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.