Sunday, November 27, 2011

White Cheese Chicken Enchiladas

Qdoba, Monterrey, Salsaritas, Zapaptas, Azteca, Taco Bell, Taco Boy, you name it, I'll eat it.  Why you might ask???  Because I absolutely love Mexican food!!  To me, it's always such a tough choice having to order at a Mexican restaurant, because everything on the menu sounds and looks so incredibly appetizing.  After much self-debating though, I usually end up settling on a combination plate, where you can get up to three different, individual items.  Usually I get a taco, a beef burrito, and an of course an enchilada, all of which are equally delicious!  I've also had the opportunity to make each of these items at home numerous times, and always enjoy them.  However, the other day, when I was bored, and just perusing the Internet, I happened to find a recipe for a white cheese enchilada that looked positively tempting!  Inspired by the idea, I went out and purchased some ingredients and began cooking.  The results were better than I had hoped for.  I believe that this recipe will become a regular meal in our home!

I would also highly recommend pouring some of the extra sauce on top of tortilla chips! 

White Cheese Chicken Enchiladas
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Makes about 8-10
1 lb. – 1 ½ lbs. chicken
2 tsp. canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
dash of salt
2/3 cup water
2 cups extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
8-10 soft tortillas, (I like to use the Low Carb, La Banderita soft taco, wheat)
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. + ½ tsp. flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13” baking dish; set aside.

Add the canola oil to a large skillet, over medium heat.  Butterfly the pieces of chicken and add to the skillet.  Cook the chicken on each side, until no longer pink, and almost cooked completely through.  Remove the pan from the heat, and shred the chicken (I like to use two forks for this).  Using a piece of paper towel, wipe out the skillet and add back in the chicken and the onion.  Return the skillet to medium heat and cook for a few more minutes, making sure the chicken is completely cooked through and the onions have softened.  Add in the chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, dash of salt, garlic and water.  Stir around with the chicken until all the seasonings have been dissolved and the chicken is well coated.  Let simmer together for about 5 minutes, stirring as needed.  Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

Stack the tortillas on a plate and microwave for 35-45 seconds or until easily pliable.  One by one, place the tortillas on a flat work surface and spoon about 1/3 cup of the chicken down the middle, then sprinkle on some of the cheese.  Tightly roll the tortilla up and lay seam-side down in the prepared 9x13” baking dish.

Lightly spray the rolled up tortillas with cooking spray and place in the oven, uncovered, for about 7-9 minutes, or until they are slightly brown and appear crispy.  (Feel free to skip this step if you don’t like them crunchy.)  Remove from the oven, set aside, and reduce the heat to 400 degrees.

In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add in the flour and stir until well combined, about 1 minute.  Pour in the chicken broth and whisk together until smooth.  Continue to periodically whisk until the sauce becomes thick and bubbly, but DO NOT boil.  Now whisk in the sour cream and the jalapenos until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 1 minute.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat and evenly pour the sauce over the top of the enchiladas.  Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 18-20 minutes, then broil for 2, this will cause the cheese to become that perfect crispy brown. (Skip the broil step, if you don’t like crispy cheese.)

Inspired by, and heavily adapted from: Joyful Mom and Pink Parsley

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Brown (Butter) Sugar Frosting

A few years ago I was over at a friend's house and happened to try a delicious, soft, pumpkin cookie.  At the time, I had never sampled a cookie like them before, and seriously enjoyed both the flavor and how incredibly soft and moist they were.  I knew right away that I'd have to try making them myself sometime, so when I was trying to think of what to add to my Spiced Pumpkin Rum Cheesecake Trifle, it was no surprise that these cookies came to mind.  In the end, they worked out perfectly in the trifle, and also made for a fantastic 2nd dessert!!

Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Brown (Butter) Sugar Frosting
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Makes about 6 dozen
For the cookie:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. ginger
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the frosting:
4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
10 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup, plus 1 Tbsp. evaporated milk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For Cookies:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg; set aside.

Place the butter and brown sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed until light in color and fluffy.  This will take about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed.  Add in the eggs and beat until well blended.  Reduce the mixers speed to low and add in the pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla.  Mix until evenly distributed, this will take about 2 minutes.  Add in all of the flour mixture at once and continue to mix on a low speed until just combined.

Place some of the cookie batter into a pastry bag fitted with Wilton tip #12, and pipe 1 ½ inch rounds onto silicone, or parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Make sure to space cookies about 1 inch apart.  Bake the cookies, for 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, or until the tops of the cookies spring back when gently touched.  Cool the baking sheets on wire rack for about 2 minutes and then transfer the cookies to the wire rack to let cool completely.

For Frosting:
Place the confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter (you are making brown butter).  Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown; about 3 minutes *Word of CAUTION – Do not leave butter unattended or stop swirling, it WILL explode.  Learn from my mistakes.*  Immediately add the butter to the bowl of sugar, scraping brown bits from the pan.  Add evaporated milk and vanilla, whisking together until smooth.  Spread a little frosting onto each cookie.  If the frosting begins to thicken too much, gradually add a little more evaporated milk and stir.

Source: Martha Stewart

Friday, November 25, 2011

Jarlsberg Mac and Cheese with Cracker Topping

If you're looking for a traditional macaroni and cheese recipe, this is not it.  For one thing, it's not as creamy in texture (but still delicious) and for another, it doesn't call for the use of elbow macaroni.  This recipe is however, completely addicting and if you want to substitute the Jarlsberg cheese for your personal favorite, you could. 

I have to thank my local Harris Teeter (grocery store) for the inspiration behind this meal.  Almost every time that I go shopping there, "the cheese lady", as I like to call her, has a tasty display of Jarlsberg cheese ready to be sampled.  And of course, I have to sample it!  If you've never had the opportunity to try Jarlsberg cheese, I highly recommend it.  It might not be the healthiest of cheeses, but it's definitely become one of my favorites, and one that I buy on those special occasions.

Jarlsberg Mac and Cheese with Cracker Topping
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Serves 6-8
1 lb. Cellentani noodles
6 Tbsp. butter
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
2-3 cups Jarlsberg cheese (I think the more the better)
dash of nutmeg
¼ cup crushed butter flavor crackers
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a pot full of water, with a dash of salt, to a boil, and add in the noodles.  Cook the pasta according to package directions, but make sure to remove the noodles from the water about 1 to 2 minutes shy of being al dente.

While the noodles are cooking, place 4 tablespoons of butter in a large bowl.  Next, place the milk and cream in a small sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and cover to keep warm.  (You could also choose to warm the milk and cream in the microwave)  Shred the Jarlsberg cheese and set aside.

Once the noodles are ready, place them in the bowl with the butter and toss around until well coated.  Add in the warm cream and the cheese and stir until the cheese begins to melt.  Sprinkle the cheesy noodles with salt and a dash of nutmeg.  Pour the mixture into a greased (I use PAM) 9x13 inch baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and then add in the cracker crumbs and the parmesan cheese.  Stir around until well combined and then sprinkle the mixture over the noodles.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the top is a nice golden brown color.  This will take about 20 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!!!

Adapted from: Ezra Pound Cake

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spiced Pumpkin Rum Cheesecake Trifle with Pumpkin Cookie Pieces

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope that you're all enjoying your holiday as much as I am!  I feel that I have so much to be thankful for this year including all my wonderful family and friends.  I wish that we could spend this Holiday together, but sometimes it just does not work out.

Even though I may not be hosting a big gathering this year (it's actually just Jeff and I) my kitchen is definitely busy and there are lots of different and wonderful smells coming from it.  Thanksgiving has always been Jeff's favorite holiday, so I decided awhile ago that I'd make a little turkey for the two of us, and some side dishes to go along with it, including a small, but tasty dessert.  And let's be honest....what better recipe is there to start a holiday post with other than dessert?

Happy Turkey Day!!!

Spiced Pumpkin Rum Cheesecake Trifle with Pumpkin Cookie Pieces
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Serves 4
½ cup pumpkin
1 Tbsp. rum
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¾ tsp. light brown sugar
1 package sugar-free, cheesecake Jello pudding
Pumpkin cookies, broken into pieces
1 container cool whip

For pumpkin pudding mixture:
In a small bowl combine the pumpkin, rum, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar.  Stir or whisk together until well blended.

In a medium bowl, prepare the cheesecake Jello pudding according to package directions.  Once the pudding has thickened, this will occur after about 2 minutes of whisking, add in the spiced pumpkin mixture and continue to whisk together until completely incorporated.

To assemble:
Distribute some of the pumpkin cookie pieces evenly across the bottom of the bowls.  Layer the cookie pieces with a little of the pumpkin pudding mixture and top with cool whip.  Repeat the process as needed.

Garnish with a few extra pumpkin cookie pieces and place in the refrigerator.  Let the trifle sit for about an hour before serving.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Buffalo Style Chex Mix

With the holidays just around the corner, I'm always on the lookout for great little appetizers that I don't have to worry about, and can remain on the counter.  This recipe is one of those!  Chex mix always seems to be a favorite snack food around my house, especially when we're playing cards, or watching a movie, so this year I decided I would try making my own batch!  If you don't like it too spicy, you can always cut back on the amount of hot sauce or cayenne pepper.

Buffalo Style Chex Mix
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4 cups Rice Chex® cereal
4 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
2 cups white cheddar Cheez-It
2 cups pretzel sticks (or twists)
2 cups whole almonds
6 tablespoons butter, melted
4-6 tablespoons hot sauce (I use Frank’s)
1 (1 oz.) packet ranch dressing mix
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (more if desired)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

In a large bowl combine the rice chex, wheat chex, white cheddar cheez-it, pretzels, and almonds.  Stir all together and set aside. 

In a roasting pan, stir together the melted butter, hot sauce, and ranch dressing mix until well blended.  Slowly add in the cereal mixture and gently stir together until evenly coated.  Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, and stir around again.  Bake the mixture for 1 hour, stopping every 15 minutes to stir around.

Remove the pan from the oven and spread the Chex mix out on a paper towel to cool.  This will take about 15 minutes.  Keep stored in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Let's Dish

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bacon and Parmesan Pumpkin Risotto

I was so excited when I happened to discover this recipe for pumpkin risotto!  Lately I've been really getting into fall baking (if you haven't already been able to tell by my posts) and this recipe looked absolutely delectable.  It also seemed much easier to make then any other risotto recipe I've tried, and delicious too!!!

The creamy texture, in addition to the amount of spices, are what add to the enticing flavor of this dish.  Garnish with a little bacon and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and you'll wonder how you've gone so long without ever trying this recipe before. 

Bacon and Parmesan Pumpkin Risotto
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2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup chopped onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup long-grain rice or Arborio rice
2 ½ cups chicken broth, divided
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
½ cup heavy cream
2 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter.

Next, add in the onion and cook until tender.  After that, add in the garlic and rice, sautéing for about 1 minute.  Slowly pour in 2 cups of the chicken broth, and add in the salt, black pepper, and nutmeg.  Stir the mixture around until the ingredients are combined.  Cover the pan, and let simmer for around 10 minutes.  Add in the remaining ½ cup of chicken broth and pumpkin, cover and let simmer for another 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the heavy cream and parmesan cheese.  Stir all together and cover the pot while you prepare the bacon.

In a small nonstick skillet, sauté the chopped bacon on medium-high heat until desired crispiness is reached.

Spoon out the risotto onto a plate, or small bowl, garnishing with a little parmesan cheese and bacon!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wedding Week/Weekend

What takes about 8-10 bags of confectioner's sugar, 36 sticks of butter, 2 large bags of granulated sugar, 2 containers of cocoa powder, a gallon or so of milk, around 4-5 bags of all-purpose flour (in addition to cake flour), 40 eggs, and TONS of vanilla extract, plus other ingredients?  This......

It all started a couple of months ago when my two friends, Beth and Mark, asked if I'd be interested in making their wedding cake.  I was definitely honored by the fact that they thought of me and immediately said yes! I knew that I could not pass up this opportunity, because I've been wanting to make a wedding cake for awhile now. 

So of course, the planning started........

When I first got out my "cake notebook" and sat down with Beth to create ideas, she informed me that she wanted to have mostly cupcakes, 200 to be precise.  In addition to the cupcakes Beth also wanted a two tier wedding cake.  One layer so that they'd have something to cut into at the reception, and the other layer for their anniversary.  *The final numbers may have changed slightly from our first meeting.  Beth ended up asking for 250 cupcakes*

In addition to the wedding cake/cupcakes, Beth also wanted to have me construct a surprise grooms cake for her husband-to-be, and my friend Mark!  He is a BIG Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so Beth thought that it would be a fun theme to apply to a cake!

The best part about this cake......Beth left the design totally up to me!

Finally, after all of the planning, the week of the wedding was here!  I knew I had LOTS to do, especially on top of teaching during the day, so I had to set up a day-by-day plan for myself.  Some of the tasks I knew I could accomplish ahead of time, like drying out the flowers to go on top of the cupcakes, coloring the fondant (not too far ahead of time though), and sifting the powdered sugar.  The rest of the items would have to be done periodically throughout the week, but if I paced it just right, I knew I wouldn't become overwhelmed. 

The first item on my to do list was to bake the groom's cake and cupcakes.  Beth needed to have these ready for the rehearsal dinner that was to be on Friday night.  I also knew that if I made this cake first, then while I was going through the process of decorating it, I could be baking cupcakes for the wedding at the same time.  My plan ended up working out perfectly.

Steelers Cupcakes

Steelers Groom Cake

Once the groom's cake was complete, I directed my full attention to getting the rest of the cupcakes made, along with the wedding cake.  At this point in time, I had already baked over 100 chocolate cupcakes, and around 75 red velvet cupcakes.  All I had left to do was frost and decorate them, and then bake the yellow cupcakes and the wedding cake. 

I was very, VERY glad that Friday was Veteran's Day and that I didn't have to teach.  Having the whole day to work on this project was such a huge stress reliever!  I ending up starting the day off by baking the wedding cakes, and continued by baking the remaining 100 cupcakes. 

It always amazes me that something can start off looking like this....

And end up looking like this......

With the wedding cake now finished, all I had left to do was frost and decorate the cupcakes.  I decided that I would frost the chocolate and vanilla cupcakes Friday night, but because the red velvet cupcakes needed a cream cheese frosting, I planned to get up early and frost those Saturday morning.  It's a good thing that I decided to do that too, because decorating the 200, or so, chocolate and yellow cupcakes took me well into the night.

Saturday morning I immediately set to work again on mixing up a couple batches of frosting, but this time they were for the red velvet cupcakes.  After the frosting was made and applied, I decorated the tops with little gumpaste flowers!

When I was finished, I packed up the remainder of the boxes with delicious cupcakes........

put them in the Jeep, and set off to deliver them to Charlotte Country Club.  When my husband and I arrived at the club, they showed me where I could display the cake, and even brought out some beautiful decorative silver platters.

 It may have taken a few tries.....

but I finally figured out how I wanted them displayed.

Later on that day, the florist came to add flowers around the cake and they also placed out a little bride a groom.

Even though I was very pleased with how my cake turned out, the best part of the day was getting to witness the marriage of two good friends!  Congratulations Mark and Beth!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chocolate Drizzle Pecan Pie Tart!!!  How have I lived so long without ever trying pecan pie!

This past weekend my husband and I were invited over to a friends' house for a dinner party and were asked to bring the dessert!  Of course I jumped at the chance to make something new, and immediately got out my cookbooks, and visited my bookmarked websites, trying to find good ideas for what to make.  That's when I remembered that I've been wanting to try pecan pie.  Growing up I was always afraid to try it. Something about the way the pie looked, and the fact that it had nuts in it, instead of chocolate, sent me running in the opposite direction. Now that I'm somewhat older though, and have come to LOVE pecans, I've really had the desire to make it.  Unfortunately, the opportunity had just never presented itself, until now..... 

Instead of making a traditional pecan pie though, I decided that I would attempt to construct it in the form of a tart.  Mostly, because I've been wanting to try out my new tart pan that I've never used.  I happened to find this fantastic looking recipe online and instantly knew that it would be perfect for the dinner party.  

The only downside to trying new recipes, especially when you're taking them to someone's house, is that you never know how it might turn out.  Therefore, I need to admit that I was a little nervous when the tart first came out of the oven.  In my opinion, it looked a little too crispy on top.  I figured that I would let it sit out overnight, and when I checked on it in the morning, I became even more worried.  The top of the tart looked and felt pretty solid, but when I stuck a knife down into the filling it seemed just right.  I almost thought about not taking the dessert to the party and making something else instead, but I'm so glad that my husband convinced me otherwise.  The tart was absolutely perfect and was a big hit!

The moral of my baking experience is.....looks can be deceiving!  Once again, I had never made pecan pie, so I didn't know that that's what it should have looked like!  I can see this recipe being made again either at Thanksgiving or Christmas!  Who knows......maybe both!

Chocolate Drizzle Pecan Pie Tart
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For the Crust:
1 stick cold butter, cubed (place back in fridge until ready to be used)
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour (a little more, if needed)
½ tsp. salt
½ cup ice water, divided

For the Filling:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup Karo dark corn syrup
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups pecans, chopped or halved
1 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 9-inch tart pan with a nonstick cooking spray (I use Pam).

To Make the Crust:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, butter, salt, and 2 Tbsp. ice water.  Process the ingredients together until the mixture looks like course meal.  Continue to add 1 Tbsp. of ice water until the mixture comes together and forms a ball.  (If you accidentally add too much water, just add in some more flour)  Place the ball of dough onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper and flatten in the shape of a circle.  Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and then wrap up tightly and place in the refrigerator for around 45 minutes.

Once the dough has been chilled, remove from the refrigerator and roll the dough out between the two pieces of parchment paper.  Transfer the dough into a 9-inch tart pan and press it into the fluted edges and bottom.

To Make the Filling:
In a medium bowl, slightly beat the eggs.  Add in the sugar, dark corn syrup, butter, and vanilla.  Stir together until well blended.  Distribute the pecans evenly within the tart shell.  Slowly pour the filling over the pecans and place into the oven, once the pecan halves have risen to the top.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Melt the chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute.  Stir around, until it’s able to be drizzled over the top of the tart.

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Candy Corn Blondies

As I was walking through Walmart the other weekend, I happened to notice a bag of candy corn flavor M&M's.  I couldn't believe it!!!  I love M&M's and candy corn, so I knew right away that I needed to purchase a bag, or two, or ok........maybe three.  The next step was to try to think of something to incorporate them into.  Originally I was going to add them to some sugar cookies, but then the craving for brownies came along.  I didn't feel like making traditional brownies though, because the M&M's contained white chocolate, so instead; I decided to attempt making Blondie's. 

FYI- I've had the opportunity to taste Blondie's in the past, but until now, have never considered making them myself.  I must admit that my first attempt was a flop, although my husband might tell you differently.  He thought that they were delicious, because the Blondie's were a little gooey in the center, just the way he likes them.  I must agree that they tasted great, but I simply was not satisfied with the texture.  Therefore, I had to alter the ingredients some more and because of that the second batch turned out just as I had hoped they would.

Candy Corn Blondie’s
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About 9 servings
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
dash of salt
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup candy corn flavor M&M’s
A handful, or more, of chopped pecans (or any other type of nut)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat an 8x8 pan with cooking spray and then dust with flour.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, set on a low speed, and fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the melted butter and sugar until well combined.  Keeping the mixer set to low, add in the egg and vanilla extract until just combined.

Next, add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Mix on low-medium speed until the ingredients are just combined.  If needed, stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  *The batter may be thick.* Using a spatula, gently fold in the M&M’s and pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared 8x8 pan and spread out evenly.  Bake for about 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  When done, place on a wire rack to cool. 

Garnish with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or enjoy plain!

Adapted from: Simply Recipes