Monday, March 31, 2014

SRC: Chocolate Chip Granola

It's no surprise that we are a granola loving family.  It's one of those items I love having on hand at all times.  It's perfect to top yogurt, accompany cereal, have a delicious parfait or just a quick and easy snack on the go.  More times than not you can guarantee I have a bag in my purse for those times I need a quick pick-me-up while I'm running errands.
Granola is so easy to make and it's so much fun to customize.  I've made various types of granola from white chocolate cranberry, tropical, and even a simple brown sugar version and they have all been amazing.  The flavors and tastes can easily be changed by adding different fruits and nuts to the mix.  Granola is also one of those items that is fun to get the kids involved with too.  It's just a matter of combining and stirring a few different ingredients, pouring them on a baking sheet and popping them in the oven for a few minutes.  When it's all said and done you've got a delicious snack that the kids will love and they'll be so proud because they helped make it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Daring Bakers: Chocolate Nougat

When I think of nougat, my mind instantly goes to candy bars that are filled with the soft, delicious and airy nougat.  I also think of it being an addition to a candy rather than the base or main part of a candy bar.  But with this month's daring baker's challenge I learned that nougat can be the star of the show and spruced up by adding different nuts, candy and dried fruits.  The March 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

We were given a few recipes options along with the freedom to use a favorite nougat recipe, if we had one.  Since I had only heard of the stuff that fills my favorite candy bars I decided to use one of the recipes that were provided for us so I could get accustomed to this recipe.  One of our options was chocolate, so it was a no-brainer, I had to make the chocolate one!

This nougat is  delicious but it's definitely a different texture than the nougat I'm accustomed to.  It's a little more chewy and sticky.  Instead of topping being poured over it, ingredients are actually mixed in.  This chocolate variation was amazing, I especially enjoyed the various types of nuts in each bite.  Next time I'll try a variation that has been dipped in chocolate!  The options, however, are endless and pretty much anything can be added into the nougat.  So go ahead, go make some nougat!

Chocolate Nougat:

Ingredients:

For the syrup-
2 1/2 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 Cup water
2 Tbsp corn syrup

For the meringue-
3 Large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 Cup + 1 Tbsp clover honey
2 Tbsp corn syrup

Add ins-
3 Oz 100% chocolate, finely chopped
7 Oz 72% chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 Cup pistachios, toasted
1 1/2 Cups almonds, toasted
1 1/3 Cups hazelnuts, toasted

Directions:

Line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

Place the toasted nuts in a heat safe bowl and place in a 250 degree oven until needed.

Place sugar and 1/4 cup of corn syrup, and water in a 2 quart saucepan and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Place the egg whites in a bowl, but do not mix yet.

Combine the honey and 2 tablespoons of corn syrup in a medium saucepan (giving the mixture room to grow) and place over medium-high heat.  Attach a candy thermometer.  Once the mixture reaches 248 F remove from heat.  Immediately place the pan with the sugar and corn syrup over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, start beating the egg whites until stiff peaks begin to form.  Slowly stream the hot honey mixture down the inside of the bowl and into the whites.  Do not pour directly on the whites or they will collapse.  Continue beating on medium high speed.

As the sugar mixture beings to bubble, dip a pastry brush in water and brush down the sides to remove sugar crystals.  Attach a candy thermometer and once the mixture reaches 310 F remove from heat. Turn the mixer back on high and slowly stream the syrup down the inside of the bowl and mix to incorporate.

Once the sugar syrup is incorporated, continue beating for 3-5 minutes until the whites feel warm, but not hot.  Add both chocolates to the bowl and beat on high until the chocolate is combined.

Using a spatula, fold in the nuts.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer.  Allow to sit uncovered for 24 hours.  Remove the set nougat from the pan and remove parchment paper.  Cut as desired.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe source:  Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mexican Lasagna

A few weeks ago I featured a week of slow cooker meals and one of those dishes featured during the week was ground turkey and chipotle taco filling.  When I shared that recipe with you I also told you that I would soon be sharing a dish that you could use the filling in.  So without further or due, I present you with this Mexican lasagna!
With this particular recipes most of the work is done for you since the filling is made in the slow cooker.  Which means it can be prepared ahead of time and even frozen if desired.  So when you're ready to make this meal it's a matter of combining a few simple pantry staples, layering them with cheese and tortillas and baking it until bubbly and golden.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Potato Rolls

So I have to start out by saying sorry.  I know I was MIA last week here on the blog,
 facebook, twitter, and instagram and really the only excuse I have is that I was taking a little time off.  I've been on the go the past several weeks and I've really been enjoying some much needed quality time with my little man and the rest of my family.  So in the midst of all the going and quality time the blog and social media got placed on the back burner.  But I'm back and happy to be here.  For those of you who are flustered, I'm sorry, and for those of you who have been patiently awaiting the next post, thank you!

I love cooking, experimenting and trying new recipes.  I love the entire process of preparing meals.  I also enjoy taking pictures of delicious food and sharing them with all of you.  But there are times that it seems to take all of my time and energy leaving none for my family.  I want to continue loving to cook, taking pictures and sharing tons of delicious recipes with you, so in order to avoid burnout sometimes a break is needed.  That's not to say that during those breaks cooking isn't happening; because it is.  We still have to eat, I still want to cook, and I still take pictures so I can share with all of you.  But I want to make sure I stay fresh, interesting and that my passion for cooking and telling you about it still comes through.  So, last week was a simple break.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Irish Coffee and Whiskey Brownies with Chocolate Whiskey Frosting

We're t-minus 3 days till St. Paddy's day. Irish brews and whiskeys will be flowing through the pubs like water through a stream.  And to soak up the booze, there has to be fest foods.  Foods with green tint, rainbows, and tons of booze are required on St. Paddy's day.
For any celebration there has to be sweets.  My go to sweet is the classic brownie.  Gooey, fudgy brownies are my all time favorite.  Definite bonus points for the kind that are so gooey that they stick to your teeth.  Yum.
So, to get the classic brownie all jazzed up for St. Paddy they need a little booze.  Chocolate. Coffee. Whiskey.  I honestly couldn't think of a better combination.  Could you?  The coffee enhances the chocolate flavor immensely, which we all can agree is a great thing.  But then a hefty dose of Irish whiskey is added to the mix with blends so well with the other two.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cheesecake Batter Dip

I think you could probably put batter or dough in the title of almost any dessert and everyone would be intrigued enough to peruse the recipe.  Even though there's always been the rule "don't eat raw dough because it contains raw eggs" I believe everyone is guilty of sneaking at least one bite of dough or batter at some point.  Me, I'm guiltier than others, because I constantly find myself propped up by the mixer sneaking one bite after another.  It's just so addicting.
Now, what's better than raw dough or batter?  Well, how about an eggless batter that is actually meant to be eaten raw?  `But not just any raw batter.  What about a cheesecake batter.  And I didn't stop there.  It's actually cheesecake batter dip.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Irish Coffee

I am a coffee person.  I mean, I have to have at least one cup of coffee every morning to get me up and going.  Most of the time I'll add a splash of half and half and a little sugar and I'm a happy girl.  I don't need a whole lot of extras in my coffee, but it is fun to change it up from time to time.
Sometimes I'll use a flavored creamer, add a sprinkle of cinnamon or just go full force and make it Irish.  While Bailey's has done a terrific job with their line of creamers, giving you all the taste without the alcohol making it a perfect option for your morning cup of joe, there are times where you need the real deal.  Just a little splash of something to take the edge off.  And when that time comes, it's time for a delicious cup of Irish coffee.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Guinness Stout Float

About a year ago Tucker discovered the deliciousness of coke floats.  It was a hot summer day, he wanted something to drink along with something sweet so I decided it was time to introduce him to the classic goodness that is the coke float.  It was a hit, to say the least.  Not only did he down the first one, he proceeded to get the ice cream container, scoop and bottle of coke and scoop, poured, and drank about 3 more times.  So after that first experience, the coke float has been a staple in our house.
The other day Tucker asked for another coke float and that got me to thinking.  What would be a fun, adult spin on the classic coke float?  Then I thought about St. Patrick's day and how it was right around the corner and thought a stout float would be the perfect adult twist on the classic float.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Slow Cooker Week: Ground Turkey and Chipotle Taco Filling

Day 4 of Slow Cooker Week and I can't wait to share this recipe with you.  By now you all know that I could live on Mexican food alone, it's a weakenss.  So this is a mix of two of my favorite things; Mexican food and the handy dandy slow cooker. 
America's test kitchen has always impressed me with their endless amounts of knowledge, tips, tricks and flawlessly executed recipes.  I love that they test recipes until they are perfect, and then along with sharing the recipes they share why they work.  I love all their cookbooks, and lately I've been infatuated with their slow cooker ones.  They have proven that there are no limits when it comes to what you can make in your slow cooker.  What tool some people may have once limited to soups, stews and big cuts of meat has now been proven to be  tool to cook appetizers, desserts, casseroles, and fillings.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Slow Cooker Week: Japanese Pork and Ramen Soup

There's something so enticing about Asian food, particularly the soups.  While I love a good fried rice, ramen, or lo mein (just to name a few), I'm really a sucker for the soup.  Hot and sour from the typical Chinese restaurants and then the Miso soup from the Japanese/Hibachi restaurants, are my favorites.  But give there are those times where I crave nothing more than a slurp-worthy, broth-y soup filled with thin noodles and pieces of tender meat.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Slow Cooker Week: Pork Loin with Cranberries and Orange

Who loves using their slow cooker?  I've said it before, the slow cooker is one of my best friends in the kitchen.  It can cook a variety of foods: soups, stews, roasts, desserts, appetizers, the list just goes on.  Even better, it takes food, cooks it to perfection and has a hot and delicious meal waiting on you when you get home.

I talk to several people, a lot of them being working moms, and it seems like the biggest issue they have with cooking is the time it takes to get a decent meal on the table for their family once they get home from work.  I understand, I've been there.  It's hard fighting the rush hour traffic, getting home and cooking as well as spending quality time with the family.  While there are meals that take very little time to assemble, I believe the slow cooker is another tool to utilize to get a delicious and healthy meal on the table with very little work once you walk through the door.  So in honor of the slow cooker and the burden it takes of us on those busy nights I present you with the second recipe of slow cooker week.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Slow Cooker Week: Texas Chili

Just when we thought the winter was coming to a holt, pretty much the entire country gets bombarded with another coating of winter weather.  Yesterday the weather changed immensely; the temperature dropped 15 degrees in less than two hours.  The drizzle turned to rain, then to ice and then snow.  Last I looked we had at least an inch of ice accumulation. So, we have a choice.  We can either wine, be aggravated and hate this cold weather.  Or, we can look at the weather as a way to enjoy one last bowl of hearty soup, stew or chili before we break out the spring and summer recipes.

I'm choosing to do the later of the two.  This year Spencer can't seem to get enough chili.  It seems like he asks for it at least once a week. While he loves my traditional chili, I do try to change things up from time to time and try different recipes.
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