Friday, March 30, 2012

Fast Friday: Mint chocolate chip cookies

What if I told you that I had a cookie recipe that will appeal to everyone, from the "I don't bake" bakers to the self-proclaimed kitchen masters?

The correct answer should be, "Why, I'd get in my car and head to the grocery story to purchase the ingredients immediately, Katy."  

This cookie recipe is also for all of the wonderful folks somewhere in between those two extremes.  Especially the people who, when they want something sweet, want it rightthisminute!  This edition of Fast Friday is for you!

Oh, what wonderful young grasshoppers you are :)

Speaking of grasshoppers...

No, not the moving kind that will, according to some, take over the world someday.

The kind that when paired with words like "pie" or "cake" indicates the best kind of marriage between flavors in desserts: chocolate and mint.  The kind that involves a healthy dose of Andes chocolate mints.  I love that the word "indulgence" is printed right on the front of the bag.  I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sloppy Joe grilled cheese sandwiches

I tend to obsess about things and fall head over heels in love with them.  Take hockey, Kate Spade's spring 2012 collection, and this ridiculously catchy pop song as a few examples.  I made the unfortunate mistake of watching the official music video on YouTube and was horrified by the fact that the group members look eight years old.  That made me feel old, so I went ahead and minimized that window for further listening.

Another current obsession of mine has been the humble grilled cheese.  Whether classic or twisted with guacamole and transformed into the stuff dreams are made of, I can't get enough of 'em.  Would you believe that there is even a Pinterest group called Grilled Cheese Social for enthusiasts all over the interwebs to share their magical creations?!  Color me beyond excited!

I spotted many, many sandwiches that were immediately added to my must make list.  One such sandwich had me so transfixed that I altered my meal plan for the following week (gasp!), happily discovered that I had all of the ingredients already (hooray!), and made it within 48 hours of said discovery.

Like I said, I'm serious about grilled cheese sandwiches.   Seriously in love with them!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Savory cornmeal waffles with salsa & black beans

Ever since my bridal shower last October, my life hasn't been the same.  Sure, my family and friends spoiled me rotten and created a magical day for me that I'll never forget.

But, the life-changing part of the whole thing?  It was also the day that a waffle maker came into my life.  (Thanks, V!)  My waffle maker.

Should he have a name?  I guess it's a he now...

Walter?  I like Walter.  If you haven't noticed, I like alliteration.  Makes naming inanimate objects that much more fun.  Try it!

Anyway, Walter and I have gotten along swimmingly since that fine Sunday.  You see, we've tried to learn from the mistakes of others who neglect their waffle makers for decades at a time, only to eventually cast it off at a garage sale for good.  At least once a month, we have a date with flour, sugar, and maple syrup.  At times, we even get a little crazy and the batter overflows and... whew, it's a whirlwind, I'm telling you.

Well, a few weeks ago I bookmarked a recipe that seriously intrigued me.  It rocked the very sturdy and sweet foundation upon which Walter and I have built our relationship over the past months.

Savory cornmeal and chives waffles.

What the what?  Is that too crazy?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shrimp, avocado & orange quinoa salad

News flash: I'm not a very trendy person.  I'm picky and selective and favor articles of clothing considered classic -- items that won't look out of place six months or a year from now. 

So, when I purchased a pair of skinny jeans, it was a big deal.  Huge!  I waited almost six months after they initially hit the market before getting my own.  I think it's because I wanted to see if skinny jeans had any staying power and weren't just a passing trend.

I suppose that's what I've been telling myself about quinoa.  What is this weird grain?  Why is everyone and their mothers, brothers, and neighbors talking about this stuff?  What's the big deal?  And, how on earth do you pronounce it?

To answer the last question first, it's pronounced "keen-wha", though Matt would reward you with a high five for pronouncing it "kwi-no-uh."  He's a weird guy, that one.

Though you'll hear it referred to as a grain (guilty), quinoa is technically not a grain but the seed of a leafy plant related to spinach.  It's grown in South America and has an amazing nutty smoky flavor and is less filling than most grains and pastas.  Quinoa is a complete protein source and chock full of vitamins and minerals.  I won't bore you with the details, but check out the nutrition profile if you're curious.  Basically, quinoa is as close as it comes to being a perfect food source in the balance of nutrition it provides... count me in!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Copycat P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps

Think of the last time you dined out somewhere.  Now, please picture the menu at said restaurant.  Maybe I'm getting old... or just increasingly indecisive, but restaurants these days have giant menus.  Gi-nor-mous, people.

Prime example: The Cheesecake Factory's menu.  It's easily 20 pages long.  I'm initially overwhelmed by so many choices, then end up getting distracted by my company and the basket of brown bread.  Inevitably, I'm forced to tell the waiter (again) that yes, I do need more time to make my selection.  Sorry, buddy.

(Please say you're nodding, meaning I'm not the only person who tortures the staff like this.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Smashed potato pizza



Thank goodness it's pizza Friday, yo!  For the past two months or so, Matt and I have gotten into the habit of scarfing down pizza in any shape and  flavor on Friday nights.  

It started harmlessly with a "fend for yourself night" -- aka no set meal planned -- when we both wanted a cheesy pie.  A few clicks later, and we were huddled around the computer tracking the Domino's team's progress making our dinner.  After 30 minutes, our pizza hero arrived and we set up shop in the living room.  Mushroom and roasted red pepper for her, pepperoni and jalapeno for him.  The Ides of March from RedBox for both.  (Great movie, by the way.)

But, not that pizza is expensive, per se, but ordering it every week can definitely add up.  More important than cost is taste.  We l-o-v-e making pizza at home.  It's fresher, less greasy, and exactly how we want it.  

The next week we vowed to use our pizza stone to turn out a masterpiece.

Masterpiece it sure 'nuff was: cheeseburger pizza!  Each subsequent week we face the challenge to come up with a new kind of pie.  There surely have been some great ones and some that make Matt so happy he could cry. 

But you know me and my desire for new and shiny things recipes.  I got to thinking about the pizza I order at restaurants.  At first, nothing really came to mind since I usually opt for items I can't or won't make at home.  Suddenly, it hit me. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Smarter pasta dinner!

After a rather wimpy winter, spring is almost here.  It was so warm yesterday that I didn't shiver once on my walk back from the gym with a mop of wet hair.  That's a big deal in March in Pittsburgh, people!  But, it should come as no surprise that I'm determined to get a few more days out of my snowflake placemats until the calendar reads March 20th, the official start to spring.

To me, spring means flowers, rainstorms, cleaning, Girl Scout cookies, and Easter.  It also that means swimsuit season is a few months away.  You can bet that everyone and his brother are already setting their sights on bathroom scales and dinner plates, swearing off carbs for the next three months.

Cleeeeearly these same people are unaware of the possibilities to make a pasta-centric dish the most balanced and hearty thing you'll ever eat.  And, I even used a smaller dinner plate!  Check it out:

Pasta with white beans, tomatoes, and onions!

Monday, March 12, 2012

8 Lucky recipes for St. Patrick's Day

...and eying these recipes in time for the holiday this weekend.  Here are some tried and true favorites of mine that you should definitely add to your to make list for this week:

Irish soda bread!  Easy no-knead bread that's a favorite with almost everyone!

Irish beef hand pies!  Beef and cabbage wrapped in flakey puff pastry make a to-die-for dinner.

Green monster smoothies!  The green comes from the spinach, but the flavor is all banana and peanut butter.  Perfect for a powerful breakfast.  I'm loving my green monster-fueled mornings!

And, who can forget cut out sugar cookies?  A very sweet and important staple of any holiday.  Every time I make these cookies and take 'em to work, they magically disappear.

Since I was out of town this weekend and Lent is keeping me from baking my heart out on the weekdays, here are some festive treats I've been saving to make for St. Patrick's Day on Saturday.  I'll certainly post whatever I make but I wanted you to have the recipes ahead of time so you may plan accordingly :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fast Friday: Mini corn dog muffins

Even though I'm the ripe old age of 27, despite appearing 18 to folks I encounter at work (?!), I'm still relishing new experiences every day.

Like buying my first Kate Spade bag.

And attending a traditional Jewish wedding on Sunday.

As fun as it is to look forward to things, there are some things from my past that I just can't shake.  Last summer, I crossed another item off my bucket list and promptly added it to my "favorite things in the universe" list: eat my first corn dog!

Sweet deep-fried crunchy yet fluffy cornbread batter enveloping a salty all-American hot dog.  Is there any better way to top one's day at an amusement park?  I could've eaten 10.  Okay, maybe three, but definitely more than the one that I did have.

Thankfully, for the sake of of my arteries, I stopped at one, but I haven't stopped thinking about it since.  And that led me to the challenge of recreating a healthier less unhealthy version of corn dogs at home for myself: mini corn dog muffins!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mushroom, spinach & cheddar quiche

Because it's so unbelievably easy to make.

Because the ingredients can be whatever you desire (or already have).

Because it's equally delicious at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Because I can never get enough quiche in my life.

Because I've converted my friends and coworkers into quiche connoisseurs.  (Say that five times fast.)

You should totally make a quiche.  Come on, you can do it!

Need another reason?

It's the first thing I ever taught Matt to cook.  And look how that turned out.

Because you can wrangle yourself a husband (or wife).

Because quiches are magical.

One year ago: Proscuitto wrapped chicken with roasted green beans

Mushroom Spinach and Cheddar Quiche
(adapted from my basic quiche recipe)

9" pie crust, homemade or store-bought
10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cups fresh baby spinach, torn
5 eggs
1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper 

Preheat oven to 375F.  Press pie crust into 9" glass pie plate.  Crimp edges and chill in freezer for at least 15 minutes until hard.  In medium bowl, whisk eggs together.  Dip a pastry or basting brush into the egg mixture and brush lightly over entire crust.  (This will help the crust to brown and seal it slightly so it stays flaky once filling is added.)  Bake pie crust in oven for 10 minutes or until light brown, remove to wire cooling rack.

While crust is baking, put oil in skillet over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms, toss to coat, and saute until mushrooms have turned a darker brown color.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off excess oil.

In the bottom of the crust, sprinkle onion and half of the cheese.  Top with spinach, evenly covering bottom. Finish with remaining cheese and mushrooms. 

Add milk, salt and pepper to eggs and whisk until combined.  Pour egg milk mixture over filling, and bake 35 minutes or until knife comes out clean, let stand on cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving so that the quiche can solidify slightly (makes serving much easier... trust me).  Slice and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Banana bread pancakes

I don't even know where to begin.   It's 8:30 on Saturday morning, and I simply couldn't wait to talk about this recipe.  My heart (and stomach) are aflutter with love.

I won't say I should still be in bed because I'm not really the kind of person who sleeps in late on the weekends.  Matt considers this one of my many few faults.

But something tells me I should at least be lounging horizontally on the couch with a blanket, settling for some so-bad-it's-good movie on TV (ahem, The Cutting Edge) and reveling in that post-weekend-breakfast feeling of satisfaction  and relaxation.

Instead, the first thing I wanted to do after eating breakfast was record everything as soon as possible before the smells, tastes, and this magical nirvana that could only come from banana bread pancakes fades.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chocolate peanut butter popcorn snack mix

The Oscars may have come and gone, but I've still got movies on the brain.  Well, not the movies, but the ultimate movie-watching snack mix!

My co-host, Julie, found this recipe and was saving it for weeks to debut at our shindig.  No offense, Jules, but this should've been made weeks ago for "testing" purposes :)