December 31, 2012

New York Coffee Cake

I LOVE coffee cake! This recipe was much easier to make than I thought. You do have to hand roll the  crumbles, but it is totally worth it... I promise! Recipe from Blue-Eyed Bakers.

For the crumb topping:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
  • 1¾ cups cake flour* (if you can't find or don't have cake flour, use this conversion for all-purpose flour)
For the cake:
  • 1¼ cups cake flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 pieces, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  1. Begin by making the crumb topping. Mix sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl to combine. Add flour and stir until mixture forms a thick, slightly crumbly dough. Set aside while you assemble the cake.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray an 9x9" glass baking dish with non-stick spray and line with a length of parchment paper slightly smaller than the width of the dish. Allow parchment to overhang sides of dish. Spray parchment with non-stick spray as well.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda and salt on low speed to combine.
  4. With the mixer on low, add butter one piece at a time, beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs with no visible chunks of butter, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Transfer batter to baking pan and spread into an even layer. Roll crumb topping into marble-sized chunks and spread in an even layer over batter.
  6. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes before removing cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang.

    Enjoy :)

December 29, 2012

Peppermint Bark

I hope y'all had a wonderful Christmas with your families and loved ones! I sure did :)

This bark cost around $6 to make (a 9 x13" pan) and was so simple (minus unwrapping 24 candy canes by hand then crushing them in a Ziplock until my fingers were numb.) It wasn't until after I made this that I found out its easier to crush the candy canes with the wrappers on and I also read one blogger used a food processor to crush hers. Oh well... labor of love, right?! Baking or cooking is always an experiment- that's how we learn and I'll know for next year!

  • 2 pounds milk chocolate chips
  • 2 pounds white chocolate chips
  • 24 peppermint candy canes, crushed (*Make sure the ingredients list peppermint oil as this will give you the best peppermint flavor)
  1. Melt the milk chocolate chips in a small sauce pan over low heat, careful to not burn the chocolate.
  2. Pour onto a wax paper lined baking sheet. Spread evenly then place in refrigerator to harden.
  3. In either a food processor or by hand, crush the candy canes. Sift peppermint candy to separate the large chunks from the peppermint sand.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt the white chocolate like in Step 1. Allow to cool a few minutes but not harden, then gently fold the peppermint sand into the white chocolate.
  5. Remove the cooled milk chocolate from the fridge and spread the white chocolate on top. Sprinkle the peppermint chunks evenly over the white chocolate and gently press the pieces into the layer.
    Refrigerate until hardened. Cut or break the bark into pieces (*I found it easier to let it sit 10-15 minutes after taking it out of the fridge before cutting into it.) Enjoy!

December 26, 2012

Homemade Hot Chocolate

On dreary days like today, not much is better than a mug of hot chocolate! Since I try to consume little chemically processed food/beverages, I created this healthy, homemade hot chocolate to stay on track.

  • 1 cup of unsweetened, vanilla Almond Milk
  • a few taps of ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened Hershey's Cocoa Powder
  • 2 packets of Stevia in the Raw (equivalent to 4 Tbsp. sugar)
  1. In a small saucepan, warm the almond milk and cinnamon until simmering.
  2. While constantly stirring, add in the cocoa powder until it is completely dissolved; then stir in the Stevia in the Raw.
  3. Remove from heat, pour mixture into a mug, and enjoy! :)

*Recipe inspired by Tone it Up and Shorely Chic.

December 19, 2012

Stuffed Shells

I love stuffed shells. My sister told me she made this dish for dinner two nights ago and it was amazing. I didn't have any doubts, but boy she was right! Allow about an hour for prep plus 30 minutes to bake. Recipe adapted from Eat Live Run.

  • 12 oz box jumbo shells
  • 1 (16 oz.) container Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 cup Italian blend grated Cheese
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 12 oz container Cottage Cheese
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • A dash of ground nutmeg
  • Carrie's Marinara Sauce*
  • 1½ cups grated Mozzarella Cheese
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, defrosted with liquid wrung out
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Boil the pasta in salted water.  Drain and lay out shells on wax paper, as pasta will stick to paper towels.  Let cool and make the filling.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the Ricotta, Cottage Cheese, Italian cheese, Parmesan, salt + pepper, Nutmeg and Spinach; mix well.

  4. Spoon desired amount of the mixture into each shell and lay each seam side up into a greased 9x13″ baking dish.
    (You may have extra and can bake those in a smaller dish.)

  5. Sprinkle some Mozzarella over the shells then ladle your desired amount of sauce on top. (*You can freeze the remaining sauce once it has cooled to room temperature.) 
    (The left side for those who don't like a lot of sauce; the right side for those who do!)

  6. Cover with tin foil and bake 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Marinara Sauce

The first time I made this recipe was for my Chicken Parmesan dish. It is such an easy and classic sauce and quickly has become my go-to. For this recipe, I did not add any sugar.

This recipe will fill a 2.5 quart stock pot and the best part... it is freezable! Now you'll never have to buy another jar of sauce again! Just defrost and prepare your pasta as usual.

  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 2 (28-oz) cans Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Coat a sauté pan with EVOO and place over medium heat.
  2. When oil gets hazy, add onions, garlic and the bay leaves; cook and stir for 5 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add some hand-torn basil.
  3. Carefully add the tomatoes; cook and stir until the liquid is cooked down and the sauce is thick (about 15 minutes.) Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Lower the heat, cover, and keep warm.

December 12, 2012

Ginger Snaps

This recipe is passed down from my grandmother. I enjoy cooking and baking experiences with family members and adding their recipes to my collection. I am reminded of the fun times my siblings, parents, cousins, aunt and uncle, and grandparents shared making our annual Gingerbread Houses (check out an older post here). Nothing is quite as delicious as family recipes :)

This recipe makes about 4 dozen.

  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cream the shortening and sugar; add molasses and egg; beat well. 

  3. Sift dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture; beat well. 

  4. Roll in small balls; dip into sugar. 

  5. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. 

  6. Bake for 10 minutes and enjoy :)

    (Cookie Exchange, December 2013)

December 2, 2012

Panera Style Mac & Cheese

I came across this recipe a few months ago on Panera'a recipe page and knew I had to save it for a future dinner. Last week, I had dinner at Panera and noticed the large serving sells for $7.99. That sounded really high for mac and cheese, so I pulled up the recipe and decided to make it for dinner tonight. GET THIS-- it cost me a grand total of $5.16* for all of the ingredients. It makes 6 servings, so that comes to $0.86/serving!!! Talk about markup...

This dish was sooo easy to make. The most time consuming part was grating the cheese ...and the dishes/clean up. Once the pasta is boiled, be ready to rock and roll and eat it within the next 10 minutes!

*This price doesn't include things I already had in my pantry (flour and salt) and fridge (butter, milk, and mustard) that you most likely already have too.

Recipe adapted from Panera Bread
Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 (16-ounce) box of pasta shells
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups milk (I used 2 cups half and half and ½ cup skim milk)
  • 1 cup Italian blend cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Extra-Sharp White Vermont Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt, to taste 
  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.
  3. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.
  4. Add cheeses, mustard, and salt, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
  5. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated).

Enjoy :)

November 30, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Serves 4
Recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

For the Cordon Bleu:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 slices good quality deli ham
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (preferably fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 slices of thinly sliced Swiss cheese (I used 1½ slices per breast)
For the Parmesan-Dijon Cream Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (I used a half packet of Ramen noodle chicken flavoring since I didn't have any bouillon cubes)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

*Note: Save the heels of bread and store them in the freezer until you need them. Grind it in a food processor when you need it!

  1. Lightly grease a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and melted butter. Set aside.
  2. Butterfly the chicken breasts. Place 2 slices of ham inside and one and a half slices of Swiss cheese on top of the ham. Close the chicken then place it in the baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the chicken.
  3. Bake the chicken for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through completely and the cheese is bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden.
  4. When the chicken is almost done, in a medium saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the flour, whisking constantly. Cook the flour/butter mixture for 1-2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking quickly. Stir in the chicken bouillon granules and salt. Whisk mixture constantly over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer and thicken, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Once the sauce has bubbled and thickened, remove from heat and stir in the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Keep the sauce warm until the chicken is finished baking. If your sauce is too thick, whisk in some more milk. If it’s too thin, simmer longer.
  6. Serve each chicken cordon bleu portion with warm sauce and enjoy!

November 14, 2012

Carrie's Culinary Christmas Tree!

With my passion for cooking and Christmas decorating, I started collecting small kitchen utensil ornaments to decorate my mini tree and have on display in the kitchen!

I had been eyeballing these ornaments (a colander, grater, wooden spoon, whisk, and rolling pin) last Christmas at Sur la Table. I was debating whether or not to purchase them because I didn't know if they would be too big for my mini tree. After going back and forth in my mind and stalking their site daily, I finally decided to make my purchase. I am so glad that I did- I love them!

This was a 2011 Crate and Barrel ornament purchase.

Finally, the best deal for last... I snatched these babies off of eBay!! It is an 8-piece mini copper ornament set similar to some that Williams-Sonoma sold a few years back. I knew I had to have them. They're the perfect addition and now my little tree is complete... for now :)

In addition to my tree, I also have a Baker Santa as seen in a previous post. I am already excited for Christmas!