Google Amy's Cooking Adventures: May 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rum Baked Black Beans

I always love a good BBQ.  Just tossing some burgers and hotdogs on the grill and spending some time with family and friends. 

With summer finally upon us (maybe? It was totally on 50 today – boo) it is time to invite some people over and fire up the grill!

However, in my opinion, a barbeque is not complete without my favorite side dish, baked beans!  In the past, I have simply opened a can of baked beans (maybe adding a little bacon here and there).  Then I came upon this recipe.  Let me tell you, it is a show stopper!

This is a Mexican inspired dish using black beans and a whole ton of spices.  Looking through the ingredient list, I initially thought that these beans could be a bit sweet.  But the flavors melded together in a delightful combination that is indescribable.  These are sure to be the hit of any BBQ!

Rum Baked Black Beans

1 lb bacon
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tsp)
2 tbsp flour
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
4 (15 oz) cans black beans, undrained
1/3 cup dark rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Drain and rinse 3 of the cans of beans.  Leave the fourth can undrained.  Set aside.

In a large pot, cook the bacon until crisp.  Crumble the bacon and set aside.  Drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings.

Add the onions and garlic to the drippings and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender.  Add the flour and cook another minute, stirring constantly.

Add the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, and all of the spices.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the drained and undrained beans and stir to mix, making sure the beans are completely coated.

Remove from heat and add the rum and crumbled bacon.  Stir well.

Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 1 hour.  Remove the cover and stir.  Continue baking, uncovered, for 20 minutes and serve.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tortellini Bake with Rose Sauce

I do love a good pasta dish.  I love a pasta dish even more when it is super easy and completely fuss free.  This tortellini bake is all that and more.  A whole lot of cheese (always a hit with my crowd) and a delightful lightened up rose sauce (a combination of red and white sauces) make a truly delightful dish.  Served with a simple spinach salad and a wedge of garlic toast and you have a fabulous meal.

Tortellini Bake with Rose Sauce
An Amy Original inspired by Real Mom Kitchen

20 oz refrigerated tortellini
1 tbsp olive oil
1 (24 oz) jar of spaghetti sauce
3 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup skim milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a large rectangular casserole dish with non stick spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook for 3 minutes (pasta will continue cooking in the oven)

Meanwhile, stir together the spaghetti sauce, cream cheese, skim milk, ½ cup parmesan cheese, garlic powder, basil, and oregano.

Drain the pasta.  Place in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Stir in the sauce mixture until combined. 

Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle the mixture with the mozzarella cheese and the remaining ½ cup parmesan cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Serves 4-6


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

Prepare yourself for pure bliss. 

Really, it’s true!

These super fabulous cookies are a marriage between chocolate and toffee and oh so good.  They are guaranteed to chase all your troubles away.

Now you might be concerned at the ingredient list.  Only ½ cup of flour and ¼ cup of butter and a POUND of chocolate?  I assure you this is correct, and completely heavenly. 

One quick recipe note: I chopped my Heath bars into slightly larger chunks because I wanted to be sure I could taste the toffee (sometimes little teeny chunks melt away into baked goods…sad…).  Don’t tell any one, but I totally flipped over the cookies each time I ate one to be sure I had lots of toffee…sshhhhhh…now, go make these!

Chocolate Toffee Cookies
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Bon Appetit

½ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 lb bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 (1.4 oz) chocolate covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Sea salt

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate.  Stir in the butter, stirring constantly until very smooth.  Set the bowl of the double boiler aside and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, beat the sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer until it becomes thick, about 5 minutes. 

Beat in the chocolate mixture and the vanilla.  Add in the flour mixture.

Using a spoon, stir in the toffee and the nuts.  Cover the bowl and chill until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a two tablespoon cookie scoop, drop the cookie batter onto the sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sea salt.

Bake until the tops are cracked but the cookies are still soft to the touch, 12-15 minutes.  Cool and enjoy with a big glass of milk.

Makes about 40 cookies


Monday, May 23, 2011

Homemade Mocha Chip Frappuccino

Ah frappuccino.  A wonderful $4 sign of summer.

Since I used up my last giftcard that last time I went to Starbuck's, I decided to try my hand at homemade blended coffee.  And I have to say, it was pretty spectacular.  Coffee and chocolate.  Ice and creaminess.  Pure bliss.  Oh, did I mention that this works out to 150 calories per drink?  Definitely fabulous.

You will notice that the ingredient list calls for 2 grams of instant coffee and it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the ingredient measurements.  When I was at the grocery store I was reluctant to buy a whole jar of instant coffee, but was able to find a box of “coffee on the go” individual packets.  Each little packet was 2 grams of coffee, thus the measurement.  If you use a jar of instant coffee, simply use the measurements for a single cup of coffee.

Homemade Mocha Chip Frappuccino
Adapted from Flavors of Mumbai

½ cup hot water
2 grams instant coffee granules
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup skim milk
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp mini chocolate chips
½ tbsp chocolate syrup
2 cups ice
Chocolate to garnish

Whisk the instant coffee and cocoa powder into the hot water until dissolved.  Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any remaining solids.  Cool to room temperature (I stuck mine in the freezer for about 10 minutes)

In a blender, combine the coffee mixture, milk, sugar, mini chips, chocolate syrup, and ice.  Blend on high until the ice is broken up.  Pour into glasses and garnish with shaved chocolate.  Serve immediately

Makes 2 Frappuccinos


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Since I have learned to use royal icing, I have been making a lot more sugar cookies.  So, when planning my Mother’s Day Tea, I naturally chose to make sugar cookies along with my Pink Lemonade Cupcakes, and Spicy Hummus.  And why just any sugar cookies?  I decided to jazz them up a bit with some bright lemon flavor.

These bright, summery cookies perfectly complemented the cupcakes.  The design was inspired by The Sweet Adventures of SugarBelle.  Have you seen her creations?  A-mazing.  My cookies pale in comparison, but it’s okay, that’s what learning (and cooking adventures) are all about.

Lemon Sugar Cookies
An Amy Original

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp lemon extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. 

Slowly add in the baking soda, baking powder, salt, lemon juice, lemon extract and vanilla extract.  Mix in the flour on low speed until well combined.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Roll out the cookie dough and cut into desired shapes.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Cool completely, then decorate with your favorite icing.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Sautéed Chickpeas & Spinach

So often I am looking for quick, nutritious meals to make when my husband gets home from work before I run to the gym.  This fantastic meatless meal has it all.  Whole grains, greens, and protein (in the form of garbanzo beans/chickpeas).

The flavors in this dish are absolutely amazing.  A little garlic, a little spice, plus the chickpeas and spinach…awesome.  But the best part is, this one dish meal goes from pan to plate in less than 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Sautéed Chickpeas & Spinach
Adapted from Aggie’s Kitchen

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup onion, finely diced
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
6 oz fresh spinach
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the onions and cook until tender.  Stir in the garlic and season with salt and pepper, cook for another minute.

Add the chickpeas to the onion mixture and sauté for another 5 minutes. 

Once pasta is finished cooking, drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water.

Add the spinach, pasta, and pasta water to the pan and gently toss.

Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and season with red pepper flakes, salt and parmesan.

Makes 4 Servings


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Happy Birthday Candies"

Truffles.  I just can’t seem to get enough of them.  We’ve had the salty-sweet Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles, the all time favorite Oreo Truffles, and the lusciously smooth Champagne Truffles.  Various cake batter confections are a bit of a craze now and who am I to ignore a trend?

My little guy was very excited when I pulled out the box of cake mix and quickly dubbed these “Happy Birthday Candies”.  Too cute, I just love that little guy!

These, along with my sugar cookies were the hit of the show last time I visited my parents’ house.  These would make a very fun additional to a birthday party, but are also fun as a stand alone.  After all, we all need a little extra celebration in our lives.

"Happy Birthday Candies"
{Formerly Birthday Cake Truffles}
Adapted from Forever, Now, and Then

1 Box of FunFetti Cake Mix
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz Baker’s Chocolate

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cake mix and sweetened condensed milk.  Mix on low speed until combined.  The batter will be very thick.

Prepare a cookie sheet with waxed paper.  Roll the batter into 1-inch balls and place on the waxed paper.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.

Dip each cake ball into the chocolate and place on a second cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.  Decorate with sprinkles.  Refrigerate the candies until the chocolate is hardened.  Move to desired containers and refrigerate leftovers.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach and Bacon

Last week was cold.  And rainy.  And icky.  It was most definitely a soup day.  Some people believe that soup is only for fall and winter.  Not me.  I think soup is also great on chilly, rainy days.

This soup absolutely hit the spot.  Warm, smooth, and chock full of glorious vegetables, and bacon, don’t forget the bacon.

I went ahead and pureed everything (except the bacon) with my immersion blender (if you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend it).  You can also puree your soup in a food processor, but frankly the idea of doing such a thing brings visions of scalding and blistered skin.  No thanks.

So, once you have acquired an immersion blender and it is rainy, make this soup.  It will make you feel warm and toasty.  And all the vegetables erase any guilt you may have about eating a couple pieces of bacon while you wait for the soup to cook.

Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach and Bacon
Adapted from Someone Who Bakes

½ pound bacon
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
10 oz sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
1 ¼ lb red potatoes, cut into bite size chunks
5 cups chicken stock
6 oz baby spinach

In a large soup pot, cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove, crumble, and set aside.

Add the onion to the bacon drippings in the pot and cook over medium high heat until softened and starting to brown, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme and cook another minute.

Add the tomatoes (with juice) to the pot and stir until the juices have evaporated and the mixture is thickened.  Add in the potatoes and sweet potatoes and stir to combine.

Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and partially cover.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. 

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.

Carefully puree the mixture with an immersion blender, it does not have to be perfectly smooth. 

Stir in the bacon pieces.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Makes 4-6 bowls of soup.


Homemade Applesauce

I first decided to make applesauce for the little guy to eat, since he is still eating homemade purees.  I quickly realized, however that pureed baby apples are the exact same thing as applesauce and super fresh and easy!

My husband is a huge fan of cinnamon in his applesauce, so that was a definite add-in for us.  I opted to add the cinnamon to individual servings of applesauce (since I needed to give my little one the applesauce first, and then add the cinnamon – 4 day wait rule and all), but the cinnamon can easily be added to the entire mixture.

Homemade Applesauce

4 Fuji apples
Cinnamon, to taste

Place 2 inches of water in as medium pot.  Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, cut the apples into 6-8 slices, discard cores.

Place the apples into a steaming basket over the boiling water.  Steam the apples for 12-15 minutes, or until the apples are tender.  Remove from heat, reserving cooking liquid.

When the apples are cool enough to handle, peel the skins away and discard.  Place the peeled apples and reserved cooking liquid into the bowl of a small food processor and blend to desired smoothness.  Add cinnamon to taste and blend again.  Alternately, add the cinnamon to individual servings.

Refrigerate leftovers for 3 days.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Buffalo Chicken and Guacamole Wraps

It is no secret that I love avocados.  In fact guacamole is easily my favorite dip.  I love guacamole with chips, but I also enjoy it as a wonderful addition to sandwiches and wraps as an alternative to mayonnaise.

This wrap matches up a few of my favorite things: leftover rotisserie chicken, hot sauce, and guacamole.  The heat of hot sauce paired with the smooth coolness of avocado is definitely a match made in heaven.

Buffalo Chicken and Guacamole Wraps

1 cup shredded chicken (about ½ lb)
2-4 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
4 flour tortillas, 6-inch

Shred your leftover (or freshly cooked) chicken.  Toss with enough hot sauce to evenly coat the chicken.  Set aside.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 20 seconds to soften.

Spread 2-3 tablespoons of guacamole on each tortilla.  Top with the chicken mixture.  Fold into a wrap and serve.

Serves 2


Friday, May 13, 2011

Black Bean and Rice Salad

Whenever I cook Mexican food I struggle to come up with a side dish, other than chips, that is.  So when I made my Taquitos last week, I whipped up a fast, yummy side dish! 

In fact, this was so good I even ate it as lunch the next day!

Black Bean and Rice Salad
An Amy Original

1 1/3 cups cooked brown rice (use fresh or leftover rice)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can corn, drained and rinsed
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with chilies
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp paprika
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix.  Serve warm or cold.

Makes 6 servings


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pumpkin Chip Muffins

First off, thank you so much for all of you who buzzed my Champagne Truffles into the Foodbuzz Top 9 today!  I am so flattered!  Thank you, thank you!  To show my gratitude, I made you my favorite muffins!

Many people feel that pumpkin is only for fall and pies.  Not so!  My family and I enjoy these muffins year round.  I originally got this recipe from my mom and it was great, but it had a whopping 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of chocolate chips!  Super fabulous, but really more of a cupcake than a breakfast muffin. 

So I set out to give this muffin a healthy makeover.  Here’s the amazing part – I was able to cut over half of the sugar without compromising the delicious flavor of the muffin.  Now I can still enjoy my favorite muffins, but with only 99 calories and none of the guilt.

Pumpkin Chip Muffins
An Amy Original

¾ cup sugar
4 eggs
¾ cup canola oil
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
2 tbsp wheat germ
2 tbsp ground flax
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
Dash of salt
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line 2 muffin tins with paper liners.

Place the sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat them together on medium speed.

Add in the oil, pumpkin, wheat germ, flax, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flours.  Mix on low until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide the batter into 24 muffin cups.  Bake 16-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes: 24 muffins


Monday, May 9, 2011

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Since my husband was out of town on Mother’s Day, I decided to host a Mother’s Day Tea at my house for my Mommy friends in the same situation.  For the tea, I knew I wanted to have something fun and pink and super feminine.

Cue Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

These cupcakes were perfect for my grown up Tea Party, but would also be lovely at a springtime bridal shower, baby shower, or a sophisticated addition to a summertime BBQ.  So enjoy and drink up!

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
An Amy Original inspired by Real Mom Kitchen
1 package white cake mix
1 small package instant lemon pudding, 4 serving size
¼ cup presweetened pink lemonade mix
1 cup milk
1 cup canola oil
4 egg whites
10 drops red food coloring

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two muffin tins with paper liners.

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Mix on low speed for 30 seconds.  Increase to medium speed and beat for another 2 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin tins.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Cool completely

Makes 24 cupcakes

Pink Lemonade Buttercream Frosting
An Amy Original

1 ½ cups Crisco shortening
5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup presweetened pink lemonade mix*
1 ½ tbsp meringue powder
5 tbsp water
Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Mix on low until combined.  Increase speed to medium and beat for another 2-3 minutes.

Note: this icing is very tart.  For a milder lemon taste, decrease the amount of lemonade mix to ½ cup and replace it with an additional ½ cup of powdered sugar.


Recipes for Picky Eaters: My First Guest Post!

Don't miss my first guest post at Or So She Says!


Homemade Chicken Nuggets


Carrot Cake Pancakes!!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Champagne Truffles

To all the moms out there who cook and clean, kiss owies and nurse through illness, do laundry and discipline. 

Today, remember all the snuggles and kisses, the smiles and wishes, the fun and games, and most of all, the “I love you’s”.

Here’s to you Moms

Happy Mother’s Day!

Champagne Truffles
An Amy Original inspired by Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp champagne
12 oz semi sweet Baker’s chocolate
1 lb vanilla almond bark

In the bowl of an electric mixture, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar.

While beating the cream cheese, melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler.

Turn the mixer to low speed and mix in the champagne and melted chocolate.  Cover and place the mixture into the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes or until cool.

Line two cookie sheets with waxed paper.  Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, scoop the filling into small balls and place on one of the prepared cookie sheets.  If sticky, place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to cool again.

Meanwhile, melt the vanilla almond bark.  Using two forks, dip each ball into the almond bark to cover.  Place on a second prepared cookie sheet.   Drizzle with additional chocolate if desired.

Place in the refrigerator until the candy is hardened.  Then transfer to desired containers until ready to serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

When my husband and I were first married (before I was cooking on a regular basis), my husband asked me to buy some frozen taquitos.  He assured me that they were a great little snack.  Well, while he enjoyed them, I most certainly did not (and I never did buy them again).  In fact, even though he likes them, my husband has even described them as “a salty greasy meat snack”. Ish.

Fast forward five years on Cinco de Mayo and I have found a recipe for baked taquitos.  My husband’s response when I told him about the recipe “I can’t believe you’re making something you hate!  Thanks!”

He need not have worried!  These taquitos were fantastic!  A little bit salty, a little bit crunchy, and a whole lot of flavor…they had all the great flavors of their frozen counterparts but without the greasy mystery meat!  In fact, I like these so much that I plan to make a batch for a friend who recently had a baby!

Note that these do call for a sprinkling of coarse salt at the end.  I find it to be a bit excessive (thankfully it brushes off easily), but my husband thought it was perfect!

Creamy Chicken Taquitos
Recipe Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Our Best Bites

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 cups cooked)
3 oz of 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
¼ cup salsa
Juice from 1 lime (about 1 tbsp)
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp onion, finely diced
1 cup shredded Mexican Cheese
12 flour tortillas, 6-inch fajita size
Cooking spray
Coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large skillet, cook the chicken breasts until done.  Shred or finely dice the chicken.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic, onion, and cheese.  Stir until thoroughly combined.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds to make them pliable.  If the tortillas are a bit dry or not rolling easily, place a damp paper towel on a plate under the tortillas and top with a second damp paper towel before microwaving.

Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of each tortilla.  Carefully roll the tortilla tightly around the filling.  Place each rolled tortilla, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet, placing the tortillas 1 ½ inches apart.

Spray the tops of the tortillas lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hummus Egg Salad

Egg salad is one of my favorite ways to use up all of those hardboiled eggs leftover from Easter.  Traditionally I have used Miracle Whip as my binding, but this time I wanted to cut the calories and add some fiber, but without compromising the taste.  Cue Spicy Hummus!

The flavors of the hummus mimicked the flavors or Miracle Whip and had a similar texture.  I think I have a new favorite!

Hummus Egg Salad
An Amy Original

5 large hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 recipe Spicy Hummus
½ tsp mustard
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop or grate the eggs into a medium bowl.  Stir in the hummus, mustard, salt and pepper until well combined.  For best results, chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.

For a fun appetizer or snack, serve on Roasted Vegetable Ritz Crackers with a slice of avocado and a sprinkling of crumbled bacon.




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