Tag Archives: recipe

Strawberry Basil Sangria from Pinterest

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It’s a running joke among my friends that my life is now controlled by Pinterest. From my holiday decorations to just my regular apartment decor, I draw a lot of inspiration from Pinterest.

I don’t see anything wrong with that since that’s the whole purpose of the site. It can get a little embarrassing however when I’m continually telling people that practically everything in my life – from my outfits to my food – comes from Pinterest. Where’s the originality?

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Well, this sangria is no different although I wish I could tell you that I was the person to come up with it.

About a month ago, I saw a pin for strawberry basil sangria and could barely wait to bring another pin to life. With just a few simple ingredients – strawberries, basil, apples, sugar, white wine, white grape juice, and club soda – I had a light and delicious drink that was perfect for the upcoming summer season. I differed from the original recipe slightly by chopping my basil instead of scoring it and using Pinot Grigio instead of the recommended Chardonnay. My only criticism was that I could taste too much of the grape juice for my personal preference, so next time I would probably cut back on the juice, and add it to my taste preference.

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A very happy drink, indeed.

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Just wait until tomorrow when I show you what I paired the drink with for dinner!

Mint Oreo Truffles

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The other weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Lydia’s birthday party. I was quite excited since Lydia was planning the party herself and she has a great eye for details and all things fabulous. Although she would protest, she really would make a great event planner.

My friendship with Lydia goes a long way back, all the way to infancy, in fact. Before I moved to Florida when I was seven, I spent a great deal of time with Lydia from playing with our Littlest Pet Shop toys, sleeping over at each other’s houses, and attending one another’s birthday parties – I have a lot of childhood memories that include Lydia. After moving away to Florida, Lydia and I became pen pals and would write each other letters once to twice a month (this was before email became standard). So it was very special to reunite for a birthday celebration after missing the last 18 or so in our lives.

I’m on the left and Lydia’s on the right in the picture below.

True to her style, Lydia’s party was indeed fabulous. I think I nearly died three times that night from a food coma. You should check out her birthday recap for the full scoop of what was on the menu since everything she served was delectably tasty. Cookie dough cheesecake, anyone?

What really won me over though was the plate full of mint Oreo truffles.

Yes, mint.

Yes, mint Oreos in fact.

Yes, you read that right. Mint Oreo truffles.

When I was ready to leave the party, Lydia was kind enough to offer me some truffles to take home. I thought it would be rude to say that I would take them all (and the other half of that cookie dough cheesecake as well), so I very politely said that I would take two truffles – one for me and one for Mister E to enjoy the next day.

Except, let’s be real here. The next morning I woke up with a possible sugar hangover and two beautiful mint Oreo truffles staring at me in the face. Do you really think I was generous enough to save one for Mister E?

If you said yes, then you do not know me at all.

So naturally, I had to make my own batch of truffles. Whether I made them to give Mister E a chance to taste them or made them for myself so that I could eat as many as I wanted without judgement is not important. What is important is that these truffles are disproportionately tasty for being so simple to make.

Edits

Mint Oreo Truffles

(recipe adapted from Kraft and inspired by Lydia)
  1. Crush a container of mint Oreo cookies either in a food processor or in a plastic bag using a rolling pin
  2. Transfer cookie crumbs to a large bowl
  3. Stir in one package of softened cream cheese (I used non-fat)
  4. Roll mixture into 1 teaspoon size balls and place onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet
  5. Freeze the truffle balls (not completely necessary but freezing makes the truffles easier to work with)
  6. Melt chocolate (or the preferred Wilton green Candy Melts) at 30 second intervals in the microwave
  7. Dip frozen balls into melted chocolate (with the help of a fork or toothpick) and place onto a wax paper lined plate
  8. Optional – drizzle more melted chocolate on top
  9. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freeze for longer storage

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After Lydia told me how she made her mint Oreo truffles, I realized that I had used the same Kraft recipe to make original Oreo truffles years ago for my coworkers. I remember not being all that impressed at all with how they turned out and pretty much wrote the whole recipe off.

Let me reiterate here, these mint Oreo truffles are so delicious and beat out the original kind by a landslide! I think the use of the Wilton Candy Melts instead of chocolate also makes a huge difference.

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I’m surprised that I would even have to say this, but milk is a necessity of course.

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Oh, and I should warn you. You know how sometimes you make cookies but then freeze them all to help with portion control? It makes it easy to just pop one or two cookies out of the freezer at a time to satisfy a craving instead of eating the entire batch? Well, that’s what I planned to do with these truffles. Except there’s a catch. They’re still delicious when frozen! The inside part of the truffle doesn’t completely freeze, so it’s similar to eating an ice cream sandwich. Alright, you’ve been warned now. You’re going to have to find a better hiding spot than the freezer for these babies.

Hot Crab and Mushroom Dip

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Growing up, I read the newspaper every single day. I would get home from school, grab a package of peanut butter crackers and pour myself a tall glass of Crystal Light Raspberry Ice and settle into the booth in the kitchen with the newspaper in hand. I would always start with the Living section, which was really the best section since it usually included the celebrity gossip column, the horoscopes, the Dear Abby column, the comics, and any articles that had to do with food or fashion. All the most important things to a teenager, obviously. Once I had finished with the Living section, I would then move to the actual front page news. I would skim through all the articles, stopping to actually read only the ones with headlines that really caught my attention.

After going away to college, I stopped reading the paper. It’s so convenient to find my news online to read, and with Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, I have more than enough options with finding interesting articles to read through social media. However, during the few times that I get to go back to my parent’s house in the year, I always fall right back into habit of reading the newspaper on a daily basis in the kitchen booth. Starting with the Living section, naturally.

While I was home for Christmas last year, I came across a large article on how to host a party for New Year’s Eve right on the front page of the Living section. The article gave a couple different party ideas along with a handful of recipes to make. One of the recipes was for Hot Crab and Mushroom Dip which peaked my interest enough that I went as far as to tear the recipe out of the newspaper.

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The recipe sounded so fancy that I knew I would have to save it for a special occasion. I didn’t have to wait too long as my friend, Jennifer, decided to host a Valentine’s Day party in February. A party celebrating the supposedly most romantic day of the year certainly seemed like a special enough occasion to pull the crab dip recipe out of reserves.

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While the ingredient list is a little bit lengthy for my taste and the steps are a little bit involved, I’m so glad that I gave the recipe a chance. The dip was a huge hit at the party and I was definitely a fan of it. The recipe is from The Neelys’ and can be found here. I made a few adjustments like always, most notably the substitution of Greek yogurt for some of the half-and-half. I swear, I think I would try to sneak Greek yogurt into every meal if it possible!

Hot Crab and Mushroom Dip

recipe adapted from here

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 12 oz. lump crabmeat (fresh or canned)
  • 2 Tbsp parsley
  • 1-1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the half a stick of butter. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and shallot to the pan and cook for three minutes. Add the flour and stir the mixture for about one minute. Pour in the half-and-half and stir until the mixture starts to thicken, about three minutes. Add in the Greek yogurt and continue to stir for an additional two to three minutes. Pour in the white wine and add the fontina and Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese melts and blends into the mixture. Gently stir in the crabmeat and parsley. Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper. Add more if necessary to adjust for taste. Pour the dip mixture into a baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Serving with lightly salted pita chips is highly recommended.

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Like I said, this recipe isn’t a quick, throw-together-in-ten-minutes sort of thing. However, the results are absolutely delicious and are sure to impress. Just be prepared to see the dip disappear out of the bowl all too quickly!

Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Filling

This weekend I died and went to heaven. At least, I think it was heaven. It sort of smelled like coconut. Come to think of it… it even tasted like coconut. You know what, I think that I might have just mistaken my kitchen this past weekend for heaven. Never mind me.

So here’s the thing about coconut. As a kid, I never had the desire to try coconut (along with a lot of other similarly ‘weird’ foods) and did my best to avoid it all together. Well, at the ripe old age of six, I decided to put my fears aside and try coconut in the form of Samoas (otherwise known as Caramel deLites) Girl Scout cookies. It took a second cookie to help me make up my mind, but I finally decided that coconut was something that I could warm up to (as long as chocolate and caramel continued to be invited to the party too). Well, as my fortune would have it, I was struck with a bug that day and became violently ill no less than ten minutes after finishing my second cookie. I had the distinct displeasure of seeing all of the cookies come right back up and I just knew, I knew, that it had to have been the coconut that made me sick. And thus ended my brief affair with coconut.

It would take another fifteen years for me to give coconut another chance. When I finally did give it another go, I believe it was in the form of a coconut mojito. And even though it might not be quite fair since anything would be delicious with the word mojito following it, I found that I very much enjoyed the coconut flavor. And that is where my relationship with coconut stands today. Coconut flavoring? Best friends. A match made in heaven. The peanut butter to my jelly. Coconut flakes? We’re more like frenemies. I’m friendly to its face, but I’ll never forgive it for making me sick all those years ago.

But enough with the negativity. Let’s get to the cupcakes. I really wasn’t intending to make any sweets for Easter, even though I kept the idea of these sweet bird nest cupcakes (coconut flakes, and all) in the back of my mind just in case. But of course when I stumbled upon these sweet pink baking cups mixed in between all the other holiday items on the store shelf, I just couldn’t resist buying them. Just in case I got the urge to bake.

Well, the urge hit this past weekend. Hard. Just in time for Easter, too. I had it in my head that I absolutely must find a way to combine coconut and lemon together because nothing would scream SPRING IS HERE like those two flavors combined. I spent some time brainstorming before deciding that I would adapt this recipe for Aloha cake to my needs. I originally thought I was going to make a lemon frosting, but after trying the cupcake on its own, it was pretty much decided for me that it needed the coconut frosting more.

Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Filling

for the coconut cupcakes (recipe adapted from here):

  • 1 box of white cake mix + ingredients called out on mix
  • 3 teaspoons of coconut extract

for the lemon filling:

  • 1 package of Lemon instant pudding or
  • 1 package of Vanilla instant pudding + 2 tsp lemon extract

for the coconut frosting (recipe adapted from here):

  • 1 stick (8-Tbsp) of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Prepare the cake mix according to the box directions and mix in the coconut extract. Pour the mixture into a lined muffin tin and back 20-25 minutes (follow the guidance on the box for cooking times). While the cupcakes bake, prepare the filling by making the instant pudding (stir in lemon extract at the end if using the vanilla instant pudding). Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, use a small knife to cut a cone shape out of the cupcake. Slice the tip off of the cones. Spoon the filling into the cupcakes, and replace the base of the cone back onto the cupcake (see below for an example). To make the frosting, beat the butter with 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. While continuing to beat mixture, slowly add in the remaining confectioners’ sugar. Add in the skim milk and coconut extract last and continue to beat mixture for an additional minute. Frost cupcakes and decorate with lemon zest if desired. Yields 20-24 cupcakes.

Coconut and Lemon Cupcakes

I feel like I always say this every time I try a new dessert, but I swear, these cupcakes are my all-time favorite sweet item! They are so perfectly fluffy and moist with just the right amount of sweetness so that it’s not too rich tasting. When Mister E tried one, he died and joined me in my coconut bliss heaven. He claimed that the cupcakes were too good for me to give out the recipe to anyone, and that I should just sell the cupcakes instead. I decided not to tell him how easy these were to make and just went ahead and let him think that I made them from scratch. No need to give out all my secrets, right?

Healthified Buffalo Chicken Dip

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You didn’t think I would serve just cake at Mister E’s birthday party, did you? Of course not! I had to have something savory to balance out all that sweet frosting. Being that the party was to start at 7 p.m., I went back and forth for a while over whether to serve a real dinner or a spread of appetizers. I didn’t necessarily want to go through all the effort of making a full meal, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to leave any guest who might have skipped dinner starving. So, ultimately I settled somewhere in the middle and decided to serve up some hearty appetizers.

It wasn’t difficult to come up with my first appetizer – mini burger sliders with a condiment bar. However, deciding what to serve alongside the sliders was proving to be a challenge. The guests were mostly Mister E’s guy pals, so I wanted to keep a “manly” theme for the food. After tossing out such options like mini bbq chicken pizzas and beef empanadas, my friend finally suggested the answer to my problem – Buffalo Chicken Dip.

Mister E and I had tried buffalo chicken dip once before several years ago at a party. We were both smitten after the first bite and I even raved to my mother how she absolutely had to make this dip for my brother. Well, life happened and as time went on, I completely forgot all about the hot and creamy dip.

I did a little searching around online and finally settled on this recipe to use. After I had finally completed all of the cake madness on the day of Mister E’s birthday party, I got to work on making the buffalo chicken dip. The main ingredients to the dip are: chicken, cream cheese, Ranch dressing, blue cheese, hot sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Actually, those are all the ingredients. Pretty simple, huh? The only deviation I made to the recipe was to use poached chicken that I shredded in place of the canned chicken. All the ingredients were combined in a small baking dish and then baked in the oven until everything was hot, gooey, and golden on top.

The dip turned out to be such a hit at the party! Everyone loved it, but me most of all since there was just enough for me to enjoy leftovers the next day. While eating the leftover dip, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty for eating such an indulgent dip two days in a row (along with multiple pieces of the birthday cake). It got me thinking that there just had to be a way to lighten the dip up since a lot of the ingredients weren’t necessarily unhealthy on their own. When going through the list, I narrowed in on the Ranch dressing in all of its full-fat glory as being the main contributor to the unhealthy-ness of the dip. If I could just find a way to replace the dressing, I could eat all the buffalo chicken dip in the world completely guilt free!

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Then it hit me. If I were to mix Ranch seasoning mix with 0% Plain Greek Yogurt, I don’t think anyone would be able to tell the difference once it was mixed in with hot sauce. The very next day I put my theory to test.

Healthified Buffalo Chicken Dip

 

(lightened up from this recipe)

  • 1 8-oz package reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup 0% Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tsp Ranch seasoning mix (more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (more or less to your taste preference)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 large (or 2 small) chicken breasts, poached and shredded
  • celery or tortilla chips for serving

Directions:  Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt with the Ranch seasoning mix. Add more seasoning to taste. In a small baking dish, mix together cream cheese, hot sauce, Greek yogurt mixture, and a 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Stir in blue cheese and chicken. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top of the dip. Place the dish in the oven and cook 20-25 minutes – until the top has begun to turn a golden color.

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The best part about this dip was that I completely forgot that it was “healthified”! It tasted every bit as rich and indulgent as the original version, even when only eaten with the celery sticks. That’s a win in my book!

However, the second best part of this dip would have to be the method I figured out to eat the leftovers on the next day.

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Sometimes piling chips and plopping a big spoonful of dip onto your plate can be less than visually appealing. And we all now what a pain it is when you pile so much food onto your plate that all the sauces and dips end up touching all the other food.

I thought it would be much more practical for a party to serve the buffalo chicken dip in little celery boats, crudite style, making them much easier for guests to grab and hopefully a little less messy to eat. To make the celery boats, I cut the celery stalks into thirds and then shaved a very thin peel off the bottom to make a flat bottom and help ensure that the celery wouldn’t tip over.

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To take the buffalo chicken boats once step higher, let your guests “heat it up” or “cool it down” to their own taste level by setting out additional hot sauce and blue cheese as toppings.

Oh, and yes, for those of paying attention to the sequence of events in this post, I did in fact eat buffalo chicken dip four days straight. But it was mostly with celery sticks, which I’ve been told have negative calories or something like that, so I believe I’m good.

Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade

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Do you know what time it is? Panic time because you can’t figure out what dish you should bring to your next event on your social calendar.

Along with the bustling holiday activities between Thanksgiving and Christmas comes the very busy season of holiday parties, potluck lunches, family dinners, and household guests. I think that the holiday season would be better off being renamed the entertaining season. As you face the prospect of what to make for your coworkers, friends, visiting in-laws, or just for yourself as a midnight snack, let me suggest this sun-dried tomato tapenade. It only requires a few ingredients and comes together in a flash. So much flavor is packed into each bite though that you’re sure to fool your guests into thinking that you hours into making it, not minutes.

Few ingredients = Cheap

Sun-Dried Tomatoes = Flavorful

Prepared in less than 5 minutes = Easy

No Cream = A healthy alternative to the rich, calorie-laden, creamy dips

Pretty much everything you want for a holiday dish!

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While shopping for ingredients, I had some difficulty in finding sun-dried tomatoes. It took quite a bit of searching, but I finally found them in a small section of premium sauces hidden off to the side of the tomato sauce jars. Your local grocer most likely carries them, but just don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t find them right away. Also, note that mine came seasoned in Italian herbs (which was basically garlic and parsley). For that reason, I choose not to add any additional seasoning to my tapenade as noted below.

Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade

  • 1 6-oz can of pitted, black olives (any size), drained
  • approximately 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of capers
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced*
  • 1 teaspoon of dried parsley*

Directions:  In a food processor, add drained olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, and parsley (note: you can omit the garlic and parsley if your tomatoes came pre-seasoned). Pulse on low while drizzling in olive oil (note: you can use the remaining olive oil that your tomatoes were packed in). Continue to pulse for three minutes, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl and push the mixture towards the blades. Transfer mixture to a bowl and serve at room temperature or chilled.

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I would suggest serving your tapenade with pita chips, but you could also serve it with lightly toasted baguette slices or veggies. For mine, I used the following two variety of pita chips and would have to say that they were equally delicious.

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Have leftovers?

If you somehow manage not finish everything to the point that your licking the bowl clean, there are lots of things to do with your leftovers! Top grilled chicken breasts with the tapenade and feta or goat cheese and place under the broiler for a few minutes for an easy, exotic tasting dinner. Or slather some tapenade onto a slice of bread and top with your favorite veggies and hummus for a flavor-exploding sandwich. Get creative!

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Whole Wheat Breakfast Biscuits

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Still looking for something to put your cinnamon apple butter on? Here, let me help you. These whole wheat biscuits should do the trick.

Biscuits are one of those things that just never occurred to me to try making myself before now. Growing up, I really liked opening the Pillsbury canister of premade biscuits and getting scared by the popping sound the container would make when bursting open (I hope you all know what I’m talking about right now).

The great thing about making your own homemade biscuits is that you can feel a little bit better about yourself since you’ll know exactly what’s going into them. Also, they use whole wheat flour which make them a healthier option.

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Whole Wheat Breakfast Biscuits

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) of butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey

Directions:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flours, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2” pieces. Using a pasty blender (or your hands), cut the butter into the flour mixture. Add in heavy cream and honey and continue to mix using the pastry blender until everything is combined. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and using your hands, flatten it out until it’s 1/2” thick. Using a biscuit cutter (or any other round device like a cup), cut out your biscuits and place onto a greased baking pan. Place the pan into the oven and  allow to cook for 15 minutes or until the tops start to turn golden. (A 2” biscuit cutter will yield 8 biscuits.)

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The biscuits come out with a little bit of a crumbly, scone-like texture and are delicious when served warm with apple butter scrambled eggs and ketchup on top.

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If you have any leftover biscuits, store them in the fridge and just pop them into the microwave for 30 seconds when ready to eat again.

Enjoy!