Monday, December 12, 2011

salted white chocolate, pretzel and peanut butter cookies

Salted white chocolate, pretzel, peanut butter cookies. Do I really need to say anything else?

Two amazing food bloggers, Julie and Lindsey organized the first Food Blogger Cookie Swap where each blogger bakes three batches of cookies and sends them to three randomly assigned bloggers and in return each blogger receives three batches of cookies from three different bloggers. As soon as I signed up to participate in the swap, I had my mind set on a sweet and salty cookie. So here it is! These cookies are thick and chewy and really the perfect balance of sweet and salty. I sent my cookies to...

The Fromagette
House of Belonging
Red Pepper, Green Pepper

Hopefully they enjoyed them as much as I did!

After sending my cookies off, I couldn't wait to get my three batches of cookies in the mail. I obsessively checked my mailbox for an entire week waiting for the last box to arrive. After all that waiting, I was the lucky recipient of cookies/bars from...

Foodnook: Gingerbread Butterscotch Chip Cookies
Cooking with Nettie: Caramel Almond Revel Bars
Every Little Thing Blog: White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies

Go check out their cookie recipes, they were delicious and perfect treats for the holidays.

Salted White Chocolate, Pretzel and Peanut Butter Cookies
recipe adapted from Picky Palate

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. white chocolate chips, to melt
1 c. plus 2 tbsp peanut butter
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. broken pretzel pieces
1 c. white chocolate chips
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F. 

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Melt white chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter over a double boiler until melted. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix. Mix in peanut butter. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add to wet ingredients until just combined then pour in pretzels and additional white chocolate chips. Using a large cookie scoop, drop cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Gently press down each cookie and sprinkle each cookie with sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges become golden. Remove from cookie sheet immediately for soft, chewy cookies or after 10 minutes for crunchier cookies.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

short ribs

Last week my mom came and stayed with me for a week in Charlotte and asked me if there was anything special I wanted her to make while she in town. Um short ribs please! Ever since my mom made short ribs for the first time, I have been a short rib fanatic. If I see short ribs on a restaurant menu, it's my go-to choice. Just last weekend I had a short rib quesadilla from the KoKyu BBQ food truck in Durham, it was seriously delicious and so different. Short ribs are a really tender piece of beef that you can literally break apart without a knife. It's not a meal that I can quickly throw together when I get home from work so it was such a treat for my mom to make them. I rarely cook red meat when I'm cooking for myself so it was a nice change from my usual go-to protein, chicken. It's easier and healthier than you would think, just make sure you serve them on top of a big spoonful of mashed potatoes. 

Braised Short Ribs
recipe from Food Network

6 short ribs (bone-in or boneless; you can find them at the grocery meat counter)
olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c. tomato paste
2-3 c. hearty red wine
2 c. water
1 bunch fresh thyme; bundled 
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 400F. 

Season each short rib with a good amount of salt. Using a pot that is big enough to fit all the vegetables and meat, coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil and bring to high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown 2-3 minutes per side. When the short ribs are done browning, remove them from the pot and drain the fat. Set them aside. 

Puree all the vegetables and garlic in a food processor until it is a paste consistency. Coat the same pot with fresh olive oil and add the pureed vegetables. Add salt to the vegetables and brown for 5-7 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the vegetable puree and then add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4-5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and let the mixture reduce down. 

Return the short ribs to the pan with the vegetables and wine. Add 2 cups water or until the water has just covered the top of the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. 

Add the diced onion, ribs and carrots to a pot that is big enough to fit the meat. Cover the pan and place in the oven for 3 hours. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let them brown and let the sauce reduce. Serve over mashed potatoes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

my grandma's biscuits


A little late but hope every one had a great Thanksgiving! My parents flew from California, younger brother from Raleigh, older brother from Singapore to all meet at my grandparents in Nashville this year. Our Thanksgiving menu always includes cornbread stuffing, dumplings, rolls, turkey, spiral cut ham, green beans, cranberry sauce and marshmallow covered sweet potatoes. I love it all but the stuffing is special because it has my grandma's homemade biscuits and cornbread in it. And my grandma's biscuits are the best. I know I might be biased but I like to think living in the South has taught me something about biscuits. Whenever we visit my grandma, we eat biscuits for breakfast every morning topped with a little butter and preserves (my favorite is blackberry). She usually makes a few batches of biscuits before we all get there and freezes them so she can quickly throw them in the oven for a quick, delicious breakfast to keep us all happy. It really doesn't get much better. I added leftover Thanksgiving salty ham to my biscuits with blackberry preserves the day after Thanksgiving, so good!

My Grandma's Biscuits
recipe originally from Southern Living

4 c. self-rising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 c. shortening
2 c. buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400F. 

Combine flour and baking soda; cut in shortening with a pastry blender or with your fingers. Add the buttermilk and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough out to 3/4 inch thickness and cut 2 inch round cutter. Place on biscuit round on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake or 10-12 minutes.

To freeze these, put in an airtight container or freezer ziploc bag.

And I couldn't resist posting this picture from Thanksgiving with my grandma and brothers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

three- day coconut cake

I am guest posting on Whatever Dee-Dee Wants today, go check it out to get the recipe for this coconut cake!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

roasted tomato soup & grilled cheese croutons

I am so anxious for Thanksgiving because you know what Thanksgiving means? Yes, good food and entertaining family time. But it also means in less than a month I will be listening to Christmas music and searching for the perfect Christmas tree. Pure happiness. In the mean time, I'm making soup and grilled cheese while dreaming about my grandma's turkey, marshmallow covered sweet potatoes, dumplings and biscuit stuffing.

The tomato soup is so fresh and flavorful and I'm not sure it gets much healthier than this, at least not on this blog! I used my George Foreman to grill the grilled cheese and made sure to get it extra crispy so it wouldn't get too soggy in the tomato soup. And if you like a little heat, I loved the spicy kick from the colby/pepper jack cheese slices in the grilled cheese. I think a pimento cheese grilled cheese would go great with this soup too. But the best thing about a grilled cheese is that you can use any cheese you'd like! 

for the tomato soup:
recipe adapted from Closet Cooking 

2 pounds of tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper, diced and seeded
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced 
4 gloves of garlic, unpeeled
olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
2 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. heavy cream, optional 
handful of basil, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Place the tomatoes, red pepper, carrot, onion and garlic on a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Place everything but the cream into a sauce pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or regular blender to desired consistency and mix in the cream and basil. 

for the grilled cheese croutons:
 (makes one)

2 slices of sourdough bread
2 slices of cheese (I used colby jack & pepper jack slices)
1 tbsp butter

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice of the bread in the pan/grill, buttered side down, and top with cheese and the remaining piece of bread, buttered side up. Cook until golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes on each side. Flip and cook the other side for about 4 minutes. Cut the edges from the grilled cheese and cut into squares. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

north carolina state fair: raleigh, nc

I couldn't resist sharing all the fair food I saw and ate at the NC State fair last week with my friend Julie. I didn't go to the fair last year when the famous Krispy Kreme hamburger made its debut so that was the one thing I was on the search for this year. I wish I could happily say I devoured the Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger (bottom right pic), topped with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and bacon but I'm relieved to say I didn't go for it. I don't think I would have been able to move much less drive back to Charlotte after eating that thing. The other Krispy Kreme burger (top left pic) offered was topped with peanut butter and jelly, a healthier alternative to the bacon cheeseburger!

No matter how many times I go to the fair, I am always amazed with the food creations and the thousands of people eating them. I mean fried Kool-Aid? How is that even possible? Besides the usual fried candy bars and turkey legs, I saw fried honey buns, red velvet cake funnel cakes and even fried Smucker's Uncrustables! Two years ago, I had my first fried Snickers bar and it was so good. There's something about melting (ok, frying) a candy bar and eating it while it's warm and gooey that makes it so much better than eating it from the wrapper.

So after doing a quick loop to check out our options we had to actually decide what we wanted to eat. We had heard the fried cheese was the best thing at the fair and decided to go for it. We ordered the fried Wisconsin cheddar cheese and... it was super disappointing. But I couldn't resist posting the picture of Julie below because I made her take this picture at least 10 times so I could get the full cheese effect. It was really cheesy but somehow only tasted like fried batter. The only reason I would ever try these again is if they were made with Velveeta or Cotswold cheese, mmmm. I wasn't in the mood for any more fried food after the first failed snack so I decided to grab a butter dipped ear of corn to keep me happy. You can never go wrong with fair corn because the amount of butter that's on it is only acceptable at the fair.

I always pass on fair rides but fair food makes pushing through the crowds so worth it and I love wandering around the produce and livestock sections to find the biggest and best. We even got a picture with the largest pumpkin, weighing in at 522 pounds (bottom left pic). Oh and I'm already trying to talk myself into trying the Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger next year. I think I would be more inclined to try it if the hamburger booth had a sign like Krispy Kreme that lit up the word 'HOT' for when the donuts are fresh from the doughnut line. Ok maybe I'm just making excuses. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

mummy cupcakes

Halloween is only four days away! 

I remember all the anticipation that came with Halloween. What costume to wear? What pillowcase to carry? What part of the neighborhood to start at? My brother and I would wait until all the houses in the neighborhood turned off their front lights to head back home. Once we got home, we would pour out our candy stuffed pillowcases and count each piece of candy to see who won the candy battle. I don't actually remember who won because I was always so anxious to start trading candy with him so I could stock up on my favorites like Snickers and Reese's in exchange for my Sour Patch Kids. 

I live in an apartment complex so I don't get any adorable trick or treaters at my door on Halloween. Last year was my first year in my building and I bought (my favorite) candy just in case any kids stopped by but surprise surprise none did. With no trick or treaters or party plans my Halloween excitement is the boo bash bake-off at work. I won last years bake-off with spider cupcakes and wanted to find something equally boo-tiful for this years competition. I loved these mummy cupcakes when I first saw them but didn't want to use fondant or rolled marshmallows for the wrapping. Instead, I went with vanilla buttercream frosting and used Wilton tip #47 to pipe the mummy wrapping. I rarely make cupcakes because I'm such a perfectionist when it comes to frosting them that I'm never happy with the results. After frosting each one of these mummies I would think 'oh this one is ugly' but these cupcakes aren't supposed to be perfect and the inconsistency is the reason these mummies are so cute!

Mummy Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
1 box of funfetti cake mix 
1/3 c. oil
1/2 c. water
3 eggs
food coloring

for the frosting:
1/2 c. butter flavored shortening
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp clear vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp cocoa  

for the eyes:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

For the cupcakes, blend together the funfetti cake mix with oil, water and eggs on low speed for 2 minutes. For orange cupcakes, add 2 drops of yellow and 1 drop of red food coloring to the cake batter. Add more yellow if the batter is too dark and more red if the batter is too light. Bake cupcakes for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting. 

For the frosting, cream together the shortening and butter. Blend in vanilla. Add 1 cup of 10x sugar at a time and mix until combined. Once all 4 cups of sugar have been added, blend in 2 tbsp of milk. Measure out 1/2 c. of the frosting and place it in a separate bowl, add the cocoa to this frosting. This is the frosting that will go behind the mummy eyes. Lightly frost the center of each cupcake with this chocolate frosting. Stick on the M&M eyes. Place vanilla frosting in pastry bag and start piping imperfectly!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

vacation: atlanta, ga

If you are looking for a recipe...this post isn't for you, sorry!

This past weekend my boyfriend and I drove down to Atlanta to see two of our very good friends, Ashkan and Cindy. Atlanta reminds me of a bigger version of Charlotte that has really bad traffic, tons of great restaurants and never ending activities. It seems like every time we visit Atlanta, there is always some type of fun event going on. During our trip to Atlanta last spring, the four of us went to Baconfest at Inman Park. I was thinking the festival would have random bacon creations like bacon ice cream, chocolate covered bacon and bacon beer...ok just kidding about that last one. But I was a little disappointed when we arrived and realized it wasn't exactly the bacon food festival I had expected. Instead it was unlimited make your own BLT sandwiches, PBR and Terrapin beer and very random entertainment (wheelchair obstacle course) that turned out to be a blast!
This past weekend we decided to go to the Decatur craft beer festival after obsessively checking craigslist to find tickets. Apparently they sold all 4,000 beer fest tickets in 2 hours. Two weekends ago I went to the Charlotte Oktoberfest and was impressed with the 100+ breweries that were there and had so much fun that I couldn't wait to do it all over again. Pre beer fest we went to Highland Bakery and had a delicious brunch. I ordered the Cowboy Benedict (top left picture) which was two white cheddar quesadillas topped with two poached eggs, homemade hollandaise and a spicy corn relish served with a side of spicy corn relish. If you are in Atlanta, Highland Bakery is worth a stop... it was one of the best brunch dishes I think I've ever had.

Then came the the 5+ hours of drinking. I went in with the 'if I don't like it then I'm not drinking it' motto so I could actually attempt to try a beer from every one of the breweries without passing out on the sidewalk before the event was over. I didn't try them all but I think I managed to find every single pumpkin or Oktoberfest beer that was there plus my two favorites, Purple Haze and Sweetwater Blue. Oh and I discovered people wear pretzel/snack necklaces to beer festivals! This one guy at the beer fest (bottom left picture) took pretzel necklaces to the extreme. He had one huge pretzel necklace and then another necklace lined with slim jims, crackers and cheese. He told me that the pretzels are for 'cleansing' your palate in between beers and the slim jims, cracker and cheese are a drunk snack. And if you forgot your pretzel necklace at home like we did, you could buy a pretzel necklace at the beer fest for $2 but they sold out. Next beer fest, I think I might be wearing a pretzel necklace...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

pumpkin pecan muffins

The weather is finally cooling down in NC and that means it's finally pumpkin season! I've never been a huge fan of pumpkin pie but I can't resist pumpkin breakfast sweets like pumpkin donuts, muffins, oatmeal and scones. Oh and I love love love pumpkin beer. I went to a bar a few weeks ago and they served their pumpkin beer with a cinnamon sugar rim, seriously best idea ever. All pumpkin desserts (and beers) are healthy right? It's a fruit... and it has vitamin A, iron, fiber, vitamin C and potassium.  All the more reason I can easily justify an extra muffin or or a few more beers with all that healthiness. These muffins are super moist, loaded with pumpkin and topped with a crumb crust.  These don't even need a crumb topping they are so good but a little extra butter, sugar and nuts never hurts anything. I'm always on a mission to find or create a recipe better than the last and I don't think that a basic pumpkin muffin gets much better than this. 

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins
makes 28 muffins 

for the pumpkin muffins:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
15 oz can of pumpkin
3 eggs
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

for the streusel topping:
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
5 tbsp butter, melted
2/3 c. pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

In a large bowl, blend the butter and sugar together with a mixer until smooth and creamy. Add in the pumpkin puree and the eggs, blend on medium speed. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin/butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Spoon mixture into greased or lined muffin tins. 

To make the streusel, combine the flour, both sugars, cinnamon and butter until it comes together. Stir in chopped pecans. Add mixture to the top of the muffins before placing the muffins in the oven. Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

grapefruit mojito

My DVR is so backed up after being on vacation last week. I really hate how all the good shows come on in the fall so I feel overwhelmed with the amount of shows I want to catch up on if I miss a week. Some of my favorites right now are The Good Wife, The Lying Game, The Playboy Club and Law & Order: SVU (I miss Stabler). My sister-in-law just introduced me to the show Suits on USA and it's moving up on my list of favorite TV shows. And there were so many pilots that aired last week that I want to watch but there's definitely not enough time in the day. I always find new shows mid season and usually wait for them to show up on Netflix to watch the entire season.

While sitting on the couch today trying to catch up on my shows I was craving a grapefruit mojito after having one last week. I don't usually drink mid-day unless I'm watching football and drinking beer but this grapefruit mojito was super refreshing and not sickly sweet like so many mojitos. I'm a huge fan of grapefruit cocktails because it pairs perfectly with vodka, rum or tequila. And I've decided these mason jar drinks are perfect for tailgates because you can make the drinks at home (without ice), seal them and store them in your cooler. If you want to move to a different tailgate but don't want to have an open container, you can re-seal it and carry it with you.

Grapefruit Mojito
makes 1 drink

about 12 large mint leaves
1/8 c. crushed ice
1 tsp sugar
juice of 1 lime
1/4 c. fresh grapefruit juice
1.5 oz simple syrup
1.5 oz rum or caracha
1/8 c. soda water
ice cubes

Muddle the mint leaves, sugar and crushed ice together. Add the lime juice, grapefruit juice and simple syrup and muddle one more time. Add rum and shake. Add ice and soda water to the top of the drink and enjoy!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

vacation: los angeles, california

My sister in law, Morgane, took these two pictures. I took the same pictures and hers were 10x prettier.
Check out her website.
I'm back from vacation! I managed to eat my way around LA without seeing one single celebrity, just my luck. But the celebrity homes tour we took was almost as good as seeing a star considering we got to see the houses of Sandra Bullock, Katy Perry, Jennifer Aniston and another two dozen stars. I asked our tour driver to show us where the Housewives of Beverly Hills ladies lived and he replied 'this isn't a D list tour.' Maybe next time...

I made a list of all the food stops we made in the five days I was in LA and I would go back to any one of them. I don't have a favorite because honestly all the food was great but if I had to choose one food day to repeat it would be Friday. At Joan's on Third, I ordered the short rib grilled cheese sandwich that was stacked with tender meat, melted jack cheese, arugula and red onions on grilled white bread...seriously, delicious! Then we went to the famous New York based bakery, Magnolia's, right down the street and ordered the best banana pudding. It was extra fluffy, rich and creamy because it's made with sweet condensed milk and homemade whipped cream. For dinner we went to Akasha in Culver City and the fig and prosciutto pizza hit the spot, I can never find figs in Charlotte so it was such a treat. After dinner we stopped by Diddy Riese and waited in a line of 50 plus people for one of their famous cookie sandwiches, it was well worth the wait. They let you design your own cookie sandwich so I picked vanilla ice cream sandwiched between a freshly baked chocolate chip walnut cookie and a chewy peanut butter cookie.

Joan's on Third: short rib grilled cheese sandwich
Magnolia's Bakery: banana pudding
Akasha: grapefruit mojito and a fig & prosciutto pizza
Diddy Riese: $1.50 ice cream cookie sandwich

Uncle Bill's Pancake House: sourdough bread french toast
Al Hamra Halal Cafe: chicken tikka masala

Lemonade in Abbot Kenney: rosemary watermelon lemonade
Urth Caffe: the 'New Yorker' pastrami sandwich
Bay Cities Italian Deli: pastrami sandwich
Sweet Lady Jane Bakery: slice of apple pie (voted best of LA)
Tender Greens: grilled prawns salad

Umami Burger: manly burger, umami burger & onion rings
Pink's Hot Dogs: chili cheese dog
Millions of Milkshakes: justin shake with snickers and bananas

Tea exchange: mango coconut tea
Cupcakes Couture: apple pie cupcake
Cafe Rio: mahi-mahi fish tacos
Simmzy's: bacon & blue cheese burger

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

crock-pot roasted chicken & chicken pot pie

I am headed to LA on Friday to visit my older brother and sister in law. I haven't been to California since I was about 9 years old and I got one of those shirts from the San Diego zoo that changes colors in the sun (can't believe that is the first thing that comes to mind). Lucky for me, my older brother shares the same passion for food and travel as I do so I am doing no research on the who, what, when, where because I know he will already have the best spots picked out. Any Los Angeles restaurant suggestions? One of my guilty pleasures is celebrity gossip so I am trying to decide which celebrities I am hoping to see. I don't want to get my hopes up but worst (maybe best depending on the celeb) case scenario I can go watch Mario Lopez from Saved by the Bell interview celebs at the Grove Mall. 

So this chicken pot pie is absolutely delicious. This past Sunday I decided to roast my own chicken for the first time. I usually buy rotisserie chickens from the grocery store on Sundays because they are only $5 that day (saving me $2 whole dollars). I happily realized that roasting your own chicken results in a much moister, flavorful chicken than the store bought version and it's about the same price. All I did was clean the chicken, cut up some veggies, rub the chicken in garlic and spices and threw it in a covered crock-pot on high for 6 hours. Easy enough. I had all intentions of taking pictures of the finished chicken but it was so tender that it fell apart when I went to pick it up from the crock-pot. Not the worst problem to have. The chicken was juicy, tender and flavorful...perfect to use in a chicken pot pie or eat alone with some BBQ sauce. 

If you wanted to throw these chicken pot pies together quickly then you could use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or boil some chicken and then shred it to replace the crock-pot roasted chicken in this recipe. These individual chicken pot pies are a great way to serve and store this dish because everyone gets the same amount of crust (my favorite part) and the crust doesn't get soggy if you decide to cover them and reheat them as leftovers. I have always been intimidated by chicken pot pie because it has a wrap for being very unhealthy and time-consuming but this chicken pot pie comes together in about an hour and is filled with lots of chicken and veggies. 

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6

for the crock-pot whole roasted chicken:
3 1/2- 4 1/2 pound chicken
2 onions, diced
4 c. baby carrots
4 celery stalks, cut into 3 inch pieces
4 garlic gloves; minced
1 lemon, quartered

4 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper

To make the crock-pot roasted chicken, pull guts out of the middle of the chicken and rinse chicken with water and dry with paper towels. Combine salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme and black pepper together in a bowl. Rub the minced garlic onto the outside and inside of the chicken. Then evenly rub the chicken with the spice mix. Lay the carrots, celery and onions in the bottom of the crockpot and place chicken on top of the veggies. Cover the crock-pot and cook chicken on high for about 6 hours.

for the chicken pot pie:

pie dough
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
12 tsp unsalted cold butter; cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 tbsp ice cold water

1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
10 baby carrots cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 celery ribs cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 tbsp butter
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. milk

2 lbs of chicken meat, shredded
2 c. chicken broth (you can use the broth from the crockpot roasted chicken)

1/2 tsp thyme
2 tbsp white wine
1/2 c. peas
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

To make the chicken pot pie start with the pie dough. Add the cold butter and flour to a food processor and combine until the butter pieces are the size of peas. Put the butter/flour mixture into a separate bowl and add the 3 tbsp of water until the dough begins to stick together. Shape the dough into a 4 inch wide disk, cover the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Over medium-high heat, heat oil in an medium pot. Add onions, carrots and celery and saute in the oil for 10 minutes or until tender. Set veggies aside in a bowl. Heat the butter over medium-high heat in the now empty pot on the stove. When the foaming subsides; add flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth, milk and thyme. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens; about 1 minute. Stir in the wine.

Shred the chicken and add it to the bowl with the tender veggies. Pour the butter/flour/chicken broth mixture over the shredded chicken and veggie mixture. Stir this mixture together, add parsley, salt and pepper to taste and pour into serving bowls.

Remove the pie dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface until 1/8 inch thick. Place your serving dish on the dough upside down and cut dough 1/2 inches larger than the size of the ramekins.

Press the dough onto the top of the ramekins and seal the edges. Cut vents in the pie dough and bake until the pie dough is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 20-30 minutes for ramekin sized pot pies.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

oatmeal cookie chunk ice cream

Believe me when I tell you this is the best ice cream ever. My favorite ice cream flavor is Ben & Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Chunk Ice Cream with sweet cream cinnamon ice cream with oatmeal cookie chunks and fudge. After moving to Charlotte from Raleigh last year I quickly learned that this ice cream flavor was going to be impossible to find. Having lived in Charlotte for over a year now, I had to get my fix somehow. The sweet cream cinnamon base alone is so rich, creamy and sweet that it would make me happy with no add-ins but throw in crispy, chewy oatmeal cookies and it is one of my all-time favorite desserts. And because I had full control of the amount of cookie chunks, I loaded them in so I wouldn't have to dig through the ice cream to find them like I do in a Ben & Jerry's pint. I also took the semi-homemade approach with this ice cream and baked Betty Crocker's oatmeal cookies because before I was an avid baker these were my favorite cookies to bake and sometimes still are. If you want to take the 100% homemade approach, these oatmeal cookies would also work perfectly. I decided to omit the chocolate chunks but included it in the recipe so you have the option. The cinnamon sweet cream ice cream base would be great on top of any apple, berry or pumpkin pie too.

Oh and bad news, I bought the waffle bowl so I don't have a recipe for it. I bought it from my favorite frozen yogurt store, Yoforia, and they charge by the ounce making this waffle bowl less than $1. I looked like a total wierdo only buying a waffle bowl (at 10am) but the yoforia guy was so nice about it and even offered to punch my loyalty card for it.  I would love to get a waffle cone maker, it was such a treat and a perfect way to serve ice cream. If only my small kitchen could fit all the unnecessary kitchen appliances I want. 

Oatmeal Cookie Chunk Ice Cream 
makes about 1 quart

2 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
2 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
9 oatmeal cookies, broken into small pieces
1/2 c. milk chocolate chunks (optional)

Mix the milk and cream together in a pan over medium-low heat. Heat the milk mixture for 10 minutes or until it reaches 140°F and then remove it from the heat. In a bowl, beat the eggs until lighter in color and fluffy. Add the sugar to the egg mixture very slowly. Then slowly whisk the milk mixture into the egg & sugar mixture to temper the eggs. If you added the milk to the egg mixture quickly then the hot milk would cook the eggs and you would have scrambled eggs, you don't want that! Now add the the entire egg/sugar/milk mixture into a pot and heat over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove mixture from the heat and pour it into a clean bowl and refrigerate the mixture for 1 hour. Stir in the cinnamon and freeze the ice cream according to your ice cream maker's manufacturer instructions. I added half of the cold oatmeal cookie pieces into the ice cream mixture 5 minutes before it was done mixing and then folded in the rest after removing the ice cream from the ice cream maker.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

red beans & rice

Have you ever had red beans and rice? This weekend I asked one of my friends if she wanted to come over and have red beans and rice or go out to dinner. She quickly responded saying she wanted to go out to eat. Fine with me but she was missing out. Once we got to the restaurant I asked her if she didn't like red beans and rice and she told me she had never heard of red beans and rice. She said asking her if she wanted red beans and rice for dinner was like her asking me if I wanted black eyed peas with a side of white rice for dinner. Um I'd pass on that offer so I completely understand why she denied my invitation. But red beans and rice tastes so much better than it sounds!

Red beans and rice was a dish that my mom made all the time when I was growing up. It was an easy, quick crock pot meal that made the entire house smell absolutely delicious and tasted as good as it smelled. It is still really hot in NC but I was excited to break out the crock pot for my first fall crock pot meal.  Red beans and rice is a Creole dish that originated from Louisiana and was served on Mondays in order to use up the meat left over from Sunday dinner. Throw some spices, beans, sausage and veggies into a crock pot and 8 hours later you have a warm, filling meal. The biggest decision you have to make when making these red beans is if you want the beans to be soupy or thicker. If you want it soupy then keep the top on the crock pot all the way up until serving. If you want thick red beans (pictured), leave the top off the crock pot for the last hour of cooking. You can also cook these beans in a regular pot on low heat for the same length of time. 

Red Beans & Rice
serves 4-6

1 pound of small red beans
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 tsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp creole seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning)
1 tsp dried thyme
5 hot sausage links, sliced
4 c. chicken stock 
1 tbsp worcestershire 
3 bay leaves
2 tsp red wine vinegar

3 c. of cooked rice

Soak the beans in water overnight or for 8 hours to get the gas out of them. Drain the beans and rinse them with water. 

Saute onion, green pepper and olive oil in a pan until golden brown. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the drained beans, the veggie garlic mixture, creole seasoning, thyme, sausage, chicken stop, worcestershire, bay leaves and red wine vinegar to the crock pot and turn on high for about 8 hours or until the beans are tender. Serve with rice. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

raspberry preserve filled sandwich cookies (spitzbuebe)

I feel like these 24x24 party posts are never ending but maybe it's because I have lost some of my enthusiasm because it's been over two weeks since I made these cookies. Thank god for pictures because they are an instant reminder as to how good these cookies really were. These buttery shortbread cookies filled with thick, sweet raspberry preserves are a Switzerland favorite known as Spitzbuebe. As part of my 24x24 party, these were my boyfriends favorite cookie. I think it might be because he was the one that had to stuff all these cookies with preserves but he insisted his opinion was purely based on taste. I didn't use the traditional zig zag edged cookie cutter for these cookies because I just couldn't resist using a small heart cookie cutter I recently bought. These cookies would make great gifts using customized center cutouts based on the occasion, like hearts and the initials of the couple getting married or a christmas tree for the holiday season.

Raspberry Preserve filled Sandwich Cookies (Spitzbuebe)
recipe from: Saveur

3 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 c. confectioners sugar
3 eggs yolks
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. raspberry preserves (you can use any preserve flavor you want; just don't use jam)
extra confectioners sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. 

Beat butter sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Add yolks one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add flour 1/2 c. at a time. Scrape down sides of the bowl and give the dough one last stir. Transfer the dough onto a large plate and cover with plastic wrap and press the dough into a rectangle. Cover dough and plate with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. 

Divide chilled dough into 6 pieces. rewrap 5 individual pieces and keep them chilled while working with the first piece. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 9 inch square. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut out 9 circles of dough and transfer them to a parchment paper lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Repeat process with remaining chilled dough pieces. But for 3 of the 6 dough pieces, use a 1 1/4 inch cookie cutter to cut a hole in the center of the circle for the tops of the cookies. Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until edges begin to golden slightly. Let cookies cool completely. 

Put preserves in a small pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until thickened, it should take about 8 minutes. Transfer preserves to a bowl and let them cool. Once cookies and preserves have cooled, spread a spoonful of preserves in between each cookie sandwich. Then fill a piping bag with preserves and fill each cut out hole with a more preserves.  You can sprinkle the filled cookies with powdered sugar to finish these off. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

dulce de leche cookies

When I discovered the trick to perfect, cheap dulce de leche I couldn't wait to try it out. Peel off the label on a can of sweet condensed milk and simmer in hot water for a few hours. Once the can has completely cooled, pop the can open and you get this wonderful thick caramel that could pretty much make anything taste delicious. Dulce de leche is popular in Latin American countries and is used as the filling in alfajores aka dulce de leche cookies. Alfajores are chewy, buttery sandwich cookies filled with rich dulce de leche. Sprinkle the dulce de leche filling edges with fleur de sel for the perfect sweet and salty combination. I made a plate of non-salted cookies and a plate of salted for my 24x24 party (click link to see these cookies) so everyone could decide which ones they liked best. My vote goes to the salted version but I'm a sucker for any sweet/salty combo. 

Alfajores/Dulce de Leche Cookies
makes 20 cookie sandwiches; recipe adapted from BakingBites

for the dulce de leche:
1 can of sweet condensed milk

Remove the label from the can and place the can in a pot filled with water about 2 inches above the top of the can. Bring water to a boil and then turn heat to low and let simmer for 3 1/2 hours. After 3 1/2 hours, turn the burner off and let the can cool in the water for an hour and then remove the can from the water. Open the can and ta-da... thick, creamy, rich dulce de leche!

for the cookies:
2 c. all-purpose flour 
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a separate larger bowl,  cream together butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until dough comes together. Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls and press down with a large spoon. Bake cookies for 11 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown. Cool on a wire rack and spoon about 1 tbsp of dulce de leche into the middle of two cookies. Optional, sprinkle dulce de leche filling edges with fleur de sel. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

hokey pokey ice cream

My junior year of college I studied abroad in Australia and on my way back home I stopped in New Zealand for a week. I visited Auckland and Keri Keri on the North Island and in between visiting glow worm caves and sand-boarding (where you lay on a boogie board and slide down a huge sand dune), I discovered hokey pokey ice cream. My favorite dessert from my Foodbuzz 24x24 party was this hokey pokey ice cream. Hokey pokey is a sponge toffee or honeycomb that has a unique flavor and texture. Made with golden syrup, sugar and baking soda it makes for a pretty cool science experiment when you watch the baking soda do it's thing in the golden syrup/sugar mixture. When you add the baking soda to the hot golden syrup/sugar mixture it froths up and creates air pockets in the hokey pokey that give it that sponge toffee texture. Adding this crunchy, sweet candy to homemade vanilla ice cream reminds me why those New Zealand Kiwi's love this ice cream flavor so much. And if you are considering substituting the golden syrup for honey because they look similar, the golden syrup has a much stronger flavor and really makes this hokey pokey taste exactly like it did in New Zealand. 

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream
makes 1.5 qts of ice cream

for the hokey pokey:
1 c. granulated sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup (pic; I found it in the baking section of the grocery store)
3 tsp baking soda

Heavily grease a large, shallow pan and set aside. 

In a medium sized pot, bring sugar and golden syrup to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture starts boiling, turn to very low heat and simmer for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 4 minutes or until the mixture is a golden brown color, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Stir mixture quickly until it froths up and quickly pour it into the greased pan. Let the hokey pokey cool. Once it has cooled, you can place it in a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to break it into pieces or break it by hand. Store in an airtight container.

for the vanilla ice cream:
1 c. whole milk
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract 

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or overnight. To finish the ice cream, freeze the ice cream according to your ice cream maker's manufacturer instructions. I added the hokey pokey pieces into the ice cream mixture 5 minutes before it was done mixing but it may be different depending on your ice cream maker.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

s'mores cookies

I mentioned last week I couldn't get enough of this s'more craze, I had to have s'more! I bookmarked these cookies Jenny from Picky Palate created long before I ever started this blog and I think these were the perfect representation of USA in a cookie for my Foodbuzz 24x24 party. Hershey's bars, toasty marshmallows, and graham cracker pieces stuffed into a thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie bring me back to the days I spent roasting s'mores over a fire at camp when I was a kid.

S'mores Cookies
makes 18 cookies; recipe adapted from Picky-Palate 

2 sticks of butter, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
18 fun-size Hershey's bars, broken into smaller pieces
3 full honey graham crackers; broken into small pieces
1 c. mini marshmallows 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

With a mixer, cream together butter and both sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla until combined. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar mixture and mix until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. I used a muffin top pan to make these cookies. If you are using a muffin top pan, measure 1/4 c. of cookie dough into each muffin top pan cup. Press the dough down and stick Hershey's bar pieces, graham cracker pieces and mini marshmallows into the top of the dough. Bake cookies for 11-13 minutes or until edges of cookies turn golden brown. 

I found my muffin top pan at Sur La Table but if you can't find one or choose not to use one then line a baking sheet with parchment paper, press the cookies down slightly and add the s'mores toppings. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


It's hard to go wrong with fried dough and these churros are no exception. I went to Spain with my family years ago and while the spectacular views and friendly people are hazy memories, I can remember the hot, fresh churros served with thick hot chocolate perfectly. I could have eaten churros at breakfast, lunch and dinner they were that good. I decided to overcome my frying anxiety with these churros because I knew they would be a great addition to my 24x24 party menu.

My frying anxiety comes from when I was in college, I tried to fry my own french fries and I almost lit the entire townhouse on fire. It was my first time frying anything and I poured the oil in a large saucepan and turned the burner on the highest heat. Who knew you couldn't heat oil on the highest heat? I quickly learned when the oil caught on fire and I had to use our fire extinguisher to put it out. Yes, I had a fire extinguisher (thanks mom). I took the pot outside and set it in the grass to cool down, leaving a black burn spot in the yard for at least 6 months. So after holding onto that bad memory for far too long, I decided I needed a deep fryer that does all the work for me. These churros had the crispy cinnamon, sugar outside and sweet dough inside that I enjoyed so much in Spain.

One last note about these churros, pipe the dough onto a metal baking sheet before throwing them in the oil so they stay straight. If you pipe the dough directly into the oil they will curl up. And remember to heat the oil over medium-high heat if you fry these in a pan.

makes 24 6-inch churros

4 c. water
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
3 tbsp cinnamon
6 quarts of vegetable oil

Heat oil to 375°F. 

In a pot over medium-high heat stir together water, 2/3 c. sugar, and 1/2 c. vegetable oil. Bring to a boil and then take the pot off the heat and stir in the flour. Stir together until the dough forms a ball. Place dough into a pastry bag (I used the giant star tip from Bake it Pretty) and pipe dough on a metal baking sheet before dropping them into the oil. Fry churros until golden, about 6-9 minutes. Drain on paper towels and stir together the 1 c. of sugar and the cinnamon and roll the churros in this cinnamon sugar mixture. Serve warm.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

mango pudding

Mango pudding is a dessert you can find in most Asian countries but I was lucky enough to try it in Singapore about a year and half ago. Ripe mangoes and coconut milk make this dessert a cool, summer treat and can instantly cool your mouth off after a spicy meal. Not to mention it was the healthiest dessert option at my 9 wonderful desserts of the world dessert party. Many mango pudding recipes use evaporated milk or whipping cream but the coconut milk in this recipe creates the perfect balance with the sweet mangoes. It's important to use sweet, ripe mangoes for this pudding to get that fresh flavor in this pudding. Adding sugar to unripe mangoes will make this dessert sweet but it won't pop with mango flavor like it's supposed to. Even though summer is coming to end, mangoes are still in season so try this Asian-inspired dessert.

Mango Pudding
serves 4-6

3 ripe mangoes--diced
3 tsp gelatin (1 packet)
1/2 c. hot water
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. coconut milk

In a blender, puree the diced mango until smooth. In a saucepan, heat water until it reaches a rolling boil. While stiring the water with a whisk, slowly add in the gelatin until it has dissolved and there are no gelatin chunks. Add the sugar to the water/gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Pour this water mixture into the blender with the mango and then add the coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Run pudding through a strainer to eliminate any chunks and pour into serving bowls. Refrigerate for 2 hrs to 24 hrs. I topped each pudding with a small basil leaf but these would also be great served with a little whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, August 29, 2011

coconut macaroons

These coconut macaroons were the party favorite. I wasn't a coconut lover until my French sister-in-law, Morgane, made coconut macaroons and I fell in love with these bite-size cookies. These coconut macaroons have a chewy, sweet center and a golden crust that makes these nearly impossible to stop eating. They take less than 30 minutes to make and will please any crowd. Morgane not only introduced me to coconut macaroons but also taught me pretty much everything I know about my camera and I know these macaroons and this picture live up to her standards! I am visiting her and my older brother in California in a few weeks and can't wait to get a few camera schooling sessions in because I swear you can never know enough about your camera. I hope I can capture food as well as she can capture people one day, check out her photography website.

Coconut Macaroons (Rochers au Coco)
makes 22 macaroons

4 egg whites
3 c. sweetened, shredded coconut
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Stir together egg whites, coconut, sugar and vanilla in a heat-proof bowl and using the double boiler method, set the bowl over a pan filled with 2 inches of simmering water. Heat mixture until it has thickened, about 7-9 minutes and immediately spoon 2 inch scoops onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You will know the mixture has thickened enough if the scoop can hold its shape without liquid puddling around the bottom. Bake cookies for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool cookies on the baking sheet, this gives the bottom of the cookies a perfect crunch (this is the best part). 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

foodbuzz 24x24: 9 wonderful desserts of the world

Who would want to make 9 desserts in one day? Uh I would! When I found out Foodbuzz (a social network for food bloggers and food lovers) had chosen to sponsor my 9 'wonder'ful desserts of the world party idea to be a part of this month's Foodbuzz 24x24 event, I was beyond excited. Foodbuzz 24x24 is where 24 food bloggers each host a dinner or in this case a dessert party on the same day and share their parties on each of their blogs. It was a great excuse to have friends over and use more butter than I ever have in one day. For the menu, I chose a few of the desserts from countries I have been to and the rest from countries I will hopefully get a chance to visit one day!

Pictured--top left to right:
USA: s'mores cookies (I couldn't resist after making s'mores pizza last week)
France: coconut macaroons
India: gajar halwa -- carrot pudding
Argentina: alfajores -- dulce de leche cookies
Spain: churros
Australia: sticky date pudding with toffee sauce
Singapore: mango pudding
Switzerland: spitzbuebe -- raspberry preserve filled sandwich cookies
New Zealand: hokey pokey ice cream

Everyone seemed to have a different favorite dessert but I'd say the coconut macaroons were the overall favorite considering there wasn't one left! My favorite was the New Zealand hockey pockey ice cream, I can't wait to share the recipe. Between friends, desserts, beer and the game 'battle of the sexes' it was a fun night and despite all the work I am happy to say I would love to do it again. This week I will post the recipes for each dessert in between eating the leftovers. I knew there was no way we could finish all the desserts so I had chinese take-out boxes for everyone to take home their favorite desserts. I already have a take-out box packed and ready to take to work tomorrow. The hard part is deciding which dessert to eat first.

What is your favorite dessert from a different country? 
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