Friday, July 31, 2009

Blueberries and Cream Dessert Smoothie

blueberry dessert smoothieSo why do fruit smoothies always have to be healthy? Why can't they be decedent every once in a while??? I'm breaking all the rules and making these smoothies sweet and luscious (we'll have them for dessert instead of breakfast - why not?)

Blueberries and Cream Dessert Smoothie
Makes 4-6 smoothies

2 cups vanilla yogurt
2 cup crushed ice
1 cup frozen blueberries
2-4 cups whole milk
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
heavy cream (optional)

Put the first 6 ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into serving glasses and if desired, drizzle a touch of heavy cream on top or each glass (I highly recommend). Totally indulgent!

Bonus Photography Tip:

blog photographyThis is how I set up the photograph. Note the natural light from the window. I used a scrap of black poster board for the background, and I propped a piece of white poster board on the left side of the shot to reflect some light back onto the shadowy side of the glass. Then I zoomed in and clicked away. I like the end result. Best part... it cost 0$.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Symphony Brownies

almond toffee brownies symphony
brownies almond toffee symphonyI couldn't resist trying these brownies when I heard all the oohs and ahhs from friends who were sampling them at a recent get together.

Wow, were they good... and I was totally hooked on the crunchy little sweet bits inside! I knew I had to find out more about these wonderful little morsels of joy - so off I went to find their maker, who was more than happy to tell me all about them. Only one catch, there was no recipe... nope, these little bits of goodness were made from a boxed brownie mix and candy bars (what? yes, it's true).

The scratch baker in me thinks these have got to be even better when made from a scratch recipe, but if you're not into that, or if you want a super fast, no-fuss brownie that will have you fighting off the compliments and recipe request, here's what you'll need:

Symphony Brownies
makes 1 9x13 pan

1 18.3oz box brownie mix (recipe for a 9x13 pan)
3 4.25oz Hershey's Symphony Bars (Almond and Toffee)

Mix the brownie batter according to the directions on the box. Pour 1/2 the batter into a 9x13 cake pan. Unwrap the 3 chocolate bars and lay them side-to-side in a single layer on the brownie batter. Top with remaining batter. Bake according to the directions on the box. Cool completely before cutting.

Note: I found the jumbo Symphony bars at Wal-Mart for only $1 each. Next time I'll try these with a scratch brownie recipe and homemade toffee candy, or maybe Toblerone chocolate - oh my!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ina's Oven Roasted Shrimp

easy oven roasted shrimp
Ina's Oven Roasted Shrimp - ButterYum
Oh me, oh my... Ina has done it again.
These oven roasted shrimp are soooooooo good!!!

Oven Roasted Shrimp
Makes 1 pound

1 lb. peeled and de-veined Shrimp (16-20 count)
olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F. Dry shrimp well and drizzle with olive oil. Season with Kosher salt and pepper. Toss to coat well. Spread out in a single layer on a flat sheet pan. Roast in the center of the oven for 8-10 minutes.

That's it... so simple, quick, and perfectly cooked. Great for dinner on a busy day, or use them in more special dishes like my Shrimp Linguine Alfredo.

I hope you'll give them a try.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Easy Chili from leftovers

easy chili
I just love when I can throw together a quick dinner using leftovers! That's exactly how I made this fast and easy chili - I used the leftovers from two dinners we had earlier in the week... meat sauce from our pasta dinner 2 nights ago, and beef taco filling from dinner last night. I combined the two in a large sauce pan, added a can of kidney beans, a little cumin, some diced sweet peppers, and about 1/4 c of water. I simmered the mix over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot, and served with the usual toppings. Isn't it great when a meal falls together so easily!

easy chili
Easy Chili from Leftovers

2 cups leftover meat sauce (made with ground beef, or ground turkey)
2 cups leftover beef taco filling (ground turkey also works)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)

Optional Add-ins or Garnish:(use as many as you like)
diced tomatoes
diced sweet bell peppers
minced red onions
sliced scallions or chives
cheddar cheese
sour cream
cilantro or parsley
hot sauce
crushed red pepper

Additional Notes:
I make my meat sauce with either ground beef or ground turkey (which ever I have on hand at the time). I start by sauteing one jumbo Spanish onion in olive oil; sauteing until the onion starts to caramelize, then I add 3-4 cloves of pressed or minced garlic; stirring for about a minute. Then I add 3 lbs. of ground beef or turkey and S&P to taste; cooking until browned; stirring occasionally to break up the clumps. If I'm using ground beef, I'll drain away any fat (not necessary if using ground turkey). Then I add an equal amount of the cooked meat to my favorite San Marzano Tomato Sauce (but you could use whatever tomato sauce you like), and heat until bubbly.

I make my taco filling the same way as described above, but instead of adding tomato sauce, I add one large can of refried beans, a couple of teaspoons of taco seasoning, and a little water. Combine well and heat until bubbly.

Because the meat sauce and taco filling are both seasoned already, I don't add any additional S&P when turning the leftovers into chili.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New Pantry - Part 2

Remember these lovable knuckleheads from my post New Pantry - Part 1?

They came for a visit one weekend and transformed this baron space by building me a new pantry to replace that itty-bitty broom closet pantry that my house came with. It was a deep, dark, cave-like pit of despair (yes, it's that narrow door on the right - what a joke, right?).

Here's the initial after photo - still needed to be painted inside and out, and have shelves installed, but the completed project was in sight - Whoo-hoo!

I was going to tackle the painting myself, but I was kind of dreading the thought of painting the inside of the 14-inch deep, 9-foot tall space, when a young man in our church announced that he was starting his own painting business - Yeah!
so I hired him.

But he wasn't interested in installing the shelving.

So hubby agreed to install the shelves for me. Because this pantry is only 14-inches deep, the selection of shelving I could use is very limited. I couldn't decide between white laminate shelves, or tight mesh wire shelving specifically designed for pantries. I finally decided on the tight mesh wire shelves. We went to buy them yesterday, but we didn't know the 12-inch wire shelving has to be special ordered, so we opted for the white laminate shelves, which were in stock and available.

I'm actually very pleased with them - they're much higher quality than I expected. I wanted to load them up with lots of heavy things, and I didn't want the shelves to ever bend or bow, so hubby installed 5 metal support (one on each stud - such a man thing to do). Then he patiently moved the shelves up and down several times while I played around trying to decide where to put everything. He's such a good guy!

And here it is! I'm so happy!!!
Believe it or not, all of that stuff came out of the itty-bitty pantry... amazing!
There's Misty - she's just checking to make sure her cat food has a home in the new pantry - it does!

Eventually I'm going to transform the old pantry into a storage closet for all my pots and pans... I have a ton of them, so stay tuned!
Update - Here it is, my newly transformed pot/pan storage closet.

Thanks guys - I LOVE my new pantry!!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Amaretto Shortbread with almonds and brown sugar

Disaronno amaretto shortbread
This is a tweak on a recipe posted by my good friend Laura (aka The Cooking Photographer). Laura's original recipe called for Scotch and pecans, but I didn't have any Scotch in the house so I thought I'd revise the recipe to include Amaretto and almonds. They turned out extremely well and are even better served on day 2 or 3. They'll make a wonderful addition to any cookie try - great served with coffee or tea.

Disaronno Shortbread with Almonds and Brown Sugar
makes one 9x9-inch pan

½ cup almonds
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar (no lumps please)
1 tablespoon Disaronno Amaretto (or 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract)
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

¼ cup coarsely chopped almonds
1 tablespoon coarse sugar

Place rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325F degrees. Line a 9x9-inch square baking pan lined with nonstick foil. Be sure the nonstick side is facing up. Alternately, you can use regular foil that has been lightly buttered (you want to be able to lift the bars out by the foil edges). Note: for glass pans, lower the oven temp 25F.

Process 1/2 cup almonds, flour, and salt together in a food processor until almonds are finely ground. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter for a minute until creamy. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, Disaronno, and vanilla extract; beat for 2 minutes until the texture is light and fluffy. On low speed, mix in the flour, half at a time, until just combined. Be careful not to over mix.

Press the dough evenly into the baking pan. Sprinkle the top with the chopped almonds and the coarse sugar - press them slightly to embed them in the cookie dough.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until lightly golden brown around the edges.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then grab the edges of the foil and move the shortbread to a nearby cutting surface and immediately cut into squares with a very sharp knife. Move the cookies to a cooling rack and finish cooling.

  • Be careful to not let the almonds burn.
  • For best results, make a day or two in advance.
Laura's original recipe can be found here.  Please check out her blog... it's one of my favorites!