Sunday, July 24, 2011

grilled pineapple salsa & chicken

I had a food filled weekend thanks to restaurant week in Charlotte. Restaurant week is where restaurants all over the city charge $30 for an appetizer, entree and dessert chosen from a set menu. It is a great way to try new restaurants where I wouldn't usually be able to afford a three course meal. My parents are moving to San Francisco in two weeks so my mom decided to come visit me in Charlotte for the weekend. On Friday night we met up with my aunt and uncle and went to Aria in uptown. I ordered the caramelized gnocchi, a filet over the best mac n cheese ever and lemon semifreddo for dessert. For anyone that lives in Charlotte, I would highly recommend it and can't wait to go back! I'm hoping to start up a new section of this blog dedicated to eating out because I love to dine out almost as much as I love to cook and bake in my own kitchen.

After a weekend of rich food and lots of shopping, my mom and I decided to cook up a quick, healthy meal for a late lunch. I can't believe we fired up the grill considering it was 100 degrees outside but this recipe made it all worth it. The grilled pineapple salsa is a combination of fresh, sweet and spicy that compliments the grilled chicken perfectly. The salsa and chicken are easy to throw together and each one has enough flavor to stand on their own.

Grilled Pineapple Salsa & Grilled Chicken 

for the pineapple salsa:
2 c. grilled pineapple, diced 
1 c. red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime 

for the chicken:
1.5 lbs of chicken
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c. red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice

For the salsa, grill pineapple slices about 5 minutes on each side over medium heat. Remove slices from the grill and cut into bite size chunks. Mix the salsa ingredients in a bowl and stir together, adding the grilled pineapple last.

For the grilled chicken marinade, mix all the ingredients together and pour over the chicken. Marinate chicken for 4+ hours in the refrigerator. Grill until chicken is cooked through.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

eggless banana bread

My usual choices for breakfast are smoothies, oatmeal, cereal with vanilla almond milk or an omelette with salsa. To change it up, I decided to bake some banana bread for a quick breakfast. I always have frozen bananas in the freezer because they are great in smoothies and you can easily bake with them. If you are using frozen bananas for baking, pull them out of the freezer and thaw for 15-30 minutes. Just make sure when you put the bananas in the freezer they have brown spots on them because that means they are more sugary. 

One of the best things about banana bread is you can freeze individual slices if you can resist eating the entire loaf. I usually cut the loaf into thick slices and individually wrap each one so I can grab a slice and go. If you want to freeze the slices, tightly wrap each slice in saran wrap and then put slices into an air tight freezer bag. The banana bread thaws pretty quickly but can be warmed up using a microwave or toaster. 

My favorite part of the banana bread is the top crust so when I used to make banana bread my brother and I would make a deal. If I could eat the entire top off the banana bread then he could have the bottom portion all to himself. I always thought I got the better deal but I'm not so sure anymore. The top, bottom and middle of this banana bread was worth eating so I'm not making that deal anymore. I was a little worried about how the texture of this bread would be without the eggs but it was fluffy and sweet with lots of banana flavor. 

Eggless Banana Bread

2 1/2 c. self-rising flour
1/2 c. white sugar 
1/4 - 1/2 c. brown sugar, depending on banana sweetness (browner = sweeter) 
1/2 c. (1 stick) of butter, softened 
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
4 medium sized bananas, mashed
1 c. nuts, optional 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Blend sugar and butter in a large bowl. Add in bananas, milk and vanilla and beat together until smooth. Stir in flour. Fold in nuts. Pour into one 9x5x3 loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

thin mint brownies

When girl scout cookie season starts, I am always first in line for the samoas, thin mints & tagalongs. But after eating through a few cookie boxes, I am over it and left with boxes of girl scout cookies. These brownies are made with an entire sleeve of thin mint cookies but next time I make these I am going to add Andes mints in or on top of these brownies to up the mint flavor. If you don't have thin mints on hand, you can buy knock-off (in a good way) girl scout cookies that Keebler sells called grasshoppers. The only difference between the two cookies is grasshoppers have a milk chocolate coating and thin mints have a dark chocolate coating. Also, I baked these brownies in a muffin tin so they have crispy edges and fudgy center. I topped the brownie with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and of course, thin mints. 

Thin Mint Brownies 
recipe from: FoodLibrarian 

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate, melted 
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 sleeve of chocolate mint cookies, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Grease pan. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Melt semi-sweet chocolate and butter in a double boiler or microwave until smooth. Once the chocolate is melted, add the sugar and then eggs one at a time. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture until just combined. Fold in girl scout cookies. Bake brownies in muffin tin for 20-25 minutes or 40-50 minutes for a 9x9 baking pan. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

chocolate chip cookies

I had a great weekend in Hilton Head celebrating 4th of July. Besides sitting on the beach all day, I got a chance to eat at Robert Irvine's (star of the Food Network show, Dinner Impossible) restaurant, eat! Considering he is a Food Network chef, the restaurant is very reasonably priced and the food was worth another trip.  My favorite dishes from eat! were the lightly seared tuna with a ginger granita appetizer and the dessert (of course), a sweet potato bread pudding with tabasco ice cream. The tabasco ice cream didn't have a hot sauce pepper spice flavor, it had an intense cinnamon spice flavor that worked perfectly with the sweet potato bread pudding. Mmm mmm I need to get an ice cream maker and come up with my own creations. 

To make the transition back to work easier after the 3-day holiday weekend, I decided some good old- fashioned chocolate chip cookies were necessary. I also used these cookies to try to teach my boyfriend how to use an electric mixer. He did pretty well but it's still a work in progress. Lessons aside, these cookies melt in your mouth (thank you Crisco) with the chewy, soft center and slightly crispy edges. The mixture of both milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips makes these cookies a must-try. The key to these cookies is to slightly under bake them so they stay soft and chewy days after baking.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 
makes 18 large cookies

2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. (1 stick) butter flavored Crisco
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, room temp
3/4 c. milk chocolate chips
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda. In a larger bowl, beat together Crisco, sugars and vanilla until smooth. Add in one egg at a time and blend until mixed well. Slowly add in flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake large cookies for 12-15 minutes or until cookie edges are lightly golden. Do not let top of cookies brown. Let cookies stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. 
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