Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Asparagus Roll Ups with Ham & Cheddar

I had been searching recipe sites lately looking for something perfect for Easter.  Once I saw these roll ups from The Fresh Fridge, I knew they’d be perfect.  It’s impossible to resist the fresh green of the asparagus, the golden brown of the crescent rolls, and the sweetness of brown sugar ham.  I’ve previously expressed my appreciation for food that looks as good as it tastes.  These roll ups definitely fit that description.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, they are also really simple to make. 
The first step is to take a package of crescent rolls and spread it out flat on a cookie sheet.  Spread some dijon mustard (or honey mustard, which I'll try next time) over the surface area.  Next, sprinkle on some of your favorite shredded cheese.  Adding cheese was the only change I made to the recipe. I used some shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese.  I love the way it goes with brown sugar ham, but I’m sure that parmesan, swiss, or whatever cheese you have on hand would also work well.  When I told my sister I was adding cheese, she replied, “why not? Cheese makes everything better.”  Yep, we’re definitely related. 

Next, wrap a slice of ham around a stalk of steamed asparagus.
Place the ham & asparagus bundle on the large end of one of the crescent roll triangles. 

Leave the tip of the stalk sticking out of the top.  You may have to trim the bottom of the asparagus bundle to fit.  Roll up the crescent rolls. 

Bake as directed on the crescent roll package, or until golden brown. 

Aren't they pretty neat looking for something so simple?  These are sure to be a crowd pleaser. 

Now That's a Sandwich.

I’ve been accused many times of being a food snob.  I can’t exactly argue against that.  I grew up in a house where people always cooked.  I wasn’t even aware that instant mashed potatoes existed for most of my childhood.  (The use of instant potatoes still leaves me baffled.)  My younger sister came home from daycare one day talking about how her lunch was a sandwich made with “little round things like meat” and mayo.  We finally figured out later that she’d been fed a bologna sandwich. 

Because of my beliefs on what good food consists of, I have different views of what certain food should be.  For instance, when someone mentions making a sandwich, they are probably thinking of packaged lunch meat and a cheese single on Wonder bread.  Well, here’s my version of a sandwich: 

This sandwich consists of ciabatta bread topped with honey mustard, white cheddar cheese, thinly sliced brown sugar ham, bacon, caramelized onions and baby portabella mushrooms.  As set out in this recipe, the portabellas have been sautéed in some balsamic vinegar and grape juice, giving them a sweet, robust flavor.  The whole sandwich is then toasted in a sandwich press.  Go ahead and call me picky, or spoiled, or a food snob.   You won’t get much fight from me.  I’ll be too busy eating this for dinner. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

The next cupcake recipe was one that I figured my husband, who’s a big fan of cookie dough ice cream, would enjoy.  The blog Annie’s Eats had posted a recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes that food bloggers everywhere were clamoring to try. Who can blame them?  Cookie dough plus cupcakes is a hard combo to beat. 

What intrigued me most about the cupcakes was the cookie dough flavored icing.  A cup of flour in frosting seemed a little odd.  My fears went away the minute I tasted it.  This frosting totally makes the cupcakes.  It really does taste like cookie dough. 

As for the center of the cupcakes, a portion is hollowed out to allow a ball of cookie dough to be placed inside.  This eggless cookie dough is made with sweetened condensed milk. 
The only portion of the cupcakes I wasn’t crazy about was the cake itself.  A brown sugar cake recipe is used to pull all the cookie flavors together.  The cake wasn’t bad, but it didn’t add a lot of flavor either. It was a little crumbly instead of fluffy.  I think a good white or butter cake recipe would be just as good, if not better.   To save some steps, a box cake mix could even be used, especially since it acts as a base to showcase the frosting and stuffing.

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I mentioned earlier that it is common at my husband’s workplace to bring treats for everyone on your birthday.  This gave me a good excuse to try out a couple cupcake recipes I’ve had my eye on. 

I had happened across this recipe for Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes.  What part of that doesn’t sound good?  I used Glorious Treats’ recipe for the dark chocolate cupcakes.  I did cheat on the caramel sauce by using Smuckers ice cream sauce.  (There are a few things where the homemade version is just not going to make enough difference to be worth the trouble of doing it yourself.) 

The cake batter was really easy to mix up. It turned out very moist.  In fact, it was so moist that the poor caramel sauce soaked in and left a void where it was supposed to sit. I’m wondering now if substituting a caramel square instead of the syrup might work.  It could probably be baked in the cupcakes or placed in right out of the oven. 
The cupcakes themselves had a great, rich flavor.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the chocolate and cream based ganache recipe.  I love dark chocolate, but it was still a little too bitter.  The chocolate glaze recipe from the smores cupcakes I made a couple months ago might be better.  I'll have to try that next time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Steak au Poivre

My husband requested steak au poivre for his birthday dinner.  This worked well because it was a recipe I'd been wanting to try.  After sorting through multiple recipes, I realized that each one was more different than the other.  Some used brined green peppercorns in the sauce.  Others patted crushed peppercorns into the steak.  Considering how much my husband loves pepper, I decided to combine the two.  My husband always talks about a steak he tried once in a restaurant that was completely encrusted with pepper, so I decided to replicate that.  For this steak, I bought a small jar of five mix peppercorns.   I poured the entire jar into a Ziploc bag and ran a ceramic rolling pin over them until they were barely crushed. After sprinkling a little salt on both sides of two 8 oz filets, I patted all sides of the filets in the crushed peppercorn.  My husband was starting to drool at the sight of these steaks. 

While the steaks cooked, I started the sauce.  I liked the idea of using green peppercorns in brine, but unfortunately had not been able to find any.  Earlier in the day, I decided to take a tablespoon of dried green peppercorns instead and left them to soak in about a tablespoon of beef broth. 

I combined about three different recipes for the sauce, including those by The Pioneer Woman, Tyler Florence, and Brooklyn FarmhouseHere’s what I came up with:

Steak au Poivre

·         2- 8 oz filets
·         salt
·         mixed peppercorns (crushed)
Prepare steaks as mentioned above, then cook however you choose.  We grilled them.  When the steaks are about 5 minutes from done, begin the sauce.  

·         1.5 tbsp butter
·         1 shallot (diced)
·         1.5 to 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
·         ¼ cup brandy
·         1/2 to 1 tbsp green peppercorns soaked in beef broth
·         ½ cup cream
·         splash of red wine (optional)

Melt the butter in a large skillet.  Add diced shallot and cook on low heat until soft.  Whisk in brandy and Dijon mustard.  Add green peppercorns and accompanying beef broth while stirring. Allow to cook down while you measure out the cream. Add cream and splash of red wine.  (I had an open bottle on the counter, so it seemed like a good idea at the time.) Allow it to bubble for about a minute to thicken.  Remove from heat and pour over steak. 
I served these steaks with mashed potatoes and my husband’s favorite green bean recipe.  Upon his first bite of steak, my husband announced, “and you can quote me on this- YUM, PEPPER!!”  I had read that steak au poivre and cabernet sauvignon are a classic pairing, so we opened a bottle of 2007 Benziger cabernet sauvignon to round out the meal.

My husband enjoyed every bite of the pepper overload.  I found myself a little overwhelmed with pepper and started to scrape some off the sides of the steak.  The sauce, however, was fantastic.  I was also surprised at how easy it was too make.  In the end, my husband ended up with a birthday dinner he really enjoyed and we have a new steak recipe to keep in the rotation.

The "Helpers"

I had planned to try out a couple recipes today.  Fortunately, my helpers are too busy lounging in the sun to get under foot. 

They still want to position themselves so they can keep an eye on the baking process.  There was even a discussion over who got the bar stool that is tall enough to let them glance over the counter, while still remaining in a beam of sun. 
My husband even placed two bar stools over by the patio window so they could enjoy the weather.
That didn't last long.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Shrimp Wraps with Mandarin Orange Salsa

After making some rather unhealthy recipes, I thought I’d try something a little lighter.  I had seen a recipe for fish tacos with mandarin orange salsa.   The salsa, which was a mix of mandarin oranges, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and yellow or red bell pepper, looked bright and delicious. 

I preferred using shrimp instead of the tilapia that the recipe called for.  My mother had also recently brought me something called a Grill It, which is basically a small stove top grill.  I thought shrimp would be the perfect thing to try out on it. 

I made the salsa first so the flavors would have time to mix together.  The salsa recipe, which is adapted from gimme some oven, is as follows:
  • 1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained and halved (or you can substitute fresh mandarin oranges)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped red bell peppers (I used yellow)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped red onion
  • 1/2 Tbsp. finely diced, seeded jalapeno
  • dash of salt
  • couple dashed of lime juice
I’ll admit that I didn’t really measure the ingredients, so I probably ended up with more of the pepper, onion, and jalapeno than the recipe calls for.  In this recipe, how much of each ingredient you use is all up to individual taste. 

Next, I mixed a half pound of fresh shrimp with some lime juice, drizzle of honey, and some chipotle chili powder.  The shrimp took about 5 minutes to cook on the Grill It.  A regular skillet would work well also. 
I usually buy the 98% fat free tortillas, which aren’t sold in a small enough size to be taco.  I decided to do wraps instead.  White rice sounded like a good filler for the wraps. (I think I have been to Chipotle too many times.)  After placing the shrimp, salsa, and rice on the tortillas, I add just a sprinkle of white cheddar cheese.
This recipe went over fantastic.  My husband actually ate three of them, all the while talking about how great the salsa was.  I was also really impressed by the flavor of the simple salsa.     
I will warn you that this light recipe probably acts as a buffer for what is about to come.  My husband’s birthday is coming up.  Not only is it tradition at his work to take treats to share with co-workers, but he is also requesting steak au poivre for his birthday dinner.  This means I will have some (hopefully) good, but not so healthy recipes to share with you soon. 

Triple Layer Oreo Brownies

I recently ran into an Oreo brownie recipe that looked too good to resist   It just so happened that my husband and I were meeting up with family later, so I had some unsuspecting victims to unload these super rich brownies on.  The brownies consisted of a brownie base stuffed with an Oreo.  The baked brownies were then covered with crushed Oreos and chocolate chips before being stuck back in the oven for a couple minutes.  Surely this was the end of the chocolate assault?  Nope.  Next, the entire batch was covered with a chocolate and peanut butter sauce.  You can see why I didn’t want to leave these around the house for myself. 
Since we are taking about a recipe involving Oreos, I have to take a minute to get something off my chest.  Use real Oreos, people!  There is nothing worse than someone telling you they’ve made an Oreo recipe, only to find out they’ve actually used fake Oreos.  People that offer up fake Oreos are not only oblivious, but rude.  It’s flat out insulting.  I saw a few version of this recipe using knock-off Oreos, but I wouldn’t even consider that. 

I was a little concerned that there was too much flour going into these brownies.  To me, the brownies turned out a little too cake like, which was odd since the brownie pictures in the recipe looked very dense and moist. I also didn’t have enough chocolate chips to fully complete the topping.  (Silly me- I only had 1 complete bag & about ¼ of another!) This meant I just drizzled the chocolate over the top instead of letting it completely cover it.  I still found the sauce, especially the peanut butter addition, to be a little too much.