Saturday, June 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals: June

The Lean Green Bean

This is my first month participating in Foodie Pen Pals and have been so lucky to have been matched with two phenomenal and lovely women, Gretchen from Real Life Motherhood of 4 and Tiffani from Life's a Blog.

Tiffani is the person that I sent my package to. She's a fun, vibrant Southern gal who is full of life. She's got a fun blog called Life's a Blog where she writes about her thoughts as well as her favorite products at the moment. I tried to incorporate some of her favorite things as well as some things that I enjoy that I thought she'd get a kick out of as well. Unfortunately, Tiffani's package got lost in the mail and the post office is trying to locate it, so hopefully she'll be receiving the package soon. :-( It's disappointing, especially because this is Tiffani's first time participating as well. But please stop by Tiffani's blog anyway and tell her hello! And cross our fingers that she receives her goodies soon!

Gretchen from Real Life Motherhood of 4 was the person to send me my foodie package this month. Gretchen is a mama of four beautiful kids and she chronicles her life and adventures with her family on her blog. She's energetic and looks like she's always coming up with awesome ideas to entertain her kids. Head over to her blog to see all the fun activities she does with her kids!

Foodie Pen Pals for June

Gretchen sent me an absolutely wonderful foodie package with new products that I've been having a great time trying. Here is the list of things that I received:

  1. Pop! Gourmet Popcorn in White Truffle Bliss-- Popcorn and truffles are a great combination! Truffles are some of my favorites, so I was absolutely delighted to receive this. This was so yummy, I'm already planning on getting some mailed to me. ;-)
  2. Giada de Laurentiis Paremesan Garlic Vinaigrette-- We haven't tried this one yet, but garlic and parmesan is one of my favorite flavors too so I'm looking forward to trying this. Maybe with some kabobs (as a marinade) and a side salad!
  3. Cheese Straws in Parmesan Artichoke Garlic-- If you love cheese, these are the perfect snack! I've never had cheese straws, so these were a great treat. 
  4. Delallo Balsamic Glaze-- We haven't tried this yet either, but will probably drizzle this over a caprese salad or on some grilled chicken or steak.
  5. Tuscan seasoning-- A great seasoning for meats! This will also go perfectly with the grilled meats when we use the vinaigrette as a marinade and the balsamic glaze!
  6. Jelly Belly Superfruit Mix-- These were a great snack. I loved all the fruity flavors. I took these to work and stashed them for whenever I needed a sugar fix!
  7. Groovy Potato Chips-- These are local chips for Gretchen and were a wonderful salty snack. We munched on these after work or when we ate sandwiches. So these didn't last long at our house!
  8. Homemade granola bars (with a recipe!)-- Gretchen included her homemade granola bars that she makes regularly. These were chewy and had great flavor. I loved the raisins in them and plan on making them soon!
  9. Recipe for Pumpkin Scones-- I love pumpkins and I am looking forward to making these when fall rolls around!

White Truffle Popcorn-- my favorite! So wonderful!

Giada's Parmesan Garlic Vinaigrette

Cheese Straws and Balsamic Glaze

Tuscan Seasoning, Superfruit Jelly Bellies, and granola bars

Groovy Potato Chips

Two recipes and homemade granola bars!

Thank you Gretchen and Tiffani for being wonderful Foodie Pen Pals. I really loved meeting and getting to know two amazing people. I'm looking forward to participating in this again!

If you would like to participate in Foodie Pen Pals, head over to The Lean Green Bean for more information and to sign up! Also, you don't have to be a blogger to participate!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Breakfast Muffins (Stuffed with Eggs, Bacon, and Cheese)

Breakfast Muffins Stuffed with Eggs, Bacon, and Cheese

When we were little, my mom used to buy these buttermilk biscuits that were stuffed with eggs, cheese, and bacon. They were some obscure brand that we bought a CostCo and I've never quite found other versions that quite were like them. So when I saw this recipe, I knew that I had to try them. And they're made in muffin tins, so how fun is that!

While I was making these, my boyfriend walked into the kitchen and looked at me assembling everything. He asked me what I was doing and then said, "Wouldn't it be easier and less time if you just made them all separate and just eat it together?" It took me a bit to respond because, really, he's right and his thought process makes sense. But this is how I want to make them and they still taste good. :-)

I doused my muffins with hot sauce, so next time I might try adding hot sauce inside the biscuits as well as maybe adding some chopped green chile! That's a New Mexican to the core. :-)

I also had every intention of freezing the leftovers and warming them in the microwave before heading off to school/work. But these were gone by the end of the weekend. We had them for breakfast on Saturday and for lunch on Sunday. So no leftovers. Maybe next time I'll double the batch!

Breakfast Muffins Stuffed with Eggs, Bacon, and Cheese
from Yummy Mummy Club

1 package of Pillsbury Biscuits (10 large biscuits)
5 slices of bacon (cooked and cut into pieces)
4 eggs scrambled
5 cheese slices
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. water
Pepper to taste

 Preheat oven to 375F.
 Using a rolling pin or your hands flatten each biscuit.
 Top each biscuit with a spoonful of egg, a spoonful of bacon and 1/2 slice of cheese.
 Pull up on each corner to form into a ball, pressing together at the seam.
 Place in greased muffin tins.
 Lightly whisk water into egg yolk and brush over each muffin.
 Top with pepper to taste.
 Bake for 13-15 minutes.
 Let cool on baking rack and serve warm.

Yield: 10 Muffins

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cookies 'n Cream Layer Cake

Cookies 'n Cream Cake

I made this scrumptious lovely thing for my dad for Father's Day. My dad loves his sweets, loves chocolate, and loves Oreos. It's a family thing.

When I think of my dad and Oreos, I always think of my very first cavity when I was like 6 years old. I don't know where my mom was, but my dad was looking after me and my brother. We had Oreos for dessert. And my brother and I didn't brush our teeth before bedtime.

We woke up with brown/black teeth in the morning (more specifically molars) and scrubbed our teeth. All of my brother's came out. A little spot on mine did not. Hmpf.

Luckily it was a baby tooth and didn't affect the adult molar (surprisingly). But I always blame those dang Oreo cookies.

It could just be the memory of a 6 year old and it could be that the cavity was already there, but since then I will not go to bed without brushing my teeth. Especially after Oreos, I will inspect my teeth and make sure there aren't any black remnants in any of the crevices.

While this cake isn't a celebration of cavities, I still love Oreos and my dad still loves his Oreos. I found this recipe and thought this would be something my dad and my entire family would love. Oreo cookies in cake form sounds like a good choice to me!

This cake is decadent and impressive-looking. It gets a little help from a box mix and some Cool Whip, but you can definitely use your favorite chocolate cake recipe or make your own whipped cream. The original recipe calls for devil's food cake mix, but you can really use any chocolate flavor mix you want. (Actually, I don't see why this recipe couldn't be used with a yellow or white cake or a strawberry or coconut cake mix either. They all sound yummy.)

So enjoy this cake and enjoy your Oreos. But remember to always brush your teeth! ;-)

Cookies 'n Cream Layer Cake
Adapted from Dine and Dish

1 18 oz. package Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Cake mix (make as directed)
1/2 c. oil (or however much your recipe calls for)
3 eggs (or however much your recipe calls for)
1 1/2 c. water (or however much your recipe calls for)

Cookies 'n cream filling:
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. container Cool Whip Topping, thawed
16 Oreo cookies, coarsely crushed (I used Double Stuf)

Chocolate glaze:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 c. butter, cut up

4 Oreo cookies, coarsely crushed (I used Double Stuf)


Prepare cake as directed on the box and pour batter into two 9-inch round cake pans. Bake as directed on the package. (I baked my cake in one 9-inch springform pan and ended up increasing the bake time by 5 minutes and it worked out perfectly.

Once cake is finished baking, cool in pans for 5 minutes. Then invert cakes onto wire racks and remove from pan. Cool cakes completely. (Because I only make one cake, after it cooled completely, I cut the cake into two layers using a serrated knife to get two cakes.)

Cookies 'n cream filling:
Beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed on high until well blended. Scoop in whipped topping and Oreo crumbs and mix again until well blended and evenly distributed.

Chocolate glaze:
Over the lowest heat setting on your stove, combine chocolate and butter in a small saucepan and stir constantly until completely melted. (Alternatively, you can place chocolate and butter in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for two minutes on high until butter is melted. Then stir until chocolate is melted into the butter mixture.)

To assemble cake:
Place one of the cake layers top-side down onto a serving plate. (Because I only made one, I just used the bottom layer on the bottom.) Spread 3/4 of the cookies 'n cream mixture on top of the first layer, spreading the filling out to the edges of the cake. Place the second cake layer top-side up on top of the filling layer. (I added the top layer top-side up since I only made one cake.) Spread the remaining cookies 'n cream filling on top of the cake, leaving about half an inch from the edge of the cake. Pour chocolate glaze over the cake and spread over the cake with an offset spatula, letting some of the chocolate drizzle over the sides. Sprinkle crumbled Oreo cookies over the glaze as garnish.

Place in refrigerator until set and ready to serve.

Friday, June 15, 2012

One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese

One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese

I fully intended to share this recipe with you all earlier, but my excitement for the Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes that I made totally pushed this post and the other posts I had in my queue completely to the side. And that's not to say that the other posts aren't as good, I just wasn't ready for the little guerrilla attack of the cupcakes. :-)

When I made Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken last week, I knew that macaroni and cheese would be the perfect accompaniment. You just can't go wrong with macaroni and cheese! We have two boxes of the blue box, but I figured if I was going to make this delicious chicken, why not go the extra mile and make homemade macaroni and cheese.

I loved that the entire macaroni and cheese was cooked in a single pot as well as using evaporated milk. (When making the blue box, I actually use evaporated milk instead of regular milk because it makes it so much more creamy and adds a richer flavor.) The cheddar cheese added a nice sharpness to the macaroni and the Monterey Jack added some more smoothness. I did add more hot sauce, but I think next time I might add some cayenne in addition to the hot sauce... not to make it hot, but add more of that extra something. ;-)

This recipe is definitely going to remain in rotation in my kitchen for special meals, though it's going to be hard not making this whenever I make the BBQ chicken.

One-pot, that's it!

More goodie

Served with Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken!

One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese (or Skillet Macaroni and Cheese)
from Tracey's Culinary Adventures

3 1/2 c. water, plus extra as needed
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
12 oz elbow macaroni
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. hot sauce (I used a little bit more!)
6 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups) (I ended up putting in 8 oz because I didn't want leftovers-- it ended up being just fine with the extra cheese)
6 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
pepper, to taste

Combine 3 1/2 cups water, 1 cup of the evaporated milk, the pasta and salt in a heavy-bottom pot (I used my Dutch oven) or use 12-inch nonstick skillet. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking at a vigorous simmer, stirring frequently, until the pasta is tender and the liquid has thickened considerably, about 9-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a measuring cup, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk, the cornstarch, mustard and hot sauce. When the pasta is tender, add this mixture to the skillet, stirring to incorporate. Allow to simmer for another minute, or until the sauce has slightly thickened.

Remove the pan from the heat, and begin adding the cheese one handful at a time (don't be tempted to just throw it all in at once). If the sauce begins to look too thick, you can add water to adjust the consistency (I added a few tablespoons total). Once all of the cheese is incorporated, stir in the butter then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

There are some recipes that make you plain giddy. This is one of those recipes! And I frosted cupcakes fancy for the first time in my life too. Everything about this made me feel like I conquered the world. :-)

I made these for my brother's birthday this weekend. I missed his birthday this year partly because he was out of town and partly because I was in the middle of packing and moving. So I wanted something a little more special for him this year. When I asked him what he wanted, he said strawberry cheesecake. So when I came across this recipe, I knew I was going to make this recipe for him.

These cupcakes have a graham cracker crust, strawberry cream cake center, and cream cheese frosting. So it's technically not a cheesecake (thank you, brother, for pointing this out!), but all the flavors combined, it had a cheesecake flavor in a cupcake. These were absolutely spectacular, and I cannot wait for the opportunity to makes these again!

The recipe said that these make between 16-18 cupcakes, but I got an even 24 out of them with the graham cracker crust and the cake center. I had a little bit of frosting left over and I'm thinking of ideas of what I can use them in!

Make this recipe and share it with those you love! There will be smiles all around!

My brother and me in San Francisco

Strawberry cream cake batter

About to go in the oven

Right out the oven

Love these chunks of strawberry

Beautifully frosted cupcakes

These cupcakes are rockstars!

Three gorgeous layers of yummy

Close-up of the frosting

Another close-up of the center

Served with Icewine!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake
Slightly adapted from The Girl who Ate Everything

Graham Cracker Crust:
2 sleeves of graham cracker crumbs (about 18 whole crackers)
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
2 Tbs. of sugar

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature ( 1 1/2 sticks)
1 c.  + 2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. sour cream
4 large egg whites
2 c. fresh strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped (and more for garnish)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8 oz.) packets of cream cheese, room temperature (16 ounces total)
16 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
3 3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 16-18 muffin tins with cupcake liners. (I got 24 cupcakes out of this recipe.) Mix graham cracker crumbs with butter using a food processor.  Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the crushed graham cracker into the bottom of each prepared muffin tin. (I ended up getting about 4 Tbs per cupcake, which worked out perfectly.) Press down using fingers and bake for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned.  Remove immediately from oven and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add the vanilla and beat on a low-speed. Then add half the flour mixture until incorporated then mix in the sour cream or yogurt. Add remaining flour and mix until just blended.

In a medium bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks appear, about 3-4 minutes, be careful not to overbeat. Set aside.

Gently fold 1/3 of the egg into the batter until combined, do not over mix the egg whites or the cake will fall flat. Add remaining egg and fold in the chopped strawberries. Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 of the way and bake for about 20 minutes depending on your oven. You can test to see if they are done by sticking a toothpick through the center, if it comes out clean it is ready to take out!

For the cream cheese frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar slowly in small batches, beating on low speed until incorporated. Once all sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy. Refrigerate for 1 hour. When ready to serve, spread icing on cupcakes or use a pastry bag with a star tip. Garnish with freshly cut strawberries and graham cracker crumbs and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken

Oven Baked BBQ Chicken

When I moved into my boyfriend's house, I came to the realization that I collect some things that I didn't even realize that I did, like honey and BBQ sauce. At least, my saving grace is that it isn't your run-of-the mill store-bought honey and BBQ sauce. My honey are all local and artisan honeys as well as BBQ sauce that I purchased at the National Fiery Foods Show here in Albuquerque. Upon realizing this horror, I told Joe, "I hope you like BBQ sauce because we're going to be eating a lot of it." Especially because we don't have room in our cupboards for them all, and I am not getting rid of them. And I have no idea how I was able to store them all before in my small kitchen!

Last night, I made BBQ chicken that was first seared on the stove to brown the top skin, then basted and baked in the oven. I used Grumpy's Bold XX BBQ sauce that I bought at the Fiery Foods show awhile back and it was absolutely perfect. The BBQ sauce darkened and caramelized in the oven and I will use the word perfect again because it totally deserves it. It has a sweet and almost smokey flavor initially, but had a slightly spicy undertone to it that I loved. It also has a smoothness to it that I like in BBQ sauces and I was happy that I picked this sauce to use for this recipe.

I paired this with one-pot macaroni and cheese (which I will share with you within the next few days) to make a perfect meal. Plus a couple glasses of wine. :-) I was completely giddy after this meal and cannot wait to make this again. One thing I might try in the future is maybe instead of using quarters, using the chicken legs and thighs separately. Joe didn't have a problem eating it together, but it was a little more difficult for me. Though the dog and her house-guests didn't mind because they ended up getting all the meat I didn't pick off.

I'll probably be making this again in the next few weeks. Give this a try and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!

Grumpy's BBQ sauce I bought I the Fiery Foods Festival

Right out of the oven

One of the best dinners yet

The skin is the best part

Our two house-guests (on the left) enjoyed the meal too

Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken
Slightly adapted from The Hungry Mouse (check out her site for an in-depth process and photo guide!)

4 chicken leg quarters (each has a leg and a thigh)
kosher salt
couple drops of canola oil
3/4 – 1 cup barbecue sauce (however much it takes to baste to your liking!(

Serves 4

Preheat oven to 375.

Line a sheet pan with foil. Set a rack in the pan. Set aside.

Rinse and pat the chicken dry, then sprinkle with kosher salt.

Heat a non-stick pan on high and add a couple drops of canola oil, then let heat up for a minute or two.

When pan is hot, place chicken in pan skin-side down. My pan only fit two, so place as many pieces of chicken in the pan that fit comfortably and gives some space between the chicken. Cook the chicken on high for several minutes (it took me between 5-7 minutes, but see as you go).

Once chicken skin is browned, transfer chicken to the prepared pan. Repeat the browning process with remaining chicken.

Once all chickened is browned and in the prepared pan, baste the chicken pieces on all sides with BBQ sauce. (I added more to the top than the bottom.)

Place pan in oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, take the pan out and baste the chicken again with the BBQ sauce.

Place pan back in oven and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and meat thermometer reads 165 in the thickest part of the chicken.

Let chicken rest for 5 minutes, then serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Cookie Butter" Gooey Butter Cakes

"Cookie Butter" Gooey Butter Cakes

I'm back! The past several weeks have been crazy because I've moved into my boyfriend's house. I've never liked the whole process of moving, but this time was especially hectic because I wasn't moving into an empty place. So I had to go through my things and try to get rid of some stuff, pack, move (moving van plus numerous car trips), make room in his house, clean, unpack. Don't even get me started about dealing with Comcast for my cable and internet. I'm still not 100% unpacked and still haven't found spots for 100% of my stuff, but things are finally coming together and settling down!

I still have yet to actually bake or do much cooking in my "new" kitchen, so I'm sharing a recipe with you that I made several weeks ago and never got the chance to create a post for. At the time, I had most of my kitchen packed and most of my food already at Joe's house so I really had to think about the ingredients and the bakeware I still had. I was eating spoonfuls (yes, spoonfuls) of Trader Joe's Cookie Butter and staring at my half-empty pantry when I remembered Steph at Plain Chicken making Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cakes with Biscoff. I have yet to find Biscoff here in Albuquerque (if you know where to get it here, let me know!), but I've heard the flavors are similar so I decided to give them a try with the Cookie Butter.

You all know how much I love gooey butter cakes, right? I've professed my love for them in my post "Can I Have Both" Gooey Butter Cakes and now I'm doing it again with these "Cookie Butter" Gooey Butter Cakes. I'm sure this is not going to end here!

The Cookie Butter had a very subtle flavor in the gooey butter cakes that I found to be wonderful! I love how you can play with all the flavors with the butter cakes to create unique and fun flavors.


Can you eat only one? I can't!

I love close-ups!

"Cookie Butter" Gooey Butter Cakes
Adapted from Plain Chicken and Paula Deen

1 18.25 oz. package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 Tbs. butter, melted

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 c. Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
8 Tbs. butter, melted
1 16 oz. box powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and Cookie Butter until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together.

Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well. Spread over cake batter and bake for approximately 40-50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.


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