Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet Treats: Thanksgiving Edition

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, including but not limited to my amazing fiance, my incredible parents, and my beautiful friends. This Thanksgiving we're off to Dave's Aunt's house, and I decided to bring a dessert (and Dave's mac & cheese...but more on that in another post) for the holiday.  I am the first to say I'm not the most advanced fact, I can go so far as opening a package of Pillsbury slice and bake and that's about it.  But I found two great recipes from two Food Network legends and thought I'd try them out as they seemed easy enough and didn't require a standing or electric mixer, which I am eagerly awaiting to receive via my wedding registry (thank you in advance, oh kinds friends).  I've yet to try either of these since I'm waiting for the fam, but I will tell you that the Nutella Fudge tasted RIDICULOUS on the spoon, and the Pecan Pie smells like a dream.  Happy Thanksgiving folks!

Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt (From Cookin' Canuck)
Basic fudge recipe by Giada De Laurentiis-
Butter, for greasing pan
1 (14 oz. ) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. high-quality bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips
1 cup Nutella, room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Sea salt, approximately 1/2 tsp

spring for the good chocolate!
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.
In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.
Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl on a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

my ghetto double the job done.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.

Run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.
Makes approximately 50 3/4-inch squares.

Have we ever discussed my love of sea salt chocolate?  There is NOTHING better.

Emeril Lagasse's Rich Chocolate Pecan Pie (originally printed at

1 1/2 cups pecans

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar 

1/2 cup corn syrup 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Pinch salt


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Spread the pecan pieces and the chocolate chips evenly on the bottom of the pie shell.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together. Pour the filling over the pecans. Bake until the filling sets, 50 to 60 minutes. 

EDITOR'S NOTE! I read a lot of reviews about this recipe before I made it and people had complaints about burnt crust.  So I covered the pie crust with aluminum foil for the first 30 minutes, then placed the pie back in the oven sans foil for 20 more minutes.  Perfect brown crust!
Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before slicing.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recipe: Baked Eggplant Parm

I don't remember every really loving "Eggplant Parm Night" growing up.  Something about the flavor of the veggie just didn't sit well with me and left me with the same dread as the ever-scary "Meatloaf Night".  Thankfully my taste buds evolved over time and I gave the pretty purple thing another try.  It's hearty and filling and a good alternative to that chicken you've had in your freezer for 9 months (yeah, I see you...).  I went the baking route with this one to avoid the excess oil from frying (and I find that eggplant gets very soggy when it's fried).  I'm happy to say that this recipe was a complete redemption from my last catastrophe!

1 eggplant
2-3 eggs, beat
1-2 jars marinara sauce (My absolute favorite sauce brand right now is Barilla. I used the "Basilico" variety for this recipe and it's just the right amount of sweet and savory!)
a few basil leaves
2-3 cups (or 1 1/2 bags) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
salt & pepper

Preheat oven for 350 degrees.  Set up a conveyor belt with a bowl of breadcrumbs and the beaten eggs.  Peel and slice eggplant into 1-1/2 in. slices and begin to dip into the eggs, then the breadcrumbs, and place slices on a sprayed baking sheet.  (Be sure to drain all of the excess egg mix off of the just want it wet enough to coat the pieces in breadcrumbs.)  Bake for 5-7 min on each side until slightly tender.

 the first layer...

While eggplant is baking, line a casserole or baking dish with a thin spreading of marinara sauce.  Once eggplant is done in the oven, transfer a layer of it over the sauce in the baking dish, then add more sauce, basil leaves, and cheese.  Repeat order once.  Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.

 I SWEAR there is a vegetable under all that cheese...

Recipe: Pulled BBQ Chicken

My fiance Dave took the day off yesterday and I left him in charge of making this delicious recipe ALL BY HIMSELF! After calling me once to clarify which measuring cups to use (....crickets...), he pulled this one off without a hitch.  I knew he was good for somethin'! Dave ate his portion on an onion roll and I went with a quesadilla topped w/ shredded cheddar and b&b pickles.  This would also be good as a taco or fajita or straight out the Crock! 

I found this once again using All Recipes and pretty much stuck to the recipe as it's written.  

4 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1 c. ketchup 
2. tblsp. mustard (yellow preferably)
cayenne pepper
chili powder
garlic powder
1/2 c. real maple syrup (not to be confused with the EGGO syrup you might have in the fridge...)
a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
a few splashes of Tabasco sauce

Place chicken in Crock Pot.  Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl until smooth.  Pour over chicken and cook on LOW for 6 hours.  (If the chicken looks "soupy" at this point, don't worry).  Shred chicken w/ fork and cook another 30 mins. Serve how you like!

 i was literally so hungry that i had to take a bite  of that pickle before i snapped a pic! don't act surprised.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kitchen Oops: Not So Stuffed Shells

Today's blog is a little different.  Every once in a while I think I have a fabulous idea for a recipe, and I go ahead and attempt it.  That was the case the other night.  I wanted to take a healthier spin on stuffed shells so I used whole wheat mini shells and conjured up a sauce made with fat-free ricotta, spinach, grated parmesean and a little bit of low-fat milk. It looked really great and even smelled pretty tasty.  In retrospect, the dish was a complete failure (one look at my fiance's face as he tried a bite at dinnertime and I knew it was a goner).

The low fat substitutions did not lend themselves well to the overall taste of the dish that I was hoping to recreate.  It needed way more salt and just that "something else" that was clearly missing.  I think that "something else", in this case, was nutmeg.  I know nutmeg and spinach work really well together and because I didn't have any, I tried to make a combination spice using a little curry powder and cinnamon.  When I tasted the two spices together before adding it to the dish, it actually worked.  It was by no means a substitution for the nutmeg but I thought it would be better than nothing. It wasn't.  It was pretty awful.  Like, eating potpouri awful.
In the end, I still wanted to blog about this because it's a lesson learned.  Cooking is all about experimenting, trying new things, and hoping for the best.  Sometimes it'll end up a success, other times it will end up in the trash.  This dish was still edible but just not what I was hoping for, and since I wasn't thrilled I'm not even going to give you the recipe.  But here's how she looked anyway...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recipe: Hungry Girl Shepherd's Pie

So I'm trying to eat a little better BEFORE the holidays completely throw me off-guard, so the first person I turned to for dinner tonight was Hungry Girl.  I. LOVE. HUNGRY. GIRL.  Her recipes are all SUPER low fat, incredibly easy, and really tasty.  I pretty much used her Squash-tastic Shepherd's Pie Recipe to a T, but here's what you need to make your own:

1 lb. ground turkey
1 can fat-free gravy
1 bag frozen mixed veggies
3.5 cups butternut squash, cubed
minced garlic
chopped white onions
1 tbsp. butter
garlic and onion powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large microwave-safe bowl, cook squash (covered) with 1/2 c. water for 12-15 in the microwave.  Meanwhile, brown turkey meat with onions, garlic/onion powder, and minced garlic.  Drain fat and set aside.  When squash is finished cooking, mash w/ butter and salt until smooth.

In a casserole dish, layer the ground turkey, then the gravy, then the frozen veggies, and finally the squash.  Bake for 25 minutes until browned.

the not-so-pretty layers: turkey/gravy

the pretty layer (that was obviously in my freezer a little too long...cares)

fresh out the oven

so hearty & filling...don't feel bad if you want to eat the whole dish

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The squash totally makes this dish.  Next time I might use more than recommended, for a thicker layer.  For more flavor, I added Tabasco sauce to the ground turkey and a little on top for an extra kick.  If I had had any cinnamon or nutmeg, I would have added it to the squash for sure.  I also ate a ridiculous portion of this recipe.  It's basically guilt-free and now I'm not reaching for the Edy's because I'm beyond full!