Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boozin' Dessert

I cannot remember where I came across this recipe, but when I saw the title my interest instantly perked up - Margarita Cupcakes!?! a cupcake? Um...yes, please!

Margarita Cupcakes

9 oz. margarita mix
3 oz. tequila
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (used Triple Sec)
white cake mix
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. lime zest
1 recipe lime buttercream frosting (recipe below)

1. Mix together the margarita mix, tequila, and Grand Marnier in a large glass or spouted bowl. Reserve 1 1/4 cups of this for the cupcake batter and drink the rest as a treat while you're baking.
2. In a stand mixer, add the margarita mixture (1 1/4 cups), cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, and lime zest. Mix on low for about 30 seconds, then increase to medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin pan and fill cups 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Place the cupcakes on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
4. Once the cupcakes have cooled, make the frosting for the cupcakes.

Lime Buttercream Frosting

4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. lime juice (I added more to get a stronger lime taste)
green food coloring (optional)

1. Add all ingredients to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until combined.
2. Turn the speed to med-high until the icing is light and fluffy. Use water to thin the frosting if necessary (I used a few Tbsp.).
3. Add the icing to a pastry bag or use a spatula/knife to frost the cupcakes.

** To get the effect of salt with a margarita, I sprinkled some granulated sugar on top of each cupcake.

Tasty Side...or Meal!

Thought this would work nicely as a side with our leftover chicken and spinach lasagna, so I whipped up a loaf while waiting for Ryan to get home. I ate my share with my leftovers, however, Ryan decided to make his share a meal and finished off the loaf. Either way, we both agreed it was fabulous!!

Pepperoni and Cheese Bread
(Source: Amber's Delectable Delights)

1 roll refrigerated French bread dough
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese (I substituted Italian blend for both cheeses)
Egg wash (1 egg white, water)
Italian seasoning (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Roll out bread dough and sprinkle with cheeses, place pepperoni (as much as desired) on top of the cheese.
3. Carefully roll the bread dough into a cylinder shape. Pinch ends and top to seal.
4. Brush top and sides of loaf with egg wash.
5. If desired, top loaf with cheese, pepperoni, and/or Italian seasoning.
6. Make a few diagonal slices in top of loaf for air to escape while cooking.
7. Bake at 350 for ~20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.

Another attempt at being healthy

With the husband trying to shed a few pounds and myself, well, I just enjoy good-tasting health food - I came across a WW core recipe for Chicken and Spinach Lasagna. Sounded harmless enough. I paired it up with some homemade garlic herb swirl bread for a very tasty dinner!

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

cooking spray
56 oz. (2 28 oz. cans) tomato sauce (I used 2 jars of spaghetti sauce)
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning, divided
2 tsp. garlic powder, divided
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion
1 lb. uncooked ground chicken breast (used 3 boneless chicken breasts, cubed, instead)
30 oz. ricotta or cottage cheese
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
9 items dry whole-wheat lasagna noodles (didn't have on hand, so I used rigatoni)
20 oz. chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Coat a large, deep lasagna pan with cooking spray.
3. Combine tomato sauce, 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning, and 1 tsp. garlic powder. Measure 2 cups of tomato sauce mixture; set aside.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until almost tender (about 3-4 minutes). Add chicken; cook until no longer pink, stirring frequently, about 4-5 minutes.
5. Add remaining sauce to skillet and stir until well combined; set aside.
6. Mix together ricotta/cottage cheese, egg whites, and remaining Italian seasoning and garlic powder in a large bowl until well combined.
7. To assemble lasagna, place 2 cups of reserved sauce on bottom of dish. Layer with 3 noodles, 1/3 of ricotta/cottage cheese mixture, 1/3 of spinach, 1/3 of mozzarella cheese, and 1/3 of chicken-sauce mixture; repeat layers ending with chicken-sauce mixture. (Make sure to spread ingredients to the edge of the noodles.)
8. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake until cheese is melted and edges are bubbly, about 30 minutes more.
9. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

- If your pan is not very deep, only use two layers of noodles and reduce the filling ingredients by 1/3.
- I usually like onions cooked into various dishes, but did not care for it too much in the lasagna. I may omit this next time.

Garlic Herb Swirl Bread

3 1/4 cups bread flour, divided
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast or quick-rise yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup very warm water (115-125 degrees F)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, softened or melted

4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I used Italian blend, pre-shredded in the bag)

1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, combine 2 cups bread flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add in water and butter/margarine and mix by hand or on low speed for 1 minute. Add in remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is moist, but not sticky.
2. Knead dough for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed, until the dough is smooth and elastic (I love my KitchenAid!). Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over to coat with oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75-85F) until doubled in bulk, 40-45 minutes.
3. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
4. Punch down the dough and place onto lightly floured work surface.
5. Roll the dough into a large rectangular no more than 9" wide.
6. Combine swirl ingredients and spread evenly over top of dough, leaving 1/2" at end to help seal loaf. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of butter mixture.
7. Tightly roll dough up into cylinder shape, pinching and tucking ends to form a tight seal and pinching seam to seal. Place seam side down into prepared pan.
8. Oil the surface of the loaf and cover loosely with a clean cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 20-45 minutes. (If desired, you can top the loaf with Parmesan cheese.)
9. Preheat the oven to 450. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes.
10. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake about 30 minutes longer. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
11. Remove the loaf from the pan to a rack and let cool completely before slicing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thanks to a friend

A while back, I purchased a bottle of balsamic vinegar, simply because I saw it used a lot on the Food Network. I had never cooked with it or have really eaten anything with it before. Basically, I wanted to try something new.

It wasn't much later that I saw a recipe posted by Julia on her blog titled, Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms. Perfect!! Uses balsamic vinegar and the husband and I love chicken and mushrooms. One final perk, it's a core recipe's healthy!

We tried it and loved it!! It will be a regular in our rotation, that's for sure! Thanks, Julia!

Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms

2 tsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove (we are garlic lovers, so I used 4 smaller cloves)
1 lb. uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups small mushrooms, halved
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled

1. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a nonstick skillet.
2. In a medium bowl, mix 2 Tbsp. vinegar, the mustard, and the garlic.
3. Add the chicken - turn to coat.
4. Transfer the chicken and marinade to skillet. Saute until cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side. Finish cooking in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
5. Heat remaining tsp. of oil in skillet. Saute the mushrooms for 1 minute or until slightly brown.
6. Add broth, thyme, and remaining Tbsp. of vinegar. Cook, stirring occassionally, until mushrooms are deep brown (about 2 minutes longer).

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Milk, please!

This past weekend was a beautiful one. Well, Saturday at least - before the rain hit on Sunday. While the husband was outside, tinkering away on his new purchase - a large smoker - I was in the house craving chocolate. I figured the perfect solution was to make a small batch of chewy chocolate chip cookies. I managed to find a recipe that claims to be low-cal/low-fat, but I'm not a genius to figure out if this is true or not. Regardless, they were some of the best CC cookies I've ever tasted. Crispy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside! Yum!

I cut the recipe in half (made 9 cookies)...and we ate them all in a matter of minutes! ** Yes, we're OINKERS! **

Low-Cal Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup margarine, softened (I used butter)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg white
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips (regular-sized chips work, too)

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix sugars, margarine (butter), vanilla, and egg white in a large bowl.
3. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet(s).
6. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Cool slightly (5 minutes), remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.