork chops are baking, combine the soup, sour cream & milk. Add the hashbrowns, half the cheese and half of the fried onions. Spoon that mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.

When the pork chops are done, layer the pork chops on top of the hashbrown mixture. Bake at 350* for about 40 minutes. Add the rest of the cheese and onion pieces on top and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

This recipe was so good. It was so simple to prepare, the leftovers were great & it was the perfect meal for a Sunday night. Comfort food at its finest!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tortellini Soup & Southwest Turkey Panini Sandwiches

While I love soup, I've only ever made homemade chicken nooodle. This soup was so easy to whip together. I was actually shocked at how easy it was. It seems like it should have an excessive ingredient list and take a lot of time. It couldn't be farther from the truth.

It worked out perfectly to make soup this week. We had a rainy, windy, sleety (here in Minnesota, that is a perfectly acceptable word to describe the weather. Trust me.) day and this was exactly what we needed.

Tortellini Soup
*I doubled this recipe so that we could have leftovers for a couple days. The original recipe says it yields 3-4 servings.* The original recipe is listed below.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes, with juices
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth)
9 ounces tortellini, any variety (I used Bertolli tortellini from the refrigerated section)
3 cups fresh baby spinach, loosely packed (I used bagged spinach)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Grated Paremesan, optional for serving

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions to the pan and cook until beginngin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, just until fragant, approximately 1 minute. Mix in the oregano (I threw in some basil too) and diced tomatoes. Add the chicken brtoh to the pot. Bring everything to a boil. Add your tortellini to the pot and cook according to package directions. (My tortellini really puffed up. I've never made tortellini of any kind before so I'm not sure if this was normal. Perhaps that's because it was 'fresh' and not frozen tortellini? I'd be interested to hear if this happens to anyone else.)

One minute before the tortellini is fully cooked, stir in the spinach. Remove from the heat & season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with grated Parmesan, if you choose.

I knew that just having soup wouldn't be satisfying for Matt so I paired it with homemade ciabatta panini.

At work, we have a cafe called The Muffin Man and it's so good. A funky little cafe that's a much needed break from the lunch options at our Cafeteria. Have you ever had broccoli that was so badly cooked that you could mush it with your tongue against the roof of your mouth? If not, you're lucky. If so, you can probably imagine my dissappointment when I added a side of broccoli to my lunch one day at the cafeteria. Blech. Anyway, back to our lunch paradise; The Muffin Man has a southwest turkey grilled sandwich. Southwest mayo, roasted red peppers, turkey and cheddar cheese on ciabatta bread, grilled to perfection.

That was my inspiration for these sandwiches. Our grocery store was out of red peppers (yes, really) so I had to skip the peppers. I had spinach leftover from the soup so I added some spinach to our sandwiches. I didn't have any cheddar cheese so I used some shredded cheese that I had in the refrigerator. These sandwiches are completely customizable to whatever you may be feeling.

Southwest Turkey Grilled Sandwich
Inspired by: The Muffin Man Cafe

Loaf of cooked ciabatta
Turkey deli meat
Fresh spinach leaves
Prepared chipotle mayo, recipe below.

I bought a loaf of 'Take and Bake' ciabatta at our local grocery store. I sliced it in about 4" sections and then cut them almost in half lengthwise. Similar to how they would cut your bread at a sub shop. I then put it in the oven and baked it per the directions. When done, spread mayo on both halves, add your deli meat, cheese, spinach and then place on a warm griddle for a few minutes on each side. Just until cheese melts.

I'd really like to invest in a panini maker or a sandwich griddle. These were fantastic sandwiches. My Husband, Matt, loved them so much. He declared them "the best sandwiches ever." Our meal of tortellini soup and southwest turkey panini sandwiches won him over so well, he said that it puts his previous favorite meal to shame.

Chipotle mayo
Amy's Kitchen Creation original
(Although I'm sure I'm not the only one to ever make this)

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
A few tablespoons of mayo

Cut up the peppers so they're smaller and then stir them into your mayo. If you'd like it spicier or less spicy, just adjust the amount of peppers you put into the mayo or add a little additional mayo.