Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brownie bites

Call me crazy, but I am NOT a brownie person. I have only met one other person in my life who isn't a brownie fanatic, haha! Just because I don't enjoy consuming brownies doesn't mean I don't love making them for others, though. :) That being said, Sal is a brownie man and I feel bad that I don't think to make them often since I don't prefer them. I am always seeing cool and cute twists on brownies on pinterest and plan on pursuing some recipes in the future. My first goal is to figure out a basic brownie recipe (from scratch). I want to do this because it will allow more freedom to tweak the recipe since I know exactly what is put in and what interacts well and nearly most importantly--portion control! Since Sal is the only one eating brownies in our house and I don't want him to get diabetes (lol) I like being able to make half-batches or less at my choosing.

I discovered this recipe and decided to make bite-sized because I don't have a small enough pan yet to make a little tray. Either way, they turned out great and are just the right size to satiate your sweet tooth.

So anyway, onto super easy brownie bites!

  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/2 cup white, granulated sugar
    • I will probably be trying to work out a new recipe at some point, there are other, healthier, less-processed sweeteners out there. I just have to learn how to bake with them.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (NOT soda)
  • Optional:
    • chocolate chips
I used a non-stick mini-muffin pan, so my baking directions are written with that in mind. You can bake brownies in a small (4 inch square, or 8 inch square (standard) if you double the recipe) pan for double the cooking time. You could also try a normal-sized muffin pan, although I'm not sure the time you would use. If you try it, let me know! Seems like they would be similar to the size of a normal brownie.

NOTE: do not use an electric mixer for this recipe.
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Crack open your egg into a bowl. Using a fork or whisk, mix it up well.
  3. Add the sugar and vanilla to the egg, mixing as best as you can. (You pre-mix all of this so when adding to the whole you aren't spending too much time stirring up the egg. The more you mix in the egg, air can get in the mix and this will cause your brownies to turn out more cake-like/less dense.)
      Eggs, sugar, vanilla.
  4. In a different bowl, mix the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder.
      Dry ingredients.
  5. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.

  6. Remove from heat and stir in the egg/sugar/vanilla mix.
  7. Finally, mix in the dry ingredients, stirring well. 
    Batter before spooning into the pan!
  8. I added in about a half-cup of mini milk chocolate chips just to make it more rich, you don't have to do this to get great brownies, though.
  9. Add about a tbsp of batter to the mini-muffin pan spaces. Remember to use muffin cups or prep the spaces with shortening and flour (ask if you need help with how to do that :) ). If you have a dark, non-stick pan you don't need to do any extra work.
  10. Cook the brownies for approx 10-13 minutes. To check if they're done, stick a toothpick in the center of one to make sure it comes out clean (without wet batter on it).
  11. Remove from oven and allow to sit/cool for about 5 minutes. 
  12. Take a spoon and they should neatly pop out of the pan! 
Recipe makes about 12 mini-brownie bites :)

Had to taste-test one...

By the way, my brownie connoisseur (Sal) LOVED them! He had some fresh out of the oven with some chocolate moosetracks frozen yogurt on top!

"Cheesecake" stuffed strawberries

If you have a pinterest and look up any foods (specifically sweets) I am sure you've probably run into the following picture...

(Courtesy of The Sweets Life)
I don't know about you, but I find these extremely cute. They even taste better than they look! So...ever wonder what it's like to have people super excited to try a unique dessert...that took you pretty much no work at all? This finger-food will disappear very quickly from its platter.

  • 2 pounds (two of those containers you see at the grocery store) strawberries
  • 8 oz (one block) of cream cheese--leave it out for 30-60 minutes before making this so it's soft (don't melt or microwave)
  • 4 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • graham cracker crumbs probably 1/2 to 1 cup
  • Optional: 
    • 1 cup milk chocolate chips 
    • 1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  1. Rinse strawberries.
  2. Remove the leaves (I just rip off the greens to clearly see the top).
  3. CAREFULLY, using a paring knife (if you have one, it's the easiest to use here), cut out the center of the strawberry from the top. I just cut a little circle and then pop it out. This is usually the whiter, least ripe part of the strawberry, so you can just pitch it.
  4. In a mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy.
  5. Fill the hole in the top of the strawberry with the filling. I just use a spoon and plop some in. It can overflow over the top a bit, as long as it doesn't fall out.
  6. Take some graham cracker crumbs and pour them into a shallow bowl.
  7. Dip the top of the strawberry into the bowl of crumbs! They should just stick immediately to the filling.
  8. Eat a strawberry to test taste ;)
  9. Refrigerate unless eating immediately or soon.
  10. The rest of the instructions are optional...if you want a chocolate topping on them!
    1. Place your chocolate chips and oil in a microwavable bowl.
    2. Microwave on medium for 30 seconds intervals, stirring in between, until melted.
    3. Take your spoon and drizzle the chocolate on the strawberries however you like!
    4. Refrigerate unless eating immediately or soon.
Our tray of goodies :)

My helper, taste testing :)

Alfredo sauce

At Sam's club the other week Sal and I picked up some type being "grilled chicken and four cheeses with a hint of garlic". For some strange reason I don't particularly like chicken with tomato-based I decided to try an alfredo! :D
After making this, I found I really enjoyed the sauce. I can see how it is quite customize-able, allowing you to use different cheeses if you like! I made the traditional type with parmesan. The only negative aspect of this meal was that it was too cheesy (for my taste). I thought the ravioli was going to be much more "chicken" than "cheese"...and I was wrong. :-P

Anyway, here is the recipe. It's super easy!

  • 1/4 cup (half stick) butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream (you can find this by specialty milks (soy) and creamers)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced, crushed, pressed, whatever!)
  • 1 1/2 cup parmesan--don't use the kind you think of for spaghetti in the green shake container, I recommending using the flakey kind, or grate your own. It'll melt down easy and taste the best!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I didn't have any and it tasted fine, but I could see how this would be nice!)
  • So easy!
  • Something to eat with the sauce! As I mentioned, I used chicken ravioli

Delicious, extremely cheesy!
  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir often. The butter and cream don't mix super well, but just keep stirring and heating. This is normal!
  3. Add garlic and cheese, whisk quickly, heating it all through. It'll take a little bit for the cheese to melt and it might be clumping, so the whisking is definitely necessary. If you don't have a whisk, of course you can just use a fork!

  4. Stir in parsley (if you're using it) and serve over your noodles or ravioli or ... ! :D
Sorry I don't have a picture of the sauce over the ravioli, but it looks pretty much just like what you'd expect alfredo to look like, maybe just a little bit thinner than your average Italian alfredo. Note that if you let the sauce sit or have left over you are storing, make sure you stir it up again well as some of the ingredients separate after resting.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

INFO: boneless, skinless chicken breast

Here are a few useful links I stumbled upon about chicken:

Easy Crock Pot Chicken Recipes

Background on boneless, skinless chicken breast (pg 1)

Methods for cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pg 2)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slow-cooker pulled pork

Alright, I'm going to apologize because this post is going to be entirely pictureless (in terms of my own pics). But it's really that don't need me to show you pictures. You need 3 things to make pulled pork.

1. 1 package pork shoulder (1-2 lbs): I buy this "bone-in" but you can go boneless. I prefer bone in because it seems to have more flavor and is often cheaper. Pork shoulder is probably one of the most inexpensive pork you can get. Not bad at all!

2. your favorite bbq sauce: I use sweet baby rays

3. a can of rootbeer: I use a can (12 oz) of A&W

...that's it!

You need special equipment that can be used for so many awesome dishes: a slow cooker! The popular brand everyone has heard of (and also the one I use) is Crock Pot! You can get a cheap slow cooker (ours was only $17 at Meijer) at your local supermarket or department store!

1. Place pork shoulder in crock pot.
2. Pour rootbeer over pork.
3. Place lid on crock pot.
4. Let cook on low for approx 7 hours.
5. Turn off the heat to the slow cooker and get out a large plate.
6. With tongs or a utensil that will let the liquid run through, pick up the meat and place on the plate. Be careful, the meat and the liquid will be boiling hot!
7. Spread the meat out on the plate so it can cool a bit. The meat should be VERY tender...falling off of the bone and "pulling" apart easily when touched.
8. Let the meat sit for about 10-15 minutes to cool off so when you are pulling it apart you're not burning yourself.
9. Make sure you wash your hands, then begin to "pull" the meat. I'm not sure if there is a culinary technique or special name, but what I do is just use my clean, bare hands to pick up the pieces and remove any fat, placing it in a separate pile from the meat, which I toss into a small pot. The fat is usually whitish in color and feels very different from the meat--it's sort of gooey. You'll know exactly what it is when you touch it. Just feel your way around every piece of the meat removing the fat. You can also rip up the meat at this point, but you don't have to since as you stir in the bbq sauce it'll pretty much fall apart on its own.
It'll probably look something like this
(pic from )
10. Once you have all your meat in the pot, stir in your bbq sauce to taste on medium heat. How much you add really depends on how much meat you are working with. With 1.5 pounds, I probably add around 1/3 cup. I like to just coat the meat and then if those consuming it want to add more, they can do so once they serve their portion onto their plate. I stir on medium heat because from the resting and pulling it loses some of its warmth.
11. At this point, your meat should be coated in sauce and separated into pieces just from the stirring. And you are done!

You can eat your pork as-is or you can serve it over some bread or a hamburger bun. I also like to make the sides french fries (or some sort of potato) and cole slaw. Enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chicken Marsala

As I look through the pictures I've taken of the meals I've made recently, I am kind of annoyed because I have only taken pictures all the way through of ONE dish; however, I have 4 unfinished sets of pictures :(. For now, I will obviously post the completed one and I may still post some of the others just with less pics. Sorry! It's hard when preparing a meal and you have multiple burners going, chopping up some veggies, to stop and think to take a picture, haha!

Anyway, this one is a meal I made because Sal said he would love to have it...chicken marsala!!!

This recipe is very quick and quite easy! It looks a lot more impressive than the work it requries, which is always nice. ;) The only thing about this recipe that may be a little off-putting is the spice mix you make to apply to the chicken. I had to buy a few spices I didn't own, but personally since I enjoy cooking it's good to build my spice collection for future dishes! What I am going to list below is made in bulk for uses beyond this recipe. Right now I have the left over sitting in a jar for future use and if you personally know me or live by me, let me know and I can share some with you if you're interested in doing this recipe!

Ok, so let's get started. What you need:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon spice mix (listed below)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in halves (vertically, not horizontally)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup Marsala cooking wine (found near vinegar in your local grocery store)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (found near soups)
  • salt and pepper
  • optional: chopped chives for garnish

Spice mix (called Essence, made by Emeril Lagasse):
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme


All the spices for the rub (not pictured: salt!)
 1. I started by combining all of the spices in a jar, shaking well to mix them up.
The spices in my jar all mixed together.
 2. Cut your chicken breasts in half and pound them down (tenderize) so they are quite flat and the same thickness across. (This is because we're frying them and you want everything to cook evenly).

looks nasty! I also cut off the fat (the white, goopy stuff on the raw chicken)
3. Mix the flour and a tablespoon of the spice mix in a shallow bowl or small plate.

4. Take the pieces of chicken (one at a time) and put them in the flour-spice mix, covering the piece completely with the mix. Set aside. Do this for all 4 pieces. This process is called "dredging".

5. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot (but not smoking).

6. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the chicken breasts until golden brown on both sides. I cooked each side for 3 minutes.
just added the chicken
Other side, finishing up!
7. After the chicken has cooked, remove to a plate and set aside.

8. In the same pan add 1 tablespoon of butter and add the mushrooms.
pick any kind of mushrooms you like...I chose a mix!
 9. While the mushrooms are cooking, continuously stir them around so they don't burn. They are ready when the edges are golden browned. (You can test taste to see if they are cooked.)

10. Add the Marsala wine and bring to a boil. Since the wine has alcohol, it will "burn off" so the liquid amount will reduce almost by half after a few minutes. Stir during this time. You'll see some black/brown specs, this is normal and correct!

11. At this point, add the chicken stock and cook for about 3 minutes until the sauce thickens a little bit.

I did not buy enough mushrooms, so your pan will probably look more full!
12. Lower the heat to medium (it should have been at medium-high the entire time up to this point) and return the chicken breasts to the pan. Continue to cook until they are cooked through and the sauce is a little more thickened (5-6 minutes). Remember, the chicken is cooked through when it is no longer pink, the juices run clear, and the chicken is kind of "stringy" looking.

13. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, add salt and pepper to taste. You may garnish with chives and serve immediately.

I did not garnish with chives.
And there you have it! Chicken marsala dish. It is great served over a bed of rice or noodles.

Source: I found this recipe from Food and take no credit in coming up with it for myself!
Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.