Google Amy's Cooking Adventures: July 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Healing, Comfort, & Wisdom

My dear blogging friends,

Amy’s Cooking Adventures is going to be MIA for the next week or so.  Remember this little guy, enjoying his “baby cakes”?

Well, he is quite ill right now and in the hospital.  I’m reaching out to you, friends for prayers of healing for my sweet baby, of comfort for my family, and wisdom for the doctors caring for my little ray of sunshine.

I hope to be back in the kitchen quickly, but until that time, I’d love some prayers and positive thoughts sent this way.

Thank you so much

Amy & Family

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Whole Wheat Raspberry Pear Pancakes

As I’ve mentioned many times before, pancakes are very popular in my house.  My 3 year old loves them and now my 11 month old does, too!  Pancakes are a wonderful food to serve to babies who want to be independent and self feed (just be sure to sweeten them with sugar instead of honey if your baby is under 12 months old).  I serve them to the baby without the syrup (the fruit makes them sweet enough) and make them into small “baby cakes.”   He too busy eating to smile at the camera, but trust me - he's loving this!

Now, if you have a 3 year old who is having a moody day, be warned, he might demand that his pancakes look more like this:

Truth be told – he’s on to something here – chocolate and raspberries is pretty fantastic!

Whole Wheat Raspberry Pear Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp wheat germ
1 ½ tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup water and 4 tbsp dried buttermilk)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup fresh raspberries
½ cup fresh pears (mine were lightly steamed and mashed)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon (and dried buttermilk, if using).

In a small bowl, or large measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk (or water if using dried buttermilk), oil, egg, and vanilla.

In another small bowl combine the pears and raspberries.  Mash with the back of a spoon to release the juices and break into smaller chunks.  Note:  I had previously steamed my pears for 8-10 minutes and mashed them lightly with a potato masher to use as a chunky baby food.  If using fresh (unsteamed) or canned pears, cut them into small chunks first.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.  Do not over mix.  Gently fold in the pear and raspberry mixture.

Heat an electric skillet to medium-high heat.  Add a small dollop of shortening to the pan and allow it to melt.  Pour batter onto the griddle pan using a small ladle or ¼ cup measuring cup.  Additionally you can make some “baby cakes”, by pouring a small amount of batter onto the griddle, the size of a half dollar.  Cook 2-3 minutes.  Flip when the bottom is browned and the tops are bubbly.  Flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until browned.

Serve immediately with maple syrup and additional raspberries (and chocolate chips, if you’re 3!)

Makes approximately 15 pancakes


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spicy Raspberry Sauce for Pork Chops

This past weekend, I found fresh raspberries at Farmer’s Market!  So what to do with raspberries.  We ate some fresh, of course, but I was worried about the rest spoiling before I could get to them.  I thought about making a pie or other confection, but I was in an inventive sort of mood and decided to go way out of my comfort zone and make a sweet, fruity sauce to go with some pork chops.

My husband and I could not get enough of this sauce!  It is fruity and spicy…sweet and salty…a little bit of everything all rolled into one and it is absolutely divine on some grilled pork chops.  And the best part is: this sauce comes together in the same amount of time it takes to grill up some chops – perfection!

Spicy Raspberry Sauce for Pork Chops
An Amy Original

4 boneless pork chops
1 tsp olive oil
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
½ cup water
1 tsp dry chicken stock
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 tbsp sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp corn starch
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

Preheat grill to medium heat.  Season the pork chops with sea salt and pepper.  Grill 15-20 minutes or until completely cooked, flipping once.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan.  Add the jalapeno, onion, and garlic.  Cook until the onion is tender, 5-8 minutes.

Add ½ cup of water to the pan, whisk in the chicken stock.  Add the raspberries and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes to cook the raspberries and reduce the sauce. 

Add in the sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the corn starch.  Continue to cook until the sauce has thickened.

Remove the pot from heat.  Stir in the basil and mint.  Serve over grilled pork chops immediately.

Serves 4


Monday, July 25, 2011

Banana Muffins

So often I have bananas that just don’t get eaten.  Over ripe bananas almost always become banana bread in my house.  But this time, I was sending it with my husband when he went out of town.  Since it can be tricky to travel with banana bread (ever tried to cut stuff with a plastic knife—it just doesn’t work), I decided to take my tried and true banana bread recipe and convert it into muffins.  It was nice having the proportioned muffins to send on his trip (and my 3 year old was a fan of the few a squirreled away at home, too!)

Banana Muffins
An Amy Original

1/2 cup Crisco
1 cup sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp milk
2 eggs
Dash of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup walnuts, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with 18 liners.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the shortening, sugar, bananas, baking soda, salt, eggs, and milk until thoroughly mixed.

Add in the flour and stir until just mixed.  Stir in ¼ cup of walnuts.

Divide the batter into 18 muffin cups.  Sprinkle the tops with the remaining ¼ cup of nuts.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are dark brown.

Makes 18 muffins


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Balsamic Pasta Salad

Pasta is pretty much the ultimate food.  It comes in so many forms.  It can be a main dish or a side.  Hot or cold.  Yeah, awesome.

Since it is summertime, I am most definitely a fan of cold pasta salads as a side dish.  So often pasta salads are drenched in thick, creamy dressings, sometimes waaaay too much dressing (you know the salads I’m talking about – blech).  Those are nice and all (when they aren’t swimming in dressing), but very calorie laden. 

Balsamic Pasta Salad is a nice light version of those creamy salads.  The balsamic vinegar and lime juice pack a nice punch of flavor and the vegetables bring a nice cool freshness to the salad.  Add that it is whole wheat pasta and we have a nice, healthy side dish that everyone can enjoy!

Balsamic Pasta Salad
Adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny

½ box (about 6 oz) whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente
½ tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & pepper to taste
½ cucumber, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 roma tomato, seeds removed and diced
Seasoned chickpeas, optional*

Cook the pasta to al dente.  Drain and allow to cool.

In a jar, combine the lime juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Shake until mixed.  Pour the mixture over the pasta and stir until the pasta is coated.

Add in the diced cucumbers, avocado, tomatoes, and chickpeas and stir to combine.  Chill in the refrigerator before serving.

*Note: The recipe for seasoned chickpeas should be coming soon, the ones pictured in the salad were good, but not quite blog worthy :)


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Margherita Burgers

Margherita Pizza, with its winning combination of mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes, is one of my all time favorite pizzas.  So, just for fun, I decided to make a burger version of my favorite pizza!  A little garlic, and a blend of Italian spices mixed into beef, topped with those wonderful margherita toppings and I do believe we have a winner.  So turn the oven off and the grill on and beat the heat with these lovelies!

Margherita Burgers
An Amy Original

1 lb lean ground beef
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp marjoram
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper

4 slices mozzarella cheese
4 buns
Tomato slices
8 large (or 16 small) fresh basil leaves

In a bowl, mix together the beef, garlic powder, basil, oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper until fully combined.  I use my hands for this (with disposable gloves so I don’t get meat hands!)  Separate the meat into 4 equal sized patties.  Grill for 10-15 minutes, flipping once, or until cooked through.

During the last minute of cooking, place the buns, split side down, directly on the grill and the cheese on the burgers.  Cook until the cheese is melted and the buns are warm and lightly browned.  Just before serving, top with the tomato slices and basil.

Serves 4


Monday, July 18, 2011

Bruschetta Tart (Secret Recipe Club)

Another month has flown by.  We are well into summer and it is time again for the Secret Recipe Club.  The Secret Recipe Club is the brainchild of Amanda of Amanda’s Cookin’.  How is works is, each month, members are assigned another blog *in secret*.  From there the blogger gets to choose a post to recreate in their own kitchen and share.

This month, I was delighted to have Foodies at Work as my assigned blog.  Foodies at Work is the blog of Melissa (Miss Yunks) and her foodie pal, Angela.  There were so many fabulous recipes on this site, I found it terribly hard to choose one recipe (let me tell you cookie dough pancakes are still going to happen at some point!).  So don’t forget to stop by and say, “Hello,” to Foodies at Work!

After a lot of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to use Miss Yunks’ Tomato and Mozzarella Tart, but I had to kick it up a notch.  See when I saw mozzarella and tomato, my thoughts instantly went to bruschetta!  So, I added some basil to the original recipe and swapped out the Fillo dough (an ingredient I wasn’t familiar with) for my favorite crescent rolls!  This made a wonderful appetizer that I can’t wait to make again!

Bruschetta Tart
Adapted from Foodies at Work

1 tube of refrigerated crescent rolls
Slices of fresh mozzarella
1 ripe tomato, seeds removed and diced
1 handful fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet lightly with non stick spray.

Unroll the crescent rolls, tearing along the perforations into 4 rectangles.  Using your fingers, press the middle perforation together.  Roll each rectangle lightly with a rolling pin to smooth it out.

Place the rectangles on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes or until just beginning to brown. 

Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and chiffonade the basil.  To chiffonade, roll several basil leaves tightly together, then slice the roll with a knife, producing long ribbons.  Mix the tomatoes and basil together in a bowl, set aside.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven.  Turn the oven to broil.

Place mozzarella slices on top of the crescents.  Return to the oven, watching very carefully.  Broil for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melty and the crust is deeply browned.

Cut each tart into thirds.  Serve each tart topped with the tomato-basil mixture.  Enjoy immediately.

Serves 2-4, appetizer servings


Like Secret Recipe Club?  Here’s My Previous Post:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chocolate Banana Muffins

Earlier this week, as I was on the phone chatting with my mom, my 3 year old came up to me with a request, “Mama, I want a muffin,” he said.

When I informed him that I didn’t have a muffin, he said, “I want a chocolate muffin.” 

Oh, the simplicity of being three, who can argue with that? 

So off we went to the computer and found a lovely chocolate muffin that I had bookmarked a while back and we made some chocolate muffins.  My little guy was so happy with his muffins – he has been eating them for breakfast and snacking on them all week!  These muffins are also a mommy pleaser, packing in some whole wheat flour, and bananas while also being pretty low in sugar and added oil. 

Chocolate Banana Muffins

½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup natural cocoa powder
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 large bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3-4 tsp peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas and sour cream until well combined.  Whisk in the egg, sugar, oil, and vanilla until blended. 

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined; there will still be a few streaks of flour visible.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Fill each muffin liner about half full of batter.  Add a small amount of peanut butter (½ - ¾ tsp) centered on top of the batter.  Top the peanut butter with the remaining batter.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops of the muffins spring back when pressed down gently.  Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Then remove from the pan and cool on wire racks.

These muffins are delicious cooled or warm, but for a gooey peanut butter center, I recommend microwaving the cooled muffins for 20-30 seconds before eating.

Makes 12 muffins


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Margarita Pizza on the Grill

Just last fall I made pizza on the grill for the first time.  Grilled pizza takes on a wonderfully smokey flavor and cooks up in no time flat.  In fact, you don’t even need a pan!

Grilled pizza is a wonderful way to enjoy pizza in the summer without heating up the house or paying for a delivery pizza.  Of course, you can add any of your favorite toppings to a grilled pizza, but I am partial to the fresh summery ingredients of a Margarita Pizza!

Margarita Pizza on the Grill
An Amy Original

3 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp minced garlic
1 recipe pizza dough* (options follow)
2 small tomatoes, diced
Handful of fresh basil
2 cups mozzarella cheese (fresh or shredded)

Make (or thaw) your dough, rising and proofing as necessary.

Preheat the grill to medium heat.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and minced garlic.  Microwave for 30 seconds to infuse the oil with garlic.  Set aside.

Dice the tomatoes and place them in a bowl.  Shred the basil and place it in a second bowl.  Get the mozzarella ready in a third bowl.  Set near the grill.

Roll the dough into a thin 10-inch circle (or if you have a lot of dough, roll it into two smaller circles).

Using a pizza peel, slide the dough directly onto the grill grates (don’t worry it won’t fall through).  Use a pastry brush to coat the top of the dough with the garlic olive oil.  Quickly close the grill lid and let the dough cook for 2-3 minutes.  If your grill has hot or cool spots, you may need to rotate the dough halfway through.  When done on the bottom, the bottom should be brown with some char lines.

Using the pizza peel, flip the dough over, so the uncooked side is on the bottom.  Quickly brush a layer of olive oil on top of the dough and add the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil (all while on the grill).  Close the lid and allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the bottom is cooked and the cheese is melted.

Remove from the grill with the pizza peel and serve…perhaps with a nice bottle of wine!

*Dough options:
Multigrain bread (coming soon)
Frozen Bread Dough
Your favorite pizza or bread dough


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Family Game Night and Snacks

Hey everyone!  Don’t miss my guest post today over at Or So She Says!

I took a step away from the kitchen on this one and shared one of my favorite games For Family Game Night.  We call it the sticky note game, but you may remember it as a version of the telephone game (yes, the one from grade school!)

So pop on over to Or So She Says and say, “Hi!”

And in the meantime, if you need a delicious snack for you family game night might I suggest one of these delicious treats:

If you like a salty snack, you might want

Don’t forget the

Or maybe you’d like something more substantial, like

If you family is more the sweet snack type, perhaps you’d enjoy

Or a the decadent

Can’ decide?  Want the best of both worlds?  How about a salty-sweet treat?

Happy Game Night & Snacking!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Julius

Growing up, one of my favorite treats was a Strawberry Julius from Orange Julius.  So when I moved away from home and to a town without an Orange Julius, I was a bit dismayed.

Fast forward to now and a recipe for a homemade Julius (and my town finally got an Orange Julius—just this summer!)  The original recipe calls for a raw egg white.  The egg white is said to improve the texture of the drink.  I was a little nervous about pasturing my own eggs, so I went ahead and used meringue powder instead.  I was pleased with both the texture and the flavor of the drink, but if you’d like to pasteurize your own egg whites, be sure the check out the original recipe!

Homemade Strawberry Julius
Adapted from Baking Bites

1 ½ cups (8 oz) fresh strawberries, stems removed
¾ cup water
2 tsp meringue powder + 2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup sugar
2 cups ice

In a small bowl, whisk together the meringue powder and 2 tablespoons of water.

Pour the meringue mixture, strawberries, water, vanilla, sugar, and ice into a blender.  Mix 2-3 minutes or until completely smooth.  Pour into glasses and garnish with additional strawberries.

Makes 3 drinks


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumble Topping

Last week, we took the family on a little excursion for this:

After picking a bushel of strawberries fresh of the vine, it was only a question of what to do with these beautiful strawberries.  Since the red rhubarb in my garden was flourishing, the obvious answer was pie.  And what a pie it was, especially with freshly picked strawberries and rhubarb!

This pie is actually a bit of a cross between a pie and a strawberry crisp.  It has a fabulously buttery, flakey crust like a pie, but a sweet, slightly crunchy crumble topping, like a crisp.  Add those in with the addition of some warm spices in the filling and this pie is sure to please.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumble Topping
Adapted from The Big Fat Baker


½ tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
2-3 tbsp cold water

1 ¼ cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered
1 ½ cups red rhubarb, diced

Crumble Topping
½ cup cold butter, cut in small pieces
½ cup flour
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup old fashioned oats

To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium sized bowl.

Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter pieces into the flour until it forms pea sized crumbles.

Beginning with 2 tablespoons of water, sprinkle the water over the flour and butter mixture and lightly mix until it forms a ball.  Add additional water if necessary.

Lightly flour a surface and roll the dough into a 12-inch round (this should fit a 9-inch pan).  Gently fold the dough in half twice (into quarters) and place in the pie plate.  Gently unfold the crust and press onto the sizes of the pan.  Poke the bottom with a fold several times to prevent air bubbles.

Bake the crust of 10 minutes, set aside.


Make the filling:
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and spices.

Add the cut up fruit to the sugar mixture and stir to coat.  Make sure it is well mixed.  Set aside.

Make the crumble topping:
Mix together the remaining flour, sugars, and oats until well combined.  Cut the butter into the oat mixture until it forms large crumbles that stick together.

Pour the filling into the partially baked crust and sprinkle with the crumble topping.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the top is browned.

Allow the pie to set for at least 1 hour and serve.  This is delightful served a little warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Makes 1 9-inch pie


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

S’mores Bark

It’s no secret that I love s’mores.  I’ve been known to get my s’more fix with cupcakes and cookies.  But while each of these treats were delicious in their own right, they just weren’t as heavenly as a true s’more, mostly because the ratios were all off.  The cupcakes had too much chocolate in relation to the marshmallow and graham and the cookies had too much “cookie” in them.  This had to be remedied.

But how could I reinvent one of my favorite treats without a fire pit or using another dessert as a vehicle?  Then I remembered cookie bark and the light bulb turned on.  Graham crackers, covered with melted chocolate and marshmallows, stuck under the broiler and chilled.  Perfection!

S’mores Bark
An Amy Original

8 graham crackers, broken in quarters, divided
12 oz semi sweet chocolate
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 (1.55 oz) Hershey bar, broken into 12 pieces

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (not parchment or waxed paper). 

Arrange all but two graham cracker quarters in a rectangle on the lined baking sheet.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate using your preferred method (I use my double boiler, but you could also microwave the chocolate in 30 second increments). 

Once the chocolate is fully melted and smooth, pour it over the graham crackers, smoothing it evenly with a spatula.  Some chocolate will go between the crackers and may go over the edges.

Quickly pour the mini marshmallows over the melted chocolate.  Move the tray to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to harden the chocolate slightly.  Preheat oven to broil.

Remove the tray from the refrigerator and place it under the broiler (this is why we’re using aluminum foil instead of parchment paper!)  Leaving the oven open a crack, broil the bark for 1-2 minutes, watching constantly, until the marshmallows are lightly browned.

Remove the tray from the oven.  Quickly place the Hershey pieces into the melted chocolate and marshmallow.  Crumble the remaining 2 quarters of graham cracker into the melted chocolate as well.

Return the tray to the refrigerator for 1 hour or until the chocolate is completely hardened.  Break the S’more bark into smaller pieces.  Serve cold and refrigerate leftovers.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Firecracker Ranch Burgers

There is just something about a hot summer day that just begs for a great hamburger on the grill.  Maybe it’s just because dinner gets done without heating the house up.  Maybe it’s because grilling season is super short in this part of the country.  Or just maybe it’s because grilling means my husband does the cooking…well, as long as I do the prep and the sides.

Regardless of the reason, this burger has just the right amount of kick to make it fantastic and delicious, perfect for a hot summer day.  Perhaps with a margarita or sangria?  Yes, perhaps.

Firecracker Ranch Burgers
An Amy Original

1 lb lean ground beef
1 tbsp ranch powder
¼ tsp oregano
¼ - ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
4 hamburger buns
Tomato slices
1 ripe avocado
4 cheese slices (I used Monterey jack)

Preheat the grill to medium heat

In a bowl, mix the beef, ranch powder, oregano, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper until well combined.  It is easiest to use disposable cleaning gloves (so you don’t get meat under your nails *shudder*) and mix it with your hands.

Separate the meat mixture into 4 equal sized balls and form into patties (I go no more than ½ inch thick so they can cook through completely and aren’t red in the middle *double shudder*).  Grill for 10-15 minutes or until completely cooked.  In the last minute of cooking, place the cheese on the patties and allow it to melt.

When the burgers are about done, spray a skillet with cooking spray and place the buns, cut side down, in the skillet to lightly toast.

Top 4 bun halves with burgers, tomato, and spinach.  Spread the avocado on the other half and place on top.

Serves 4




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