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I enjoy cooking,eating food, being creative with food, and like to try new things. I try to avoid pre-packaged foods as much as I can.

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Oct 27, 2013

Double Trouble Fudge

Alright... I fail at blogging. To sum things up... the months went by way too fast!

August: We went to Florida to visit some relatives and that went well. We returned and well, it was busy. My sister packed for college and completed her summer assignment. We all chipped in to help her pack and prep for this new chapter of her life. It is strange and I felt really old sifting through my college bins that have sat in the basement for 2 years. It made me walk down memory lane, and really reminded me of how much I miss college...

September: I interviewed for two job positions and applied for a few more. I have been very lucky and I was hired at one of the places I interviewed. Yay for a job!

October: I have been working my butt off. People can be so frustrating sometimes. Retail makes you see plenty of the bad side of humanity. Honestly. Working retail makes you go on a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the day. As an introvert, this job seems to require all of my energy. By the end of the day I am totally exhausted. Gotta work to earn money for grad school though! Now if only I would stop shopping the clearance and finding way too many clothes...

Anyway, the recipe for today reminds me of a reese peanut butter cup. It has the saltiness from the peanut butter mixed with the sweet chocolate and sweet and salty combinations just work so well (and they taste so good!). This would be a great treat for Christmas or even a Halloween party! I hope you try this treat!


Double Trouble Fudge (from Feathers in Our Nest)

Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips (find them in the baking aisle)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk, divided (see recipe for more details)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided (1/2 tsp. for each layer)
  • 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips 
Instructions:
  1. Line a square pan* (8x8 or so) with foil/parchment paper/nonstick spray/butter. If you do not use something heavy duty then it will be difficult to get the fudge out later. Trust me. 
  2. In a microwaveable bowl, combine the cup of peanut butter chips and 2/3 cup of the sweetened condensed milk. 
  3. Microwave for 1 minute and then stir the mixture. Microwave in 15 second increments after the initial minute until the mixture is smooth. Make sure you stir after each time in the microwave so the mixture doesn't burn!
  4. Stir in 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract and then pour the first layer into the pan.
  5. Place your pan of fudge mixture into the fridge for 10 minutes.
  6. After you have refrigerated the fudge for 10 minutes, start making the second layer.
  7. In a different microwaveable bowl, combine the semisweet chocolate chips and the rest of the sweetened condensed milk. 
  8. Repeat step 3 as described above.
  9. Stir in 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract and then pour the chocolate layer over the semi-solid peanut butter layer.
  10. Refrigerate your fudge for 1 hour to let it firm up. 
  11. Remove the fudge from the pan and cut it into small squares.
  12. Store in the fridge until serving.
  13. Enjoy! 
*You could also use a square candy mold or use a mold with a removable bottom. 

I hope you test this fudge out and find out how delicious and easy it is! 

Have you made homemade fudge before? What did you think? Let me know with a comment below! 


Love it? Hate it? Want to make it? Comment and let me know what sort of recipes you want to see next!

As always...

Bon appétit!



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Aug 2, 2013

Crock Pot Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

This recipe is a tweaked version of another recipe. I didn't have the correct Progresso recipe starter on hand, so I improvised. The picture doesn't truly show off its' deliciousness. Looking back, I probably should have added some color to the pasta. Oh well, it was super delicious and I just wanted to eat it. I hope you feel the same when you try this out.



Crock Pot Chicken and Mushroom Pasta (adapted from Pillsbury)

Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 TBSP butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 can Progresso Recipe Starters Creamy Portabella Mushroom cooking sauce
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice
  • 16 oz. of mushrooms, sliced (use more mushrooms if you want!)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil (to saute the mushrooms in)
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish
  • Parmesan cheese, for topping
Instructions:
  1. (Optional step) Spray your 5-6 qt. slow cooker/crock pot with cooking spray. (I skipped this)
  2. Place chicken in the crock pot/slow cooker and then top with the butter. Sprinkle on ground black pepper, to taste. 
  3. Pour the cooking sauce over the top of the chicken and butter. You can add the mushrooms now, or sautee them later. It's your choice. 
  4. Cover and cook on Low for 4-6 hours (High 2-3 hours) or until the chicken is tender.
  5. (Optional) Sautee your mushrooms in 1 tsp. of olive oil. They will shrink some and be fragrant. 
  6. Shred the chicken in the crock pot/slow cooker. I recommend using two forks. If you chose to sautee your mushrooms, add them to the crock pot.
  7. Add the cream cheese to the crock pot. Cook for 30 minutes on Low or until the cream cheese melts and blends into the sauce.
  8. Cook your pasta according to the box directions while the cream cheese melts. 
  9. Stir the crock pot mixture well and then serve over the pasta. 
  10. Garnish the pasta with parsley and sprinkle on Parmesan, if desired. Enjoy! 
I couldn't find any reassurance that the cooking sauce was gluten free. If someone else finds out that it is indeed gluten free, please comment below and tell me. I hope you try this delicious recipe! 

Have you tried the Progresso Recipe Starters? What did you think? Let me know with a comment below! 

Love it? Hate it? Want to make it? Comment and let me know what sort of recipes you want to see next!

As always...

Bon appétit!



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Jul 23, 2013

Italian Cream Cake

I decided to write this post while the thunderstorm dumps plenty of rain on the plants and lawn. When I was thinking about dinner (we're having chicken fried rice), I started to think about Thai Stick. Thai Stick is a lovely Thai restaurant in San Francisco that we accidentally discovered while attempting to locate a different Thai restaurant. The location we went to (on Post Street) has been there since 1988! Even though it wasn't our intended Thai restaurant, it was wonderful. The service wasn't as snappy as it might be in other restaurants, but the food was delightful. I had the pineapple fried rice. It was so delicious! I could have eaten that multiple nights in a row and still been content. I only have one warning about this restaurant... you get oodles of food. You could probably take 1/2 your meal home with you if you are able to. Otherwise, bring your hunger or split a meal with someone. So, if you are ever in or around San Francisco, I encourage you to stop at the restaurant Thai Stick (they have 4 locations). 

Now that I have that restaurant recommendation out of the way, let's talk about Italian Cream Cake. First of all, this cake isn't a cake made out of cream or a plain cake. Instead, it is a lovely combination of pecans and coconut in a white cake that is moist and oh so delicious. To top it off, it is frosted with a dreamy cream cheese frosting. Mmmm. You might think I am exaggerating, but it was just that good! 

I love coconut and pecans, so it was a perfect combination for the birthday cake that I wanted to make for my birthday but ran out of time and instead made Molten Mocha Cake. Just so you know, that was delicious too! I ended up having two types of cake that were both wonderful and were both for my birthday (even if this one was made a week or so after my birthday :P). No matter what the occasion is or isn't (you don't need a special occasion for this cake!), this cake is perfect for anyone who loves pecans, coconut, and cream cheese frosting.

I didn't change anything in this recipe, but I did have one layer of the cake that didn't want to leave the pan. I still made it look ok after frosting it. See the oopsie?:

oops


Italian Cream Cake (from BHG)


Cake Ingredients:
  • 5 eggs, separated into yolks and whites (learn how here
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (plain flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 or 2 tsp. vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flaked coconut (mine was sweetened and worked well, but unsweetened could work too)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (I didn't toast mine, but feel free to toast them if you want to.)
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened 
  • 2 tsp. vanilla (vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste)
  • 5 and 1/2 - 4 cups of powdered sugar (also called confectioners' sugar or icing sugar)
Instructions:
  1. Allow the egg yolks, egg whites, and butter to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Grease and lightly flour two or three 8 X 1.5 inch or 9 x 1.5 inch cake pans. (We only own two, so I made mine a 2 layer cake instead of three.) As another option, you could also liberally spray the pans with cooking/baking spray. (I did this and had one disaster and one perfect layer, so do this at your own risk! See above photo!) Set the pans to the side and preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C).
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda. 
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium or high speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix until well combined. Next, add the egg yolks and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until well combined. 
  5. Alternate between adding the flour mix and buttermilk into the butter mix. Beat on low speed after each addition only till combined. 
  6. Fold the coconut and almonds into the mixture. I suggest folding these in with a spatula and not the mixer.
  7. Clean the beaters or get out a new set of beaters. 
  8. In a different bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. The egg tips will stand straight.
  9. Carefully fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Fold in the remaining beaten egg whites.
  10. Divide the batter evenly into all 3 pans. Spread the batter evenly in the pans.
  11. Bake approximately 25 minutes for 9 inch pans, 35 minutes for 8 inch pans, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  12. Once the cakes are done, let them cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  13. Remove the cake from the pans and let it cool completely;this should take approximately 2 hours.
  14. While the cake is cooling, prepare your frosting. In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until it is well combined and a spreadable consistency.
  15. Once cooled, place one cake layer (bottom side up) on a serving plate. Spread with approximately 1/2 cup of the frosting and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of pecans. Top with the next layer (bottom side down) and spread with more frosting. If you have 3 layers, add the nuts on the second tier as well and then top with the last layer (bottom side up). 
  16. Spread frosting on the sides and top of the cake. If desired, press nuts on the sides and sprinkle coconut on the top or decorate in whatever way you want to. 
  17. After all of that mixing and baking, enjoy your cake! 
I know this seems intimidating, especially since it has 16 steps. The recipe basically comes down to a lot of measuring and mixing. Once you have those two parts finished, it is a piece of cake to make (haha, punny). Feel free to try this out. Let me know what you think! 

Have you ever eaten Italian Cream Cake before? What did you think? Let me know with a comment below! 

Love it? Hate it? Want to make it? Comment and let me know what sort of recipes you want to see next!

As always...

Bon appétit!



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Jul 10, 2013

Tonga Toast: Rainforest Cafe

#####NOTE:  If you are/know someone who is in the military then please keep reading. You/the military person you know can get a FREE pass to all of the national parks. Go to: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm for more details! #####

Well... we survived our 2 week road trip family vacation. No one lost a limb or fell off a cliff, which is always good. Mom did hurt her knee, but otherwise we had very minor "injuries" (bug bites, scrapes, etc.). Our two week road trip of crazy proportions included Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Monterey Bay Aquarium, San Diego, Grand Canyon National Park, and the Petrified Forest National Park. We got to see a lot of nature, hike, eat fabulous food, and relax (well... at least a tiny bit). I have included a few pictures from our trip below.

Cistern Spring, Yellowstone
Yosemite Chapel
San Francisco Pier 39




Petrified Forest National Park


















Grand Canyon



















It was a trip of pictures and fun memories. I took 2,030 photos! Wow! It was also memorable for some not so fabulous reasons... We had plenty of moments where we honestly needed to be on a comedy show. Our soft top carrier ripped on day 3 of the trip and we replaced it with a hard top carrier. The reviews of the soft carrier included a guy saying "Day 1: Turned into a kiddie swimming pool. Day 2: Plastic started to flake off. Day 3: Seams ripping and pulling apart. Threw it away in the motel trash can and replaced it." He continued by saying that his other carrier was lasting much longer. Oops... we should have read the reviews before buying! We laughed about it  later when we weren't squished by duffle bags. It is one of those vacation stories that we will probably tell over and over.

Anyway... that is why I haven't posted in a little over two weeks. It also took me a day or so to adjust back from the 3 time zones that we crossed. Yikes. Luckily it wasn't as bad as the jet lag feeling that I felt after coming from Scotland.

I was perusing my un-blogged recipe food photos after vacation and this one caught my eye. I can honestly say that this is a huge hit in our house. I tried Tonga Toast at the Rainforest Cafe during a band trip and I never forgot it. I was so happy to find a recipe so I could try and recreate the dish at home. I don't think it is exactly the same, but it's definitely delicious! This is now my go to recipe for french toast. I hope you try it out!

Tonga Toast: Rainforest Cafe (Food.com)

Ingredients: 
  • 4 slices of white bread about 1 inch thick* (I used organic flax seed sandwich bread and it worked fine. I did use more than 4 slices though.)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup white milk** (any kind)
  • 1/2 tsp. or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • desired toppings (fruit, syrup, butter, nuts, honey, etc.)
Instructions:
  1. In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk, and vanilla extract.
  2. Preheat your frying pan on medium heat. Add a little butter to help prevent the french toast sticking.
  3. Dunk a slice of bread into the mixture, making sure it is completely coated on both sides. 
  4. Place the dunked bread into the pan. 
  5. Cook until lightly browned on both sides. 
  6. Once cooked, remove from the pan and continue steps 3 - 6 until all slices of bread are used.
  7. Top with your desired toppings and enjoy! 
* You can use Gluten Free Bread to make this gluten free.
** You could also use almond, soy, or another dairy alternative.

I hope you try this recipe. It is delicious with bananas, berries, or peaches! It is a great addition to a breakfast spread, delicious by itself, and it freezes wonderfully. I take whatever leftover tonga toast we have, put it in a gallon size bag and put it in the freezer. We take out what we want for breakfast and it still tastes delicious. Nothing beats fresh out of the pan tonga toast
though! 


Have you ever eaten breakfast at the Rainforest Cafe? Let me know what you thought with a comment below!

Love it? Hate it? Want to make it? Comment and let me know what sort of recipes you want to see next!

As always...

Bon appétit!