Happy Valentine's Day! Yes it's that time of year again. The stores are filled with chocolates, cards with sentiments of love, and giant teddy bears. My favorite thing about Valentine's Day is the baking. I've included my top five favorite Valentine's Day desserts perfect for the love of your life or the little ones in your life.
I am so glad that we are back in the swing of things with The Secret Recipe Club! The club took last month off and while I thought I needed a break, I really ended up missing it! This month I got to explore Patricia's blog ButterYum. I had such a good time looking around. Her blog design is very clean and simple and I loved it. There were so many incredible recipes to choose from including Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip, Chocolate and Vanilla Linzer Hearts, and Chocolate Biscuit Cake.
The recipe that really caught my eye was the Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. I've had my eye on this recipe since my husband bought me a subscription for Christmas and I was only too happy to try it out. My favorite part of the recipe is the browning of the butter. I'm not sure exactly what it does to this recipe but the results were amazing. As my husband bit into it he immediately knew it wasn't my usual cookie recipe. He and I both thought it was so much better then the recipe I normally use.
The cookies were larger then the ones I normally make. They were just crisp on the edges then soft and chewy on the inside. The cookies were buttery and filled with chocolate goodness. I've officially changed my "go to" chocolate chip cookie recipe. This is my new favorite chocolate chip cookie!
Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (recipe from ButterYum)
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
14 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 t. salt 1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour and baking soda, set aside.
3. In a medium sized skillet heat the butter over medium high heat. Swirl the butter around in the pan until it has melted and has started to brown. The butter will have a nutty smell. Remove from heat and pour into a large heatproof mixing bowl.
4. Add the sugar and brown sugar to the butter and mix well. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. Add both eggs and whisk for 1 minutes. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes then whisk for another minute or until the mixture is shiny and smooth.
5. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and stir well until completely combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Drop by heaping tablespoon onto the baking sheets. The batter should make about 16 large cookies.
7. Bake the cookies one cookie sheet at a time for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown but the centers still look soft.
8. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes then remove to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
This month the What's Baking? Challenge was hosted by Sandra of She Cooks and Bakes! She challenged us to bake with Valentine's Day colors which was perfect because I was planning on doing that anyhow!
When I think of Valentine's Day desserts I think of sweet, pretty, and pink. These brown sugar blondies are all of those things. The blondies are full of sweet brown sugar, are mixed with chocolate chunks and Valentine's M&M's, then sprinkled on top with the M&M's. I served these treats to my students at school and they were begging for more!
Brown Sugar Blondies (adapted from Baked Perfection) 2 c. flour 1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
10 T. butter
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
1 T. vanilla
1 1/2 c. M&M's (Valentine's Day colors)
1 c. chocolate chunks
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine the melted butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Mix well. Add in both eggs and vanilla and blend together.
4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition.
5. Stir in 1 cup of the M&M's and all of the chocolate chunks. Spread into a 9 x 13 baking dish.
6. Sprinkle the top of the blondies with the remaining M&M's. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until brown on the edges and cooked through.
I've never had an Asian lettuce wrap before but recently I've seen them on a number of different blogs. I've seen people eat them in restaurants and I've heard people talk about them, but I've never really seen the appeal. However, since so many people have been blogging about them I decided to give them a try.
I've been missing out! A combination of ground chicken, cabbage, water chestnuts, soy sauce, and sriracha sauce, the filling is spicy and delicious. The filling is then placed on leaf lettuce, rolled up, and dipped in a sweet soy sauce. They were filling but tasted fairly light. I served them with jasmine rice which was perfect. There was also plenty left over for lunch the next day.
Asian Lettuce Wraps (adapted from Our Best Bites)
2 t. canola oil
4 clove garlic, minced
1 T. fresh ginger, minced
1 lb. ground chicken
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. black pepper
2 c. bagged coleslaw mix
1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, minced
4 T. soy sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. lemon juice
1 T. sriracha sauce
1 head lettuce (we used Bibb)
For the dipping sauce:
4 T. soy sauce
4 T. rice vinegar
3 T. water
2 t. honey
1 t. fresh ginger, minced
1. In a large skillet heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for 1 minute. Stir in the ground chicken, onion, salt, and pepper and cook for 10 minutes.
2. Add coleslaw and water chestnuts. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice, and hot sauce. Stir while cooking for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
3. In a small bowl combine all ingredients for dipping sauce and whisk to combine.
4. To serve carefully tear leaves from the lettuce. Spoon ground chicken mixture into the lettuce leaf, wrap, and dip into the sauce.
I've never really been sure of what jambalaya is exactly. I know it's a spicy, Cajan dish that usually has sausage and rice in it, but beyond that I was pretty clueless. I went online looking for a definition and found many. Most of them agree that it's a Creole or Cajun dish made with meat (most commonly sausage and chicken), vegetables (some type of peppers and onions), and rice.
I looked through several recipes I had and decided to use the one in the crock-pot so I could make it on one of my busy nights. I included the chicken and sausage, I used a sweet onion and a green pepper, and then the white rice. I thought about only using the Cajun seasoning, but I just received a box of Penzey's spices and was dying to try the Forward spice. It turned out the be perfect in the jambalaya.
The jambalaya was spicy and full of flavor. It's the perfect one dish meal because the meat, vegetables, and starch are all included in one pot. The flavors of the chicken and sausage really mixed into the tomato base. It's a great meal for a cold winter night.
Slow-Cooker Jambalaya (adapted from Cats and Casseroles)
1/2 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 c. chicken broth
2 t. oregano
2 t. parsley
1 t. Cajun seasoning
2 t. Penzey's Forward spice
1 t. cayenne pepper
1 c. instant rice
1. Place all ingredients except the rice in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours.
2. Cook the rice according to the package directions. Add the rice into each individual serving of jambalaya.
I love my crock-pot when I'm having a busy week. It's so nice to prepare a meal before work and have it ready to eat when I walk in the door. This roast beef with onion gravy was one of the easiest recipes I've ever made in the crock-pot and only has a few simple ingredients.
The sauce thickens up in the pot and makes a nice dark brown gravy. It's perfect for a hearty winter meal. I served it up with mashed potatoes and used the gravy on them as well. The beef was super tender and there was enough left over the next day to make roast beef sandwiches with gravy.
Roast Beef with Onion Gravy (adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking)
1 (2-3 pound) beef roast
1 onion, sliced
1 packet onion soup mix
3 c. cold water
1 T. cornstarch
salt and pepper
1. In a crockpot combine the onion, onion soup, and water.
2. Put the roast in the crockpot and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours.
3. Remove 1 cup of the gravy from the cockpot and mix with cornstarch in a saucepan on medium heat. Boil for 3-4 minuntes and serve over top of the beef.
I love making a dish where the flavors are a surprise. When I'm eating pasta I expect that the red sauce will be a tomato based marinara sauce. This sauce is a red sauce with tomatoes in it, but it has black beans and red pepper in it as well. It's a surprise taking the first bite to have a Mexican sauce on an Italian dish but the surprise was a pleasant one.
This black bean sauce is thick and slightly spicy. It has a delicious flavor and a smooth texture from the black beans but it is still mixed with traditional tomatoes. Frank and I both enjoyed this twist on an Italian favorite.
Pasta with Black Bean Sauce (adapted from Branny Boils Over)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
2 T. chopped jalapenos
1 T. chopped cilantro
1 t. red pepper
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. oregano
2 c. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
16 oz. spaghetti
1. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until tender.
2. Add in the tomatoes, jalapenos, red pepper, oregano, salt, pepper, oregano, and black beans. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Spoon the hot mixture into a food processor and blend until mostly smooth. You can also do this using an immersion blender (which I do not have).
4. Serve over hot cooked pasta and garnish with cilantro.
I loved seeing all the responses to my giveaway and reading what your favorite books of the past year have been! I'm happy to say I've read all but 2 of them and they are now on my to read list. I used random.org to choose the winners of this giveaway. The first winner, who will win a one year subscription to Cooking Light Magazine is #7:
The Home CookFeb 1, 2012 04:32 AM
My favorite book in the past year has actually been a series - The Hunger Games
The second winner, who will be receiving a $10 gift card to Books a Million and the book Lola and the Boy Next Door is #29:
AmmieFeb 4, 2012 06:02 AM
My favorite book this last year was Eat Pray Love
Congratulations to both winners! Please leave your e-mail address on this post and I will contact you to receive your contact information and send you your prizes!
Mr. Rebound, by new author Michael Cain, opens with Susan being dumped just minutes before she walks down the aisle. She stares in shock at the note written on a bar napkin given to her by the best man. Her best friends, Kevin and Liz, sweep her out of the church and get her back to her apartment. While trying to decide what to do first Liz has the idea to send Susan and Kevin on the already paid for honeymoon trip to Cancun.
Soon Kevin and Susan find themselves in a huge suite in Cancun. There are two major problems. Kevin has always been in love with Susan and isn't sure how to act with her in this tropical paradise. The second is that Susan is curled up in a fetal position crying in her room. In an effort to bring her back into the world Kevin begins playing songs from their time together in college. Susan soon comes around only to realize that her geeky buddy Kevin has turned into gorgeous, well muscled hunk.
Kevin and Susan finally realize their attraction to each other which leads to some steamy scenes in Cancun. However, before they can talk about what has happened between then Liz makes her way to Mexico and interrupts. In an effort not to be hurt, Kevin leaves the girls in Mexico and flies home without a goodbye.
The rest of the novel takes us through how both Susan and Kevin cope in the months after their tryst in Cancun. Six months later they have a chance meeting while making a bid for the design of the new opera house for rival architect firms. Feelings come to the surface, assumptions are made, and these two best friends will never be the same after it's all over.
I enjoyed reading this book and that the characters were believable. It is a romantic comedy that is filled with fun, romance, and a few very steamy scenes. Overall it's a quick and fun read.
When I first saw a picture of this cupcake I was literally speechless. These were perhaps the most gorgeous cupcakes I've ever seen and I knew I had to make them immediately. I had everything in the pantry so I got started right away. My cloves and fennel were not ground, so I had to put them in my coffee grinder and grind until they were fine and powdery. The chai spice would be great to put in teas, coffees, or muffins.
The cupcakes were easy to make though I was a little concerned because they seemed to be runnier then most cupcakes I make. While they were making I made the chai cream cheese frosting. The frosting was thick and spicy with hints of cinnamon and cloves. It paired nicely with the sweet cupcakes and the sourness of the cranberries.
While my cupcakes weren't nearly as pretty as Kelsey's, they did look good. I had no idea that the recipe made up to 2 dozen until I looked over the entire recipe, so I ended up taking some of them into work. They were a big hit with the teachers. These would be a beautiful cupcake to make at Christmas time.
1/4 c. applesauce
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 T. chai spice seasoning
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. chopped fresh cranberries
For the frosting:
1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese
4 T. butter
2 t. vanilla
2 t. chai spice seasoning
4 c. powdered sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 20 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. In a small bowl combine all the ingredients for the chai spice. Stir until well combined.
3. In a stand mixer beat the butter on medium speed. Gradually add the sugar. Beat for 2 minutes or until fluffy. Add in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time.
4. In another bowl combine the flour, chai spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
5. Alternately add the flour mixture and then the milk to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix until fully incorporated. Fold in the cranberries.
6. Fill each muffin cup with 2/3 of the way full with the cranberry batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
8. Cream together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer. Add vanilla and chai spice and beat until fully incorporated. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting reaches the desired consistency.
My schedule this year is a little more hectic then it has been in previous years because I've been going straight from work to zumba and not coming home until 6:30 or 7 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since this is fairly late I've been searching for crock-pot recipes to make on these days so that I can come home and immediately eat a hot meal.
A great recipe I have found is for pork tinga enchiladas. The pork marinates in the crock-pot in a smokey, spicy, tomato based sauce all day. When it's time to eat the pork goes on a tortilla along with black beans, cheese, and cilantro. It's a delicious meal that is easy to prepare in the morning. The pork is spicy and full of flavor. The beans and cilantro cut through the spice and give the enchiladas a wonderful flavor. We topped ours off with a little sour cream and served it with a side of rice. There was also enough left to have for lunch the next day.
Spicy Pork Tinga Enchiladas (adapted from What's Cookin, Chicago?)
2 pounds boneless pork loin, fat trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 c. beef broth
1 t. olive oil
1/2 t. oregano
1 (14 oz) can tomato sauce
4 minced, canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1 t. pepper
For the toppings:
4 oz. shredded pepper jack cheese
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 (14 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1 c. enchilada sauce
1. In a slow cooker combine all the ingredients from the pork through the pepper. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
2. After 8 hours, use two forks and shred the pork meat in the crock-pot.
3. In a large bowl combine the cheeses, black beans, and cilantro.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
5. Place 2 tablespoons of pork tinga filling in the center of each tortilla. Sprinkle with the cheese mixture. Roll up the tortilla and place seam side down in the baking dish.
6. Sprinkle remaining cheese mixture on top of the enchiladas and then pour the enchilada sauce over top. Bake for 20 minutes.
As you know, I've recently made a Facebook page for Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks. In honor of my new Facebook page I've decided to have a giveaway! Since my blog is both about cooking and books I have a giveaway for each one. The first prize I am giving away is a 1 year subscription to one of my favorite cooking magazines, Cooking Light.
The second prize I am giving away is a $10 gift card to Books A Million as well as a hardback copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door.
To enter the giveaway you must complete the mandatory entry. You may also complete any of the optional entries in order to receive extra entries into the giveaway. Leave a comment for each of the entries including an e-mail address so I can contact you if you are a winner. All entries must be in by Saturday, February 4, 2012 at midnight. Giveaway is open to all US residents. There will be 2 winners, 1 for each prize. Winners will be announced Sunday, February 5.
1. Follow Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks on Twitter.
2. Follow Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks on Google Friends Connect.
3. Leave me a comment letting me know what your favorite book has been in the past year.
I recently saw a picture of Alice Springs chicken and knew it was something I had to make. Chicken is my absolute favorite meat and smothering it with cheese is my favorite way to eat it. This chicken is not only smothered with cheese but with sauteed mushrooms, bacon, and a honey mustard sauce as well.
I was a little concerned that the Dijon mustard would overpower the other flavors in this dish, but once it was combined with the honey and oil it took on a whole new flavor. The chicken itself was incredibly moist and the sweet and tangy honey mustard was slathered on top of it. Then came the sauteed mushrooms and bacon. It's finished off with a handful of Mexican blend cheese.
The only word to describe it is delicious. My husband, who is not all that fond of chicken, even called me at work the next day to tell me how good this chicken was. I served it with a side of mashed potatoes and some green beans.
Alice Springs Chicken (adapted from Everyday Food)
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
1/3 c. honey
2 T. olive oil, divided
1 t. lemon juice
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
4 slices bacon
1 c. shredded Mexican blend cheese
2 t. chopped fresh parsley
1. Combine the mustard, honey, half the olive oil, and the lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk to combine.
2. Place the chicken breasts in a ziplock bag and our half the mustard mixture over top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove and place in a 9 x 13 pan. Brush with remaining marinade.
5. In the same skillet add the mushrooms. Saute for 5-7 minutes or until the liquid is gone. Spoon the mushrooms on top of the chicken. Put the chicken in the oven.
6. Cook the bacon in the same skillet, turning to brown on both sides. Remove the bacon to a paper towel and let drain for 2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven. Place a strip of bacon on each piece of chicken and sprinkle with the cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 10 mintues or until cheese is melted and the chicken is cooked through.
7. Remove from oven and top with any remaining marinade and sprinkle with parlsey.
When I told my husband we were having chili lime tofu for dinner I could tell he wasn't thrilled. I've been making a lot of tofu recipes lately and some have been good and others have not. The chili lime sounded good and had very simple ingredients.
I liked that the tofu is cooked in a skillet sprayed only with cooking spray. The tofu triangles turned a golden brown and were nice and crispy. The sauce smelled amazing and when it was poured over top of the tofu it made a nice glaze over it. The tofu is spicy, flavorful, and crisp with hints of lime, garlic, and soy sauce. I served it over lime scented jasmine rice with sauteed sesame garlic spinach.
My husband loved this dish and in fact asked if I would make it with 2 bricks of tofu next time so he could have leftovers the next day! The only thing I would change is that I would double the sauce recipe and save some to pour over the rice as well as the tofu. This dish will be making it on our menu at least once a month from now on!
1 c. jasmine rice
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1 t. nutmeg
1 T. sugar
3 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1 t. garlic chili pepper sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
2 c. fresh spinach
1 T. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1. In a medium sized saucepan combine the jasmine rice, water, salt, zest of the lime, and nutmeg. Cook according to the package directions.
2. In a small bowl combine the sugar, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, garlic chili pepper sauce, garlic cloves, and juice of the lime. Mix well and set aside.
3. Slice the tofu into 5 slices. Cut each rectangle in half then each square into two triangles. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and cook the tofu for 10 minutes on each side or until it is golden brown.
4. Remove the skillet from heat and pour the chili lime sauce over top of the tofu. The sauce will bubble up , reduce, and form a glaze.
5. In a medium saute pan saute the spinach, sesame oil, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted but still green.
6. Serve the rice topped with spinach with the tofu on top.