Saturday, August 28, 2010

Steakhouse Potato Salad

No summer would be complete without a good potato salad, and I was excited to try this one from Kraft. Of course, you're not really limited to their brands - use whatever bacon and stuff you'd like.

This was really good, but not the best I've ever had. I would make it again because I liked the flavor combination, but I would also like to try some more recipes.

  • 3 lb. small red potatoes (about 9), quartered
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup MIRACLE WHIP Dressing
  • 1/4 cup KRAFT Ranch Dressing
  • 6 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon, cooked, crumbled
  • 1 cup KRAFT Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 Green onions, thinly sliced

PLACE potatoes in 2-qt. microwaveable dish. Add water; cover with lid. Microwave on HIGH 12 to 15 min. or just until potatoes are tender; drain. Place in large bowl.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour or until completely cooled.

MIX dressings. Add to potatoes with remaining ingredients; mix lightly.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tri Colore Orzo

I love pasta salads, and when I need a new one, I almost always turn to my friend Colleen's blog; I consider her a pasta salad guru!

I made this for a party, and I was astounded by how many compliments it received. It almost seems unfair since the most work this salad requires is boiling the orzo... but the flavor combination is just unreal and is perfect for a casual barbecue or a formal dinner party.

  • 1 pound orzo pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
  • 2 cups fresh arugula (about 3 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled ricotta salata cheese (or feta cheese)
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (like Colleen, I used dried cranberries)
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (I omitted)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and put the pasta on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle the pasta with 3 tablespoons olive oil, toss, spread out, and set aside to cool.

Once the orzo is cool, transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently to combine. Serve.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I made a variety of cupcakes for Danny's first birthday party last month; I seem to be doing that more and more. I can never seem to decide on a cake flavor, and with cupcakes, I don't have to choose!

I have recently become enamored with the Cake Mix Doctor and found this recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes over at her site. I must confess, however, to using canned cream cheese frosting rather than the peppermint, though I think that would be beyond delicious!

These were simple and fantastic, and I received many compliments on them. But really - who can resist a cute little cupcake?!

  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain German chocolate cake mix
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream (see Note)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 bottle (1 ounce) red food coloring
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)

Note: Use reduced-fat sour cream, and you’ll sacrifice only fat and calories, not flavor. If you can’t find plain German chocolate cake mix, buy the pudding in the mix version and forgo the added pudding. For more chocolate flavor, use chocolate pudding mix instead of vanilla, but the cake won’t be as red in color.

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

2. Place the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, water, oil, food coloring, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.) Place the pans in the oven.

3. Bake the cupcakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting.

5. Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely. Place these cupcakes, uncovered or in a cake server, in the refrigerator until the frosting sets, 20 minutes. The cupcakes are ready to serve.

Store the cupcakes, in a cake saver or under a glass dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze them, wrapped in aluminum foil or in a cake saver, for up to 6 months. Thaw the cupcakes overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

White Chocolate Peppermint Frosting

  • 6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces (half an 8-ounce package) reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1. Place the white chocolate in a small glass bowl in the microwave oven on high power for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until it is smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool.

2. Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the melted white chocolate and blend on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds. Add the peppermint extract and 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar and blend on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 30 seconds more. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is fluffy, 1 minute more, adding up to 1/2 cup more sugar if needed to make a spreadable consistency.

3. Use to frost any chocolate cupcakes of your choice.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taco Rice Bowls

I've been in kind of a food rut lately. I don't feel like making old stuff, but nothing new is really striking my fancy either.

I sat down with a few cookbooks that I hadn't touched in months, hoping that something would jump out at me. Rachael Ray came to my rescue and I decided to adapt her Mexican Rice Bowls (click the link for the original).

I really love making a whole chicken in the crockpot and I'm always looking for different things to do with the shredded leftovers. These were really simple to throw together and rather delicious as well. This would make a great lunch when I go back to work.

  • 2-3 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/2 packet taco seasoning (more if desired)
  • 1/2 cup tomato salsa
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Blue or red corn tortilla chips and salsa for serving (optional)
  • Optional garnish: shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado...

Heat a medium size pot over medium-heat; add EVOO and butter. When butter has melted into EVOO, add shredded chicken and the rice and cook a minute or two. Then add the chicken stock to the pot and the taco seasoning. Put a lid on the pot and raise to high heat to bring the stock to a quicker boil, 2-3 minutes. When the liquid boils, reduce heat to simmer and put the lid back on. Cook until the rice is tender but still a little chewy in the center, 13-15 minutes.

Take off the lid and stir in salsa and parsley. Turn off the heat and let stand five minutes.

Serve hot taco rice in bowls placed on dinner plates and garnish plates with chips and leftover salsa or taco sauce for dipping.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie

My friend Christina made this almost a year ago, and I've had it bookmarked forever. I'm such a fan of my crockpot and I know it will be my BFF when I head back to work in a couple of weeks.

This chicken-pot-pie-esque meal (courtesy of Betty Crocker) was so easy - just throw everything in the pot and -poof- dinner's on its way! I listened to her advice about not enough gravy; rather than use an 18oz jar, I just used 2 12-oz jars. Yum!

  • 1 1/4 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/4tsp pepper
  • 18-24 oz gravy
  • 2 medium celery stalks, cut into thin slices
  • 1 bag (1lb) frozen mixed veggies
  • instant biscuits (I use the ones in the tube)

Place chicken in slow cooker. Top with onion, bayleaf, pepper, and gravy. Place celery on gravy.

Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours

About 30 min before serving, bake biscuits.

Meanwhile, gently stir frozen veggies into chickenmixture. Cover and cook 15 min. Remove bay leaf.

For each serving, split biscuit and place one half on the bottom of a bowl. Spoon chicken into bowl then top with other half of biscuit.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mocha Cupcakes

I think I love cupcakes more than actual cake. They are just so adorable and you can have so much fun with them!

For Danny's first birthday party, I made a variety of cupcakes. As I've mentioned before, I've pretty much given up on "from scratch" cakes and cupcakes, and I'm amazed at how many recipes are out there with a cake mix base.

I found these mocha cupcakes on Big Red Kitchen, and they were absolutely incredible. There was just the right balance of coffee and chocolate, and they received rave reviews.

  • One pkg Devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 3.9 ox. pkg instant chocolate pudding
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 6 eggs
  • One double shot espresso (or 2 T. instant coffee or espresso powder)
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° and fill your cupcake pan with liners.

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in sour cream, melted butter, eggs and espresso. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4minutes on medium speed. Blend in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Lauren's NEW Kitchen

We moved about 2 weeks ago (hence the absence - packing, unpacking, no internet for over a week...) and we are enjoying settling into our new home.

The kitchen is relatively unpacked and organized, but I don't feel like it's "ours" yet. I have some ideas for personalizing, and I look forward to really feeling truly at home. Right now, though, when I cook, I run around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off because I can't seem to remember where I decided to keep stuff.

Soon, though, we'll be set... and maybe I'll post a "tour" of my kitchen. I always enjoy seeing those!
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