Google Amy's Cooking Adventures: January 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

I don’t have a great picture of this cake, but it is too good not to share!  Like most of the cakes I bake, this one starts with a box of cake mix and with a few carefully selected ingredients to enhance the flavor and moisture of the cake.

The result of this doctored up mix is a cake with a moist, soft crumb and a rich chocolate flavor that is to die for!  Top with your favorite chocolate frosting and you have a winner!

Recipe Notes:
*I baked the cake in thin layers, so I wouldn’t have to torte it later.  To make the cake in a single 9x13 inch pan, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake for 28-30 minutes.
*As I stacked the layers, I filled them with my favorite buttercream frosting.
*I frosted the cake with a batch of Hershey Perfectly Chocolate Frosting.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Take 5 Brownies

It’s been awhile since I shared a fabulous brownie.  And what better way then to make a salty sweet Take 5-esque brownie?

If you’ve never enjoyed a Take 5 bar, it’s basically a candy bar full of caramel, peanut butter, and pretzels, coated in chocolate.  It’s amazing (I’ve even made a Take 5 cookie!)

These brownies resemble a Take 5 with a chocolate brownie filled with caramel bits, then topped with pretzels and peanut butter cups.  So basically: perfect!

Recipe Notes:
*Baking the brownie mix for 5 minutes before adding the toppings allows the brownie to set up just enough that the toppings sink in slightly but not all the way to the bottom.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Soft & Crispy Steak Tacos

Since I just shared a fabulous cheese dip, I thought I’d also share another steak taco!  Ever since I honeymooned in Mexico (almost 6 years ago!!) I have been in love with steak tacos.

I love this steak taco because it has the speed of a ground beef taco and is made stove top, but has all the wonderful flavor and heat of a marinated steak taco.  Even my four year old enjoyed these tacos (well the steak part, at least!)

Even better, these tacos have the best of both worlds: soft AND hard taco shells, glued together with a generous amount of refried beans.  Best ever!

Recipe Notes:
*These tacos were quite spicy.  If you want to tone down the heat, I suggest using half the amount of jalapeno or omitting it completely.
*These tacos would be equally delicious using soft or hard tacos, instead of both.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Qdoba Three-Cheese Queso Copycat

The Superbowl is coming up (in two weeks, I know, but it's always time for queso) and the Packers aren’t in it (boo!)  I’m not a huge sports fan, but I come from a long line of die-hard Packer fans, so sporting a cheesehead just comes naturally to me.

Though the Packers will not be playing, I figure I can still give them a little shout out with this amazing (Cheesy) appetizer.

As with any copycat recipe, this is not a perfect duplicate of my beloved Qdoba Queso, but it is a pretty good approximation!  With the addition of cayenne at the end, this actually ends up being a spicier version of the original, which can be good or bad depending on your crowd (good in our case).  There is also a slight graininess to the texture that isn’t perfect, but not enough to dissuade anyone from consuming boatloads of queso, looking longingly at the empty ramekins wondering, “Why is the queso gone?”

 Qdoba Three-Cheese Queso Copycat

2 poblano peppers
1 (10 oz) container Philadelphia Cooking Crème, Original flavor
1 (8 oz) package Mexican Shredded Cheese
3 Roma tomatoes, finely diced, seeds discarded
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp paprika
¼ cup water
Cayenne pepper to taste

Place the peppers (whole) on a baking sheet and place under the broiler.  Broil, turning occasionally, until the peppers are blackened on all sides.  Move the baking sheet to a wire rack.  Use aluminum foil to form a tent around the peppers.  Cool for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers, peel the blackened skin off of the peppers.  Carefully twist the stems to remove the stems and seeds.  Scoop out any of the remaining seeds.  Discard the seeds, stems, and peels.  Dice the remaining parts of the peppers finely.

Place the chopped peppers and tomatoes in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes begin to soften.  Add in the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, paprika, cooking crème, and Mexican cheese.  Stir over medium heat until the cheeses are melted.

Add the water and cayenne pepper and stir for an additional minute.  Serve in ramekins with tortilla chips.

print recipe

Qdoba Three-Cheese Queso Copycat
Copycat Qdoba Queso is a restaurant favorite at home!
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 10 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup water
Place the peppers (whole) on a baking sheet and place under the broiler. Broil, turning occasionally, until the peppers are blackened on all sides. Move the baking sheet to a wire rack. Use aluminum foil to form a tent around the peppers. Cool for 30 minutes.Using your fingers, peel the blackened skin off of the peppers. Carefully twist the stems to remove the stems and seeds. Scoop out any of the remaining seeds. Discard the seeds, stems, and peels. Dice the remaining parts of the peppers finely.Place the chopped peppers and tomatoes in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes begin to soften. Add in the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, paprika, cooking crème, and Mexican cheese. Stir over medium heat until the cheeses are melted. Add the water and cayenne pepper and stir for an additional minute. Serve in ramekins with tortilla chips.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3 cups

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chocolate Mint Cookies

After all that soup, I think we all deserve some cookies!  And let me tell you, these are not going to last very long.  There is no egg in this cookie (weird, right?) but that fact makes them so soft, they just melt in your mouth.  I’m going to keep this short today.  I need to get to the gym, because I, uh, pretty much ate this whole batch by myself.

Recipe Notes:
*There is no egg in this recipe which makes a very soft, but very delicate cookie, so be careful when moving them!
*These cookies also dry out quickly, so be sure to enjoy them within a couple days of baking them (like that will be a problem!)
*I used a bag of mint M&M’s that I got on Christmas clearance.  If you don’t have a mint M&M hoard like me, just add in a bag of mint chips, such as Andes Mint bits.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Skinny Baked Potato Soup

Are you sick of soup yet?  Just one last one (I promise (for now))!

Last week, I posted a recipe for Loaded Cheesy Potato Soup, and it was fabulous.  But would you believe me if I told you that I actually liked this lightened up baked potato soup even better?  That’s right, the low calorie version with more cauliflower than potato ranks a bit higher for me!  Even my husband enjoyed this soup.  In fact, he didn’t even notice the cauliflower before I told him about it (I think adding in the broccoli helps.)

Recipe Notes:
*I don’t peel my potatoes before adding them to soup, because I love the extra nutrients found in the skin.
*As always, I used large red potatoes in my soup.  Use any potatoes you have on hand.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chicken & Rice

Today I’m sharing with you the ultimate sick day comfort food (because you know at some point this winter someone in your house is going to get a nasty cold).  This Chicken & Rice dish has all of the comfort and flavor of homemade chicken noodle soup, but it is made up in a fraction of the time (under 30 minutes!)   So the next time you feel the sniffles coming on, just whip up a bowl and Chicken & Rice and you’re sure to start feeling better soon!

I'm guest posting today over at Passionately Artistic, so don't forget to stop by and say hi and get the full recipe!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Loaded Cheesy Potato Soup

Who likes cheesy potatoes?  (Arms waving wildly in the air) I do!    How about in soup form with a beer base.  MMmmmm.

So, this is another not all that diet friendly soup (but I have a couple of those coming—pinky swear!), but as most rich soups are, deliciously satisfying.  I’ve cut down the calories a bit by replacing some half and half with fat free milk and cutting the butter by over half, so we can feel a bit less guilty about enjoying this soup (even during New Year’s Resolution time) – after all, it’s all about moderation!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hearty Roasted Tomato Soup

This past fall, I saw all sorts of beautiful tomato soups with these adorable little grilled cheese sandwich croutons.  I just couldn’t help but make my own!  But of course, it had to have my own twist.  Many tomato soups call for a large amount of heavy cream.  It tastes great, but really ups the calories without adding anything substantial.  Cue garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas).  The garbanzos add depth and creaminess to the soup while also making it more filling and substantial.

And then those cute little croutons!  I jut couldn’t help but make mini sandwiches from a baguette I bought at the grocery store.  It was just perfect for grilled cheese croutons!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I love soup!  Soup of any kind is the ultimate comfort food.  It’s perfect when it is cold outside and it’s perfect if you’re under the weather.

Since winter has finally taken hold (maybe) I thought I’d have a soup week!  We’ll start things off with a delicious (not so diet friendly) broccoli cheese soup!  This is a rich, creamy, vegetarian soup is wonderful when you are craving something special without the meat.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Perfect Garlic Toast

When ever I serve spaghetti or a pasta dish with a red sauce, I love to a slice (or 3) of garlic toast.  Of course, you can buy pre-buttered garlic toast, but that butter stuff kind of freaks me out.  Plus I absolutely love biting into a fresh piece of bread.

The key to the perfect garlic toast is a lot of butter and toasting the bread on both sides.  Perfection!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

I was just getting ready to schedule this post about some delicious biscuits and gravy this morning, when I looked outside and saw this:

Isn't it stunning?  If there's one positive thing about enduring the cold winter, it is the beautiful sunrises--plus the sunrises much later in the morning, at a time I'm more likely to be awake! (That's my neighbor's pool, by the way, not mine...I have a sandbox...)  So...back to that gravy!

Would you believe that the first time I had biscuits and gravy was two years ago at a church benefit brunch?  Despite the fact that the meal was cooked in bulk, I was hooked!  Unfortunately these church brunches don’t happen often and I had to wait and entire year before I was able to enjoy my beloved biscuits and gravy again!

While I waited for more church dinners, I never thought to make biscuits and gravy at home, because something so good just had to be complicated (though they were serving at a church dinner which usually means the opposite—kind of a “duh” moment for me).  So imagine my surprise when I discovered that biscuits and gravy takes a total of 3 ingredients plus salt and pepper and is super easy to make!  It was definitely a happy day in my house!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Smoked Sausage & Black Eyed Pea Soup

Black eyed peas are traditionally thought to bring good luck if eaten on New Years Day.  The tradition seems to have varied origins, from many different cultures.  In the United States, the origins seem to be found in Southern States and may date back to the Civil War.

Since I am from a northern state, I didn’t grow up with these traditions, but I like the idea of having a bit of luck and prosperity in the New Year.  So, I decided to try my hand at some black eyed peas this year.

This simple soup really hit the spot after all of the overindulgence of New Years Eve (and it was especially good, since I am nursing a nasty cold!)  I do believe I have found a new New Years tradition!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Champagne Cupcakes

Happy New Year!

Can you believe it is already 2012?

This year, instead of New Years Resolutions, I am choosing a word that I hope will be my theme for 2012.  My word this year is:


It may not seem like a very exciting theme, but I think it is perfect for where I am in my life right now.  Acceptance will have many facets this year.

First, I want to accept myself.  I first began my journey to acceptance this past fall, when I acknowledged that I am not the greatest housekeeper (read: organized chaos or cooking = giant mess).  After I acknowledged this about myself, I realized that I was happier, because I didn’t have to pretend anymore.   Now that I have accepted I think it will be easier to make improvements.

Next, I want to accept others, especially my beautiful children.  I want to continue to love them for their individual personalities without comparing them to others. 

Lastly, I want to accept circumstances that I can’t change instead of worrying needlessly.  In all honesty, this will probably be the most difficult, but I think I will a happier person because of it.

So, to toast this year’s theme, I thought we’d have some Champagne Cupcakes!  Here’s to a happy & prosperous 2012!  Cheers!

Note: Yes, I know that only Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France.  I also know that I used “sparkling wine”.  But we’re calling these Champagne cupcakes anyway. Deal.

 Recipe Notes:
*When preparing the garnish, cookie cutters are optional, you can also break up the candy into shards, which also look very nice.
*Be sure to use small, metal cookie cutters when dealing with melted candy.

Champagne Cupcakes

½ cup canola oil
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup champagne
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup, plus 2 tbsp flour
¼ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda

Champagne Butter Cream
½ cup vegetable shortening
2 cups powdered sugar
½ tbsp meringue powder
4-5 tbsp champagne
Pinch of salt

Jolly Ranchers or other hard candy
Small cookie cutters

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with 8 liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the oil, salt and sugar on medium-high for about 2 minutes.

Turn the speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are well combined before adding another.  Add in the champagne and vanilla; beat until combined.

Lightly sprinkle the flour, baking powder, and baking soda on top of the batter.  Mix on medium-low until combined.

Fill each muffin cup about ¾ full and bake for 19-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Move to wire racks and cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the garnish by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper and spraying desired cookie cutters with non stick spray.  Arrange the candies in a square shape in the center of the pan.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes or until the candy is melted.  Be sure to check the candy frequently, so it does not begin to bubble or foam.

Move the baking sheet to a wire rack and immediately place the cookie cutters into melted candy.  Allow the candy to cool and harden with the cookie cutters in place.

Once the candy is hardened and cool, carefully break the candy to remove the cookie cutters and the shaped candy.  Break up any left over candy for additional garnish.

Once the garnish and cupcakes have cooled, begin the icing.

Combine the shortening, powdered sugar, meringue powder, salt, and 4 tablespoons of champagne (add the additional tablespoon to thin the icing, if needed) in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on low until combined. Beat on medium high until fluffy; 1-2 minutes.  Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a Wilton tip 1M.  Swirl the icing onto the cupcakes and garnish with candy pieces.

Makes 8 cupcakes




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