Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is recovering from a nice holiday break shared with friends and family. If your family is anything like mine, all our holidays are pretty much centered around food! I have another pinterest find to share with you that I made over the holidays, and it is definitely worth making again if I could only find the willpower not to eat it all!

I am sure everyone is familiar with the scrumptious Samoa girl scout cookies? When I was an auditor my coworker and I decided to butter up our client by buying boxes of these from her daughter and we would just eat them over the course of the audit, which was a few weeks long. Those cookies didn't last until the end of the day! It's so hard to eat just one!

Samoa Bark

When I ran across this recipe on pinterest, I was so excited that it looked good, would be a great Christmas item to share, AND it started with an S that I didn't take too much time to read the
instructions. What I normally like to do is make things that are easy with a few ingredients but look and taste like I was cooking for much longer! However, the morning we were supposed to leave for my grandparents and I finally read the entire recipe I was in for a rude awakening! This was my first time to dissolve sugar until it has an "amber" hue and melt chocolate over a glass bowl. Thankfully my mom was there to help, but I am still not sure why you can't just stick the chocolate in the microwave (I still have so much to learn)!


Makes 1 8×8 pan | Preparation: Line pan with parchment or wax paper with a one-inch overhang on each side.

1 11.5oz dark chocolate (Ghirardelli)
1 cup coarsely crushed shortbread
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
¾ cup caramel sauce (recipe follows)


Place coconut on a parchment lined bakesheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 5 minutes or until coconut starts to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Make caramel sauce and set aside to cool. Portion out 2 tablespoons for topping. Place chocolate in double boiler or a heat-proof bowl over simmering water and gently stir until chocolate is melted. Portion out 2 tablespoons for topping. Pour half of chocolate into prepared pan, and, using an offset icing spatula smooth out chocolate until an even layer is achieved.

Sprinkle coarsely crushed shortbread on top and gently press it into the chocolate. Transfer pan to the freezer for 5 minutes or until chocolate becomes slightly hardened. Remove pan from freezer and pour caramel sauce on top, then, using an offset icing spatula spread caramel until an even layer is achieved. Transfer pan to the freezer for 5 minutes or until caramel becomes slightly hardened. Remove pan from freezer and pour other half of chocolate on the caramel layer. To finish, sprinkle coconut on top and drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate and caramel on top of coconut. Transfer pan to refrigerator for about 5-10 or until bark is set. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Caramel Filling
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoon butter
7 tablespoon heavy cream
Add sugar and water into a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Use a wet brush to remove any crystals that form on the side. Once sugar has dissolved increase heat to high. Now and then, using the handle give the pot a swirl to keep the mixture moving. Do not stir the mixture directly. The mixture will start to bubble after a minute. As the mixture darkens to a medium amber color, approximately 5-7 minutes, add the butter and heavy cream to saucepan. The mixture will bubble wildly (and it really does!!!). Whisk to combine (bubbles will subside upon cooling). Set aside to cool completely.

As you can see it's pretty sticky but so good! This is after my cousins and I did a taste test just to make sure it was worthy of being included in the Christmas spread. It was a hit!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Rice" to the occassion

I decided to take Thanksgiving as another opportunity to cook through the alphabet. “R” provided me with several options, but I think the most fitting to bring to a potluck style meal was something that incorporated rice. This staple alone provides countless possibilities, from rice pilaf to risotto. I wanted something traditional so I made Broccoli, Rice, and Cheese Casserole.

I really like Paula Deen’s recipes, mainly because they are good and fattening! This recipe is a variation of Paula's and did not disappoint, as it came complete with butter and lots of cheese!

2 (10 ounce) packages of frozen, chopped broccoli
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of minced onion
1/4 cup of minced celery
1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can of condensed cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste, optional
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, optional
2 cups of cooked rice1 cup shredded Cheddar, Swiss cheese, Montery Jack cheese, or any combination, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 9 inch baking dish. Place broccoli in a microwave safe bowl, add about 1 tablespoon of water, cover and microwave about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and roughly chop, if needed. Can also parboil or steam broccoli just until barely fork tender but with a bit of bite, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet and saute the onion and celery over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the two cans of soup and mix until well blended; add the Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, rice and chopped broccoli. Stir gently until combined, taste and
adjust seasonings. Turn out into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle remaining cheese on top and return to the oven uncovered, for about 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.
I will say that when you buy the broccoli, try to get the florets and not the chunks because then you will end up with a bunch of ends. I will also say that although it doesn't say in the ingredients, I would add some salt and pepper to taste. I also doubled the recipe and it fit nicely in a 9X13 dish.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Blunders

Hope everyone has recovered from a fun-filled Thanksgiving break! I spent alot of time travelling to see my grandparents and other family and friends but I am so blessed that I got to see everybody!

My cousins Susanna and Sarah and I taking a break from lunch prep to hang out with my sweet granddaddy! He will be 85 in February!

Here is a pic of Jilly, Lahuta, and myself. Always love a bestie reunion!

I decided that I would make two dishes to share with I am going to post later as part of my continued effort to cook through the alphabet but the other was a festive dessert I was so excited about! Like many other recipes I have tried lately, this one came from pinterest. I am not a fan of pumpkin by itself, but put in some sweetening ingredients and I'm sold! :)

Now I am going to post the ingredients and directions, followed by the "blunder", and then the correct way in case you want to make this in the future!

Ingredients & Directions

Cake Layer
1 box yellow/golden butter cake mix (reserve 1 cup of the dry mix)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
2 eggs

Mix together and spread into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

Pumpkin Pie Layer
2 eggs
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 large can (30 oz.) pumpkin pie mix

Mix together and pour over cake mix layer.

Crumble Topping Layer
1 cup reserved dry cake mix
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle over pumpkin layer.

Bake at 350* for about 40 minutes or until middle is firm and a toothpick comes out clean.

NOW...sounds easy enough right? Well a little fact that I wasn't aware of was that when it says "Pumpkin Pie Mix" it means "Pumpkin Pie Mix", not pureed pumpkin like I so naively thought! There's nothing like expecting a sugary treat only to take a bite into a bitter spoonful of pumpkin! So in the future, I will humble myself and follow exactly what the directions say, no more no less!

I tried to salvage this poor dessert by smothering it in Paula Deen's cream cheese frosting, but based on how much I had left to take home with me (joy) I would say the fam wasn't buying it! O well, you live you learn!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Fall!!

Happy Friday everybody! I wanted to share some photos from my pumpkin carving party last weekend...
Thanks to Pinterest, I got some great ideas for both food and decorations. Here is a Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dip I found. Can you tell which one is mine?

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Caramel sauce (recipe below) or store bought
Heath milk chocolate pieces
mini chocolate chips
2-4 Granny Smith or other crisp tart apples, sliced and soaking in lemon juice/water until ready to serve

Spread all the cream cheese on a serving platter and top with the caramel, Heath bits, and the mini chocolate chips.

After my friends got here we got to carving....and then I realized I put all my efforts into the food and not enough into the process of carving! But everybody's turned out great!

I decided to make chili as the entree and got the idea from a charity event recently to put the chili in a bag of chips with toppings. Just shake it up and eat with a fork!

I am always worried that I won't have enough food, which has never happened so I am not quite sure where that stems from. But I decided to make Halloween Funfetti cupcakes and pumpkin bars for my sweets because they are delicious and easy for my guests to pack up and take with them!

I saved the best dip for last! This dip really is the result of an accident, but I am proud of the finished product! Here is the original recipe:

Cheddar Bacon Dip

16 oz sour cream
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
3 oz bacon bits (in the bag not jar)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Mix together and refrigerate 24 hours. Serve with chips and/or veggies.

HOWEVER, I accidentally used cream cheese instead of sour cream. Which makes it super creamy and hard to mix. I didn't realize it until I had an unopened carton of sour cream! So I had to go rogue and start adding my own ingredients. In addition to the left out sour cream, I added chives (that I grew in my courtyard), onion soup mix, and extra cheese!

I had such a great time seeing everybody and catching up! Now I'm looking forward to the holidays!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Que delicioso!

Happy Columbus Day everybody! I finally completed my Q recipe, which means only 9 more letters to go!

When I first started brainstorming what I was going to make for Q, for some reason I thought I just HAD to do Quinoa. Why that was the first thing that came to mind I'm not sure, especially considering that I have never eaten Quinoa, much less cooked it before. So after browsing through many a quinoa recipe and finding nothing that I thought my friends would eat (which is a requirement), I decided to go back to the drawing board and went with one of my favorite types of food...Mexican!

I made a super easy Mexican dip for an appetizer:

1 can refried beans (I use fat-free)
1 packet taco seasoning
8 oz sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar

Mix beans and taco seasoning. Spread beans in the bottom of a baking dish.

Spread the sour cream on top of the beans and then top with cheese. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes - until cheese is bubbly. Serve with Fritos.

This was so quick and with only 4 ingredients it doesn't cost much to make and it's really tasty! Next up was the main course, which I decided on farmers market vegetable
quesadillas and spanish rice.

Vegetable Quesadillas


1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped yellow squash
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
cooking spray
6 (9 inch) whole wheat tortillas
1 1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese


In a large nonstick pan, cook red pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and mushroo
ms in olive oil over medium to medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, or until just tender.
Remove vegetables from pan.
Coat the same pan with cooking spray, and place one tortilla in pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese evenly over tortilla, and layer 3/4 cup of the vegetable mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle another 1/8 cup of cheese on the vegetables, and top with a second tortilla. Cook until golden on both sides, for approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove quesadilla from pan, and repeat with remaining ingredients. Cut each quesadilla into 8 triangles with a pizza cutter. Serve hot.

And Whitney made some yummy peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert. All in all a great night with dear friends and good food!

My next post will be pics from my pumpkin party but in the meantime here's little Bells in her Halloween outfit (which she hates)!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New York, New York!

I recently attended an Investor Conference in one of my favorite places, New York! So I invited my mom along and we went up a few days early to shop and tour the city!

Saturday night we stayed in Soho, which is an area that I haven't really been to before. I loved it! It doesn't have the busy touristy feel of places like Times Square, and it's close to NYU so there's lots of bars and coffee shops and great shopping!

We ate dinner at La Esquina, a Mexican restaurant that I have heard Regis and Kelly talk about. The front of the restaurant is actually a taco bar, and after having to ask somebody, the only way to enter the restaurant is to knock on an employee only door and someone has to check your name off the list, super trendy! So of course I was celeb stalking. No luck but the food was good!

A few weeks before we left, my bestie Jilly came to visit and we were in Anthropologie (as always). I saw a cute cookbook that had healthy ways to make my favorite sweets! I looked up the location in NYC and mom and I went to check it out. The place was super cute, but I think I will stick with the fattening cupcakes!

Sunday was the 10th anniversary of September 11th attacks. I will admit I was a super nervous flyer with all the terrorists rumors, but I really felt privileged to be in NYC with the families of the victims. We saw several carrying around pictures of their loved ones.

The other days we walked around and took in the city when I wasn't in meetings. In fact, one day we were sitting outside of the lincoln center watching the models come and go from Fall Fashion Week when lo and behold my favorite person EVER walked right past me! That's right, Hoda Kotbe ladies and gentlemen! In fact, I was in the middle of reading her autobiography when I left for NYC. Such a star crush!

Here is a pic of us before we went to see Jersey Boys

The weather was perfect and I really enjoyed spending time with my mom in my favorite city. O and the conference wasn't so bad either

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cheesy POTATO Salad

This post takes me one step closer to completing my overly ambitious goal of cooking through the alphabet! I hate to set another deadline that will more than likely pass without me meeting it, but I think I will finish by the end of the year!

I made this potato salad for a 4th of July party with my sunday school class. I am not a big fan of potato salads that have a hint of sweetness, and when I found this recipe I knew I would love it! It basically taste like a stuffed baked potato, yum!


2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, cubed

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 bunch green onions, chopped

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon real bacon bits


Place the potatoes into a pot, and fill with enoughwater to cover.

Bring to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes, oruntil easily pierced with a fork. Drain, and set aside to cool.In a large bowl, mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar, half of the onions, and half of the cheese. Gently stir in the cooled potatoes. Top with remaining cheese and onions, and sprinkle baconbits over the top.