Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grown-up Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Here is the good thing about this is the BEST mac'n'cheese I have ever had in my entire life.

Here is the bad thing about this only makes two servings!

In other words be prepared to double it, NO triple it!

I guess when you combine three different types of cheese, bacon, and pasta you really can't go wrong! I savored every bite of this meal and when it was over, I was sad. I never thought I could get sad about mac'n'cheese, kind of weird.

Look its the Italian flag in cheese!

A bunch of crumbled turkey bacon. Yes, this recipe has bacon. Did you see the title "Grown-up..." that is really code for "plus bacon". When doesn't bacon make things better!

Adorable lil pinwheel pasta, which I used because I thought they were cuter than macaroni.

This was the first time I used actual bread for the bread crumbs portion of the recipe. I always used the jar of bread crumbs, but the pantry was barren of bread crumbs. So I followed the recipe and placed two crust-less slices of bread in my mini food processor and pulsed till they were little bitty crumbs. This created a light crumbly crust on top of the mac'n'cheese, it was not what I expected in a good way. I did just read about another way to make bread crumbs from TheComfortofCooking that I think I'll be trying this weekend, thanks Georgia!

Grown-up Baked Macaroni and Cheese

6 slices thick bacon
2 cups macaroni, or your favorite pasta
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
2 slices of bread, crust removed
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

Cook bacon on skillet or bake in oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat cooked bacon to reduce grease and crumble, set aside.

Bring a medium pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to directions on package, add a sprinkle of extra-virgin olive oil to reduce sticking of pasta. Drain well and set aside.

Place two pieces of crustless bread into food processor and pulse till you have coarse crumbs. Add in chopped basil and mix till combined, set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, if not already. In a small saucepan, heat milk until warm, being careful not to let it boil. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan melt butter and add flour. While whisking butter/flour mixture, cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Add in warm milk and continue to whisk. Cook for an additional 2 minutes or until sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove saucepan from heat and add in Gruyere, Cheddar, and Gorgonzola Cheeses and salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir till combined. Add in cooked pasta and crumbled bacon and stir till combined. Pour mixture into 2 medium gratin dishes (I used 2 Corningware baking dishes). Top macaroni and cheese dishes with bread crumb and basil mixture. Bake for 35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and bread crumbs are browned. Remove and serve warm.

This recipe was adapted from FoodNetwork, its one of those recipes that got covered in kitchen mess and rapid note taking. For some reason a piece of paper is just the perfect spoon rest, not that nice silver one we got for our wedding, that one requires more dishwashing!

This weekend I am going to tackle something I have been a little nervous about making, I am so excited to share with you all! Hope everyone has a super weekend!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Warm Chocolate Melting FAIL

I have been procrastinating posting about my failure for a week two weeks. I know everyone fails and that is how we learn, but this just seems embarrassing.
I am hoping all my foodie friends can lend a little help in figuring out what went wrong, perhaps you've had the same thing happen?!

I have made chocolate lava cakes before that tasted like heaven in a ramekin, but I seemed to have lost the recipe (I need to get better organized). This time I searched for Carnival's "Warm Chocolate Melting Cake" recipe and had hoped that I found it on CruiseDiva's post with the recipe she found in a recent issue of the Carnival "Funville Times". When on my honeymoon last October I think I ate this dessert every night at dinner, I missed it.

I followed the recipe exactly, but when I took a peek at the lil cakes when they were almost done, they had big giant holes in the center. They had risen perfectly except just in the center. So, instead of immediately googling a remedy (this is what I usually do), I just kept baking them. Mistake. As the minutes past they kept sitting there, stubborn centers didn't want to rise.

I eventually took them out, flipped them over and I got some photos in while my husband dug in.

He is so sweet, he said they were great. Then I tried them, UGH. They were bland, mushy, and almost tasted like bread pudding. I know I used quality ingredients, so I am just confused as to what happened here with the boring taste.

Anyone have some baking science knowledge and can offer me advice for the next time? Maybe this recipe called for too many eggs?

And can anyone point me to that heavenly recipe for Chocolate Lava Cakes I had once upon a time?

Oh and thanks for letting me be honest :-)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I used to envy a hall-mate in college when her mom used to send a box of these cookies. Now that I know what they are, no one needs to be envious we can all make these delicious no-bake cookies.

They are pretty perfect for the summer too, anything that doesn't involve turning the oven on in my apartment is a great recipe to me. And the fact that there are only 7 ingredients makes it even better!

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups quick-cooking oats

Line a baking sheet or smooth surface with wax paper, set aside. Cut butter into small pieces and place in large saucepan with sugar, milk, and cocoa powder. Bring ingredients to a rolling boil while stirring continuously. Boil for one minute and remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla till throughly blended. Add in quick oats and drop by teaspoon-full onto waxed paper. Let cool until hardened.

To make shaped cookies, spray cookie cutters with non-stick cooking spray and set on waxed paper. Drop cookie mixture into cookie cutter, ensure the mixture fills in all the gaps. Let cool until hardened and gently remove cookie cutter.

Thanks to Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker for the recipe.

If you are impatient or the cookies are too soft, chill in refrigerator till hardened. Since it is so hot outside, I prefer these cookies cold anyways!

I would also recommend using a high-quality cocoa powder as it is the main thing you taste in these cookies. I used organic chunky peanut butter and loved the additional texture of the peanuts in the cookies.

I loved having fun with these cookies and using different shapes of cookie cutters. I think these would be great in football and helmet shapes for upcoming Sunday football or even to send out for all those holiday cookies you'll be baking!

What is your favorite cookie cutter?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am so behind on blogging! I have so much to say and I am really excited about some great pics I shot recently. Unfortunately I have also had a failure recently, a rather embarrassing, unfortunate failure...but you will just have to stay tuned for that!

Oh and I promise there are some non-peanut butter related posts coming too...

Today is all about my favorite cookie recipe. This is my go-to recipe, these cookies turn out perfect every time, without fail, that is if they make it to the pan....

I don't feel guilty, this dough is just as addictive as the cookie. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 and 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a pan with baking sheet or parchment paper, set aside. In small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, set aside. In large bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter till creamy. Add in sugars and beat till fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla and mix throughly. Stir in flour mixture till combined and dough pull away from sides. Mix in chocolate chips till evenly distributed. 

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto lined baking pan. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until slightly browned. Cool for two minutes on pan and cool completely on cooling rack. 

I love the way these cookies look, they are little drops of heaven. 

And I love this pic! It reminds me of the episode on Scrubs when J.D. calls for a "box of kittens, stat!". 

When I get my peanut butter craving, I need a box of these cookies, STAT!

Hope y'all have a good weekend and happy baking!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mint Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream

This ice cream was amazing, which was kind of surprising for how easy it was to make. It tastes just like Ben and Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie, which was ultimately the goal. I was worried about it tasting a little icy, because it seemed really soft when I moved it to the freezer, but it was creamy and smooth. I also love the way the cookies soften slightly in the ice cream, they taste like they were dunked in milk for the perfect amount of time to just dissolve away in your mouth, YUM!

Mint Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 package mint chocolate sandwich cookies (oreos)

In a medium bowl break chocolate cookies into fourths by hand and place into freezer for later. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla and peppermint extracts. Whisk until sugar has dissolved. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and let churn for 10 minutes, slowly add in broken cookie pieces. Churn for an additional 20 minutes or until ice cream is frozen. Place ice cream in a freezer for 2 hours and enjoy!

Yes I know, you can see those aren't Oreos. Well, what can I say, I buy generic!

I did end up saving a few cookies for later as decoration, or maybe some disappeared as I was breaking them up...maybe. You could also add some food coloring right before placing it into the ice cream maker if you are going for a green mint ice cream. I only had red food coloring and thought our visitors might be put off by red mint ice cream!

I am not sure what kind of household you live in, but in mine there is ALWAYS ice cream in the freezer. Sometimes it is low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt and sometimes it the enviable Ben and Jerry's Smores or Blue Bell Groom's Cake. Then, on rare occasion we make homemade which is the best and is usually made when people are in town so I can show off the ice cream maker.

I will definitely be making this again. Anyone want to come visit?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gorgonzola Bruschetta

I found this recipe less than a week ago and have already made it twice. It is quick and easy, but it tastes delicious, maybe even gourmet! The way the gorgonzola blends with the sweet roma tomatoes and the spice of green onion and parsley, YUM!

I wanted something different than my normal "mom's cheese-ball" appetizer when my in-laws visited this past weekend. It ended up being a hit! I could tell I should have made more as we were all arguing about who the last two slices belonged to.

Last night I made this again, because they were THAT good.

and my husband and I ate all 12 slices by ourselves. GULP.

I tossed in some chopped yellow bell peppers and it added some great color and flavor. So, I recommend having some fun with this recipe and trying different peppers or tomatoes.

Gorgonzola Bruschetta

12 slices baguette-style french bread, cut 1/2 inch thick
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup gorgonzola crumbles
1 tsp green onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. Spread one side of bread slices with 2 tbsp butter. Place onto lined baking sheet buttered side up. Bake for 8 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Cool slightly.

In small bowl combine 1 tbsp butter, gorgonzola, and green onion and mix well. Turn cooled bread over (buttered side down) and spread with cheese mixture. Sprinkle with tomatoes and bake for 6 minutes or until cheese is slightly melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.

Let me know how all your variations turn out!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

Last night I was watching Cupcake Wars on Food Network. If you don't know what it is, it is your basic food challenge show, but solely about cupcakes. So last night one of the cupcakes they made was a chocolate peanut butter and then it hit me...the craving.

You know what I am talking about.

The craving for that perfect ratio of peanut butter and chocolate.

One that you know just won't go away easily.

I knew just what to make, but it was late and I had already made pot pie for dinner and there was a pile of dishes still waiting. In the spirit of the Cupcake Wars, my husband challenged me to make the cupcakes in 40 minutes as they do on the show. Since you don't know me yet, I'll tell you that I may have a little competitiveness in me, just a little. So challenge accepted. It's on!

I knew what I wanted to make. I have made this recipe in cake form a long time ago, before this blog existed, I mentioned this "best cake ever" on the meetthekadlecs blog. This time I halved the recipe and made 12 peanut butter chocolate ganache cupcakes!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup and 2 tbsp unsweetened dutch process cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 cup whole milk

5 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together till thoroughly combined. Add in oil and sour cream and whisk till combined. While beating, gradually add in water. Blend in vanilla and vinegar. Whisk in eggs and beat until well blended. Spoon batter into lined cupcake pan (the batter is very soupy, don't worry it will be great). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely (if in a hurry shove in fridge till cooled).

To make chocolate ganache, melt chocolate in a double broiler or in a bowl over simmering water. Add in peanut butter and corn syrup and continue whisking until melted and combined. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and whisk in milk beating until you get a smooth texture. Set aside, whisking occasionally.

To make peanut butter frosting, in a large bowl beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add in confectioners' sugar, mix thoroughly after each addition. Beat on medium for four minutes until light and fluffy. Add in peanut butter until blended.

After cupcakes have chilled, fill with chocolate ganache and frost with peanut butter frosting using piping bags. See the method I use in the Chocolate Stout and Irish Cream Cupcakes.

So I didn't make the 40 minutes, guess I'm not cut out for Cupcake Wars. I did end my night with some crave busting cupcakes though!

Good Luck with not craving chocolate and peanut butter after this!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Double Layer Chocolate Cream Pie

+ chocolate curls

so really it is a triple layer chocolate cream pie!

This is a perfect summer pie as it only requires you to use the oven for baking the crust, and when it is 100 degrees outside nobody in Texas wants to use their oven! Warning: this pie is a long pie project, read the instructions before starting. I did not. I took one look at the recipe and started working at 7pm hoping for a nice Saturday night dessert. Four hours later I had skipped multiple "wait and refrigerate" steps and just threw everything in the pie let it sit in the fridge as long as I could, 30 minutes, and dove in. The pie rocks, but having to work at 7am the next morning didn't. Luckily I had a nice refrigerated pie to come home to and it was even better than it tasted the night before.

I thought originally that this pie might be even better than it already is if I used a chocolate cookie crust, but my husband said "that would be complete oreo domination!". He's funny sometimes and this time he was right, a cookie crust would be total "oreo domination".

So without further ado...the best chocolate cream pie I have EVER had:

Double Layer Chocolate Pie

Pie Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp ice water

4 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 and 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 ounces milk chocolate
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 and 1/4 cup whole milk

1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 tsp confections' sugar
2 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate

For the pie crust, in a large mixing bowl stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in butter and shortening until the mixture is the consistency of small peas. Sprinkle the ice water and mix until the dough starts coming together. Using your hands, work the dough into a 4-inch disk, wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (or freeze at this point). Roll-out dough onto a lightly floured surface to form a disk 1-inch larger than your pie size and 1/8-inch thick. Place the dough into pie pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. After pie dough has chilled prick the bottom and sides gently using a fork to prevent the crust from bubbling or use pie weights. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on rack.

For filling, melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double broiler or in a bowl over simmering water, stir, and set aside. In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese on high for one minute. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and confectioners' sugar and beat on high for one minute. Stir in melted chocolate and mix till blended. Pour mixture into cooled pie shell and chill for one hour. Meanwhile, melt the milk chocolate in a double broiler or in a bowl over simmering water, stir, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine the pudding mix and whole milk, beat on low until blended, then on high for two minutes. Add in melted milk chocolate and beat on high for one minute. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, whip one cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the milk chocolate mixture and spread over the first cream cheese layer in the pie crust. Chill for 2 hours.

For the sweetened whipped cream, beat the remaining heavy cream and confectioners' sugar till soft peaks form. Fill a pastry bag with the whipped cream and decorate pie as desired. For the chocolate curls, melt chocolate in double broiler or in a bowl over simmering water. Pour over a chilled smooth surface, I used a cutting board, but a marble slab is recommended (who has that!?). Smooth chocolate to a thin layer and chill for 5-10 minutes or until chocolate is no longer melted, but soft. Using a metal spatula scrap across the chocolate until a curl is formed. Remove curl from board using a toothpick and place onto dessert or chilled plate.

I am still not a pro at making pie crust, I restarted once this time and it still was not perfect. I think that the saying "practice makes perfect" was meant for making pie crusts! On the other hand, this was my first time trying to make chocolate curls and I think it went well!. I had chilled the chocolate too long in the beginning and had to wait for it to soften, but the warmer the chocolate got the easier the curls formed.

We can all thank the good chocolate people at Ghirardelli for this recipe in their Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook.

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