Monday, August 31, 2009

Mexican-Style Chicken with Penne

You're probably thinking it's about time I make something other than a dessert! (Don't worry, I do have more desserts planned - but it seems like our dinners have all been repeats or nothing worth blogging lately.) We tried this recipe over the weekend and it turned out really great. It was quick to put together and had nice flavors full of fresh tomatoes, spiciness from the peppers, and a little bit of gooey cheesy goodness.

I made a few adjustments: used boneless/skinless chicken breasts, added a seeded jalapeno, hot banana, and sweet lipstick pepper, and completely forgot the corn (I always forget something!). We both really liked this recipe a lot. It was a bit spicy for me, but I was trying to make good use of our peppers so they didn't go to waste. The tomatoes and garlic also came from our garrden and I like to think the flavor was better than store-bought :) This recipe makes quite a bit and would be good for a crowd or just to have leftovers the next day.

Source: Food & Wine

3/4 pound penne rigate
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large garlic clove, minced
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 large chipotle in adobo sauce, seeded and minced, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/4 pound queso blanco or mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (1 1/3 cups)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until al dente. Drain the penne.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add it to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened and the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, chipotle and adobo sauce and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the corn, season with salt and pepper and cook until the corn is heated through, about 1 minute.

Add the penne and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the sauce and toss to coat. Add 1 cup of the queso blanco and toss. Transfer the pasta to bowls, sprinkle with the remaining queso blanco and the cilantro and serve.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Not being a fan of chocolate covered strawberries, I was happy to find these CHEESECAKE stuffed strawberries on The Novice Chef. You only need a few ingredients to put these together and they turn out to be quite impressive. Try them - you won't be disappointed!

2 quarts of fresh Strawberries
1 box Jello No Bake Cheesecake (I used this box mix and it came with the graham cracker crumbs. This was good, but next time I think I'd try making my own filling - just to compare.)
Crushed Graham Crackers
Milk Chocolate for drizzling (I also used white chocolate because I had some)

Wash the berries and hollow out the centers. I used a small paring knife for this. Mix the cheesecake according to the directions. Put the cheesecake in a piping bag and fill each strawberry until slightly overfilled. Then, place the graham cracker crumbs into a bowl and dip each strawberry into the crumbs to coat the top. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (I used just 1 block of the bark type chocolate from Kroger) in 30 second increments stirring between. Again, transfer to a piping bag with a narrow tip and drizzle onto each berry. Refrigerate until you're ready to eat!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thomas the Train Cake

My latest cake this month was for a Thomas the Train themed birthday party for our friends' son Sebastian - turning 5! Done in all buttercream with fondant railroad tracks. This is an easy design that was inspired by several cakes on cakecentral.com

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Soccer Cake

The second birthday cake last weekend was for a soccer player turning 7. I have never made a ball-shaped cake, so I was a little worried it might end up not quite looking like a ball, but it was surprisingly very easy and took little time to put together. I used the wilton soccer pan and found a template online for cutting out the white/black fondant shapes to piece over the ball. The stitches were made using a toothpick. I think it turned out pretty good and I'm ready to make another one of these!

The ball pan can be used to make cakes other than sports balls - check out some of the fun ideas from Wilton.

Ladybugs & Flowers

Another round of birthdays...another round of cakes! My next few posts are just some pictures of a few birthday cakes I've been making this month. Last weekend I made 2 cakes, one of which was this ladybug & flower cake for a 2 year old birthday! This was fun to make and I always like making girly cakes. The cakes are iced in buttercream and decorated using gumpaste.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Corn & Zucchini Pizza with Lime & Cilantro and White Garlic Sauce

The name is a bit misleading because I modified somewhat, but that's the name of the pizza that inspired this creation. After seeing this pizza on This Week's Menu Blog, I knew it would be another good way to use up some zucchini.

I'm not sure if I've ever had pizza without any kind of sauce, and I figured no sauce AND no meat would be pushing the limits with Aaron, so I needed sauce. I decided to try a white garlic sauce, which I've had when we've had pizza out, but never made myself at home. More about the sauce below...

1 pizza crust (I used a frozen pizza dough)
1.5 cups mozzarella cheese
3 oz. feta cheese

sliced and/or chopped vegetables:
ear of sweet corn, removed from cob
bell peppers
cherry tomatoes, halved

...and whatever else you have or like!


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread the crust out and bake it on the pizza stone sprinkled with corn meal at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then, spread a thin layer of the garlic sauce, half of the mozzarella cheese and the veggies. Sprinkle feta cheese and the rest of the mozzarella on top and bake for 10-15 minutes longer.

After baking, the pizza is topped with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. We both really liked this pizza - the vegetables were crunchy and flavorful, especially the fresh sweet corn. It was a perfect summer dinner!

White Garlic Pizza Sauce
I looked at a few recipes to get an idea of where to start and ended up with this sauce...very garlicy & very good. The following can be adjusted to your taste as I didn't measure everything as I went.

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp Olive Oil
3-4 tbsp Flour
milk (I used 1% milk and did not measure the amount)
minced garlic
red pepper flakes

Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the olive oil. Once melted, whisk in the flour until smooth. Cook for a minute, then begin adding the milk, a little at a time, whisking as you go. I used probably 1-2 cups total. You can adjust to get the consistency of sauce you are looking for. Once the sauce is smooth, it's time to season it up. I added a heaping small spoonful of minced garlic, along with 2-3 spoonfuls of the garlic juice (is it called garlic juice?). Add salt to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes. I had enough sauce to make 2 large pizzas, so next time I would only make half this amount.

Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

Overgrown zucchini were taking over our kitchen counter. We've been eating zucchini on the grill, zucchini in spaghetti sauce, stuffed zucchini, zucchini fritters and roasted zucchini, but I figured it was time for something sweet. Sure, I could make more zucchini bread, but we already have some of that in the freezer and I was ready to try a new recipe. I found this cupcake recipe on Erin's food Files Blog and comes from Martha Stewart Cupcakes. I loved that I didn't even have to pull out the mixer for this (except for the frosting). Everything was easily combined with a wire whisk. They are moist (I threw in a browning banana we had, too), fluffy and the cream cheese frosting makes them irresistable.

Source: Martha Stewart Cupcakes

Yields: 24 cupcakes

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 cups packed grated zucchini
1 cup walnuts (about 3 ounces), toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, vanilla, and zest until well blended; whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Stir in zucchini, then add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in walnuts.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Now for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
You must make this frosting to go with these cupcakes! The recipe does make quite a bit. I even used 16 oz. of cream cheese because I bought 2 blocks and I knew I would never use the other 4 oz. for something else, so why not mix it in? Unless you want to pipe a mountain of frosting on each cupcake (I piped a decent swirl on the tops and still have plenty of frosting to spare), I think 1/2 batch would do just fine.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 3 days in an airtight container; before using bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.
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