Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mint Chocolate Trifle

When we got a couple days notice of a St. Patrick's Day "bring green food" pot luck at work I knew I needed something easy but impressive (a girl has to maintain her culinary reputation).   I decided on a trifle because few things look more impressive (and more importantly trifles are so simple and easy, but that's a secret so don't tell anyone).

A Pinterest search of St. Patrick's recipes yields a plethora of mint chocolate.  I am not sure that mint and chocolate are authentically Irish, but there is the whole green thing of the mint and what goes better with mint than chocolate?  However, nothing really stood out to me as "the one".   So I abandoned Pinterest and set off on my own adventure to make a mint chocolate trifle.

When I was trying to decide what I was bring to work I just called it "Leprechaun Surprise" so that is an alternative name

Mint Chocolate Trifle 


Ingredients 

1 box brownie mix, mixed according to package directions
2 large boxes vanilla pudding 
4 cups milk 
1 large container Cool Whip 
mint extract 
green food coloring 
mint chocolate cookies such as grasshopper or Thin Mints 
1 box Junior Mints 

Directions

Mix the brownies according to the package directions 
Lay parchment paper on the bottom of your baking pan and bake according to directions
When the brownies are done lift the parchment paper up and  jostle a bit to break up the brownie while it is very hot and crumbly 
Let the brownies cool completely 
While the brownies are cooling mix the pudding with the milk, you'll use less milk than the package directions call for
Mix the mint extract in to taste 
Add green food coloring until the desired shade of green is reached
Fold in the Cool Whip 
When the brownies are cool layer a third in the bottom of a trifle dish
Cover with a layer of one third of the pudding mix 
Break the cookies and and a thin layer over the pudding followed by half the remaining brownies 
Cover with another layer of half the remaining pudding mix
Layer the remaining brownies over the pudding mix 
Cover with the rest of the pudding mix 
Decorate with the Junior Mints as desired 

Tips and Hints

  • I made the brownies and pudding mix the night before assembling the trifle 
  • The mint seems to intensify as it sits 
  • If the pudding mix is not reaching a shade of green you like it may be due to the yellowish hue of the pudding you can add a bit of blue coloring as well



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Luscious Lemon Bars

I have a confession to make:  I. Love. Lemon desserts!   Not the artificial flavored junk, but the real lemony goodness of fresh lemons mixed into butter and sugar to create delicious confections that taste like sunshine.  

Searching Pinterest yields numerous lemon bar recipes all claiming to be "the best ever,"  it is confusing and enough to make my head swim.  They are all fairly similar but nothing striking.  I pulled some unique bits from various recipes and added more lemon plus a special ingredient of my own; and while I can't definitively claim these are "the best" recipe out there I can claim they are everything I think a lemon bar should be: sweet, tangy, creamy, chewy and most importantly yummy! 



Luscious Lemon Bars 


Ingredients:

Crust:

2 sticks of butter - chilled 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons lemon zest 
2-3 drops lemon essential oil *
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt 

Filling:

6 eggs 
1-2 Tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2-3 drops lemon essential oil* 
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour 
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 

fresh raspberries (optional) 

powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350

Cut the butter into piece
Using an electric mixer cream sugars into the butter
Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon essential oil
Blend a bit longer, until thoroughly mixed
Add flour and salt 
Continue mixing until well blended and smooth
Press into a "bar pan" (10x15) size pan covering bottom of pan 
Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile beat the eggs until frothy
Add lemon zest, lemon juice and lemon essential oil while mixing 
Reduce mixer speed slightly and add sugar, mix well
Combine flour and baking powder together, then add to the mixture
Increase speed and beat until very smooth, about three minutes

With the crust on the oven rack (to prevent filling from spilling during transfer) pour the filling into the crust 
If you are using raspberries gently fold them into the mix just before pouring onto the crust. You may need to move them evenly over the crust 
Bake about 45 minutes until the filling is golden and firm.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely 
Sprinkle with powdered sugar 
Cut into squares and enjoy!  

Tips and Hints 

  • *If you use essential oils make sure you are using a pure grade approved by the manufacturer for internal use such as doTERRA  
  • You can use a 9x13 pan but I prefer the thinner and more plentiful squares 
  • You can use strawberries or blueberries in place of the raspberries


Friday, October 30, 2015

Sweet n Spicy Pumpkin Chili

It's October and that means Pumpkin! I love finding and making new pumpkin recipes.  I also love chili.  Why not combine the two for Pumpkin Chili!   A touch of sweet, also spicy with oodles of pumpkin and it is vegan to boot.  The first time I made it I took it to a chili cook off at my church and it took Second Place.  (First Place went to my other entry Chipotle Chocolate Chili ).  I love this fresh take on chili and hope you do too!  


Spicy n Sweet Pumpkin Chili






Ingredients 

1 Tablespoon coconut oil 
1/2  large onion, finely chopped 
1 carrot, finely chopped 
1 stalk celery, finely chopped 

1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped 
1-2 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 serrano pepper, minced
1 habanero pepper, minced 
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed 
1/2 large onion, rough chopped 

2 1/2 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons soy sauce* 

1 cup vegetable broth 
1 can coconut milk
4 cups pumpkin puree
4 medium to large fresh tomatoes, chopped 
1  15 ounce cans diced fire roasted tomatoes, with liquid
1 14.5 ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed 
1 14.5 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed 
1 14.5 ounce can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed 
2-3 cups uncooked cubed pumpkin
salt and pepper to taste 

garnish 

chopped green onions
shredded cheddar cheese
light sour cream or Greek Yogurt 


Directions

Heat coconut oil add 1/2 onion, carrot and celery, saute until caramelized
Add chopped peppers and remaining onion and saute about five more minutes 
Meanwhile combine chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cayenne 
Add the seasoning blend and soy sauce, saute five more minutes 
Add vegetable broth to deglaze the pan
Mix in coconut milk, stir to blend well and simmer five minutes
Stir in the pumpkin puree and blend well 
Add chopped tomatoes, fire roasted tomatoes and all beans, mix well
Add cubed pumpkin 
Bring to a simmer and reduce heat
Simmer, covered until the pumpkin is tender 

Serve with desired toppings 

Tips and Hints

  • I recommend fresh pumpkin puree
  • *Use LaChoy or Tamari sauce to make this gluten free
  • Can be cooked in a crock pot by transferring to the crock-pot right after deglazing the pan, then following the directions except cooking on low 6-8 hours 
  • If you like a bit less spicy omit the habanero and use only one jalapeno, removing the seeds.  You can also use other chili peppers of varying heat depending on your preference



Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pumpkin Puree

I love cooking with pumpkin!   Sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, always delicious!   The building block of everything pumpkin is liquid gold, aka pumpkin puree.  Of course the puree from fresh real pumpkin is superior to the canned pumpkin and it is easy to make.   Cook up a bunch, freeze the excess and enjoy all your pumpkin recipes 

Pumpkin Puree






Ingredients 

Pumpkin! 


Directions

Cut the top off the pumpkin and remove the seeds, set them aside
Scoop out all the "guts" and scrape any excess off the pumpkin flesh
Cut the pumpkin into medium size chunks 
Place face down on a baking sheet and place in a 350 oven 


Bake until the skin is dark and the flesh is very tender, about 2 hours


Remove from the oven and as soon as you can handle the pumpkin remove the skin 
Place the cooked flesh in a blender and process on high until it is a smooth, thick liquid 



Tips and Hints

  • I've used both the large jack-o-lantern type pumpkin and the smaller sugar pumpkins with success, though the sugar pumpkins reportedly have more "pumpkin" flavor and the larger pumpkins are a bit more "squash" like 
  • The cooked pumpkin will likely have a lot of moisture, sometimes even liquid, make sure this is put in the blender with the flesh
  • The hotter the pumpkin the more easily it will process into puree, so as quickly as you can after the pumpkin comes out of the pumpkin 
  • If you are not cooking with the puree right away pour into a large bowl and allow to cool.  You can then place in freezer bags and freeze to use later
  • You can roast the seeds later and snack on them, or save and plant




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Madras Lentils

Costco sells these delightful little packets of Tasty Bites Madras Lentils.  They are delicious, but a bit pricey.  I decided that I'd learn to make them myself so I  can have larger quantities to share with others and do it more cost effectively (though it is hard to beat those little packets for a quick meal) 



Madras Lentils


Ingredients:

I Tablespoon coconut oil 
1 onion, finely diced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small cinnamon stick 
2 Tablespoons curry powder 
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
1 teaspoon sea salt 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1/4 teaspoon all spice 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon Garam Masala 

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

3 cups water 
1 cup dry lentils
2 cups red (kidney) beans, cooked 
1 bay leaf 

1 1/2 cups (or one can) coconut milk* 


Directions


In a large stockpot heat the coconut oil, add onion and saute until it begins to turn dark and caramelize.  
Add  garlic and saute about five more minutes
Add ginger and saute about three more minutes
Add cinnamon stick and saute one more minute
Mix all other seasonings together in a small bowl, add all together to onion mixture
stirring to coat well.  
Saute about ten minutes stirring constantly 
Add tomato paste and stir to combine
Add water, lentils, beans and bay leaf 
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes until lentils are tender
You may need to add more water as it cooks and the lentils absorb water
Add coconut milk and simmer about 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally until heated through 
If it is too thin cook longer to reduce, stirring frequently
Remove bay leaf and cinnamon stick 
Serve alone, over rice and/or with naan


Tips and Hints


  • *Cream or Half and Half may be substituted for the coconut milk, and is more traditional, but less healthy.  
  • The recipe originally called for black lentils, I used red lentils and loved it.
  • This will work well as a side dish, but paired with rice can be a main dish.
  • The original Tasty Bites aren't spicy, but if you like spice in the food add cayenne pepper when you add the water and lentils. You can play with the cayenne to achieve the spicy level you like, I actually prefer this particular dish a bit milder. Use as much as your personal taste enjoys.  I'd suggest 1 Tablespoon for a good kick. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chipotle Chocolate Chili

I love chili, I love chipotle, and I love chocolate! 
So what's not to love combining them all into one hearty, slightly sweet, slightly savory, slightly smokey and somewhat spicy pot of deliciousity.  (yes I did just make up a word, but it fits!)  I found this recipe a while ago and have been waiting for a cold snowy day to try it out, but the persnickety Utah January weather is not cooperating so I decided to just jump in and make it, then freeze some until we get that cold snowy day, probably in late March!  I am most definitely bringing this to my next chili cook off! 

So here is my rich, spicy, gift to you:


Chipotle Chocolate Chili


Ingredients 

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey 
1 large onion, chopped 
1 red bell pepper, minced
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

3 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon Ancho Chili powder
1 Tablespoon Chipotle Chili powder 
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed chipotle pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

2  cups beef broth
2  15 ounce cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
2  14.5 ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed 

1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke 

1  7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce 
1/2 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate (1/2 a cube), chopped 
3-4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar 

garnish 

chopped green onions
shredded cheddar cheese
light sour cream or Greek Yogurt 


Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add turkey, onion, garlic and bell pepper until turkey is cooked through, stirring frequently
Mix together the brown sugar, cocoa powder, chili powders, cumin, crushed chipotle, paprika, black pepper and salt together. 
Stir seasoning mix into meat mixture until well coated.  
Heat another few minutes until the seasonings just start to brown. 
Add beef broth and de-glaze the pan. 
Add tomatoes and beans
Remove the chipotle chilies from the adobo sauce and add the sauce to the pot, reserving the chilies. 
Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened. This should take about 45-60 minutes.
Add the liquid smoke, cook 5 more minutes
Now it is time to play with the flavor a bit
Dice some of chipotle peppers and add to the pot
Stir in some of the red wine vinegar
Stir in some of the chocolate
Keep adding a little of these ingredients at a time until you find the flavor balance you like
Remember: the chocolate adds depth, the vinegar cuts some of the sweetness and the chipotle add smokey heat 
Simmer about 30 more minutes until chocolate is fully melted and flavors blend.
Serve with desired toppings 

Tips and Hints

  • Make sure you use real cocoa do NOT use Nesquik or similar powder 
  • I discovered I was out of red wine vinegar and substituted apple cider vinegar with success
  • Look for a brand of Chipotle in adobo that doesn't have wheat added for a gluten free version 
  • If you don't like a lot of heat decrease the chili powder and omit the extra chipotle peppers, you'll still want to use at least some of the adobo sauce for the flavor depth
  • Too much of the chocolate will make the chili bitter, so add with caution 
  • Feel free to use beef. sausage or other meat for a less healthy version, but I promise the turkey is delicious! 
  • Consider doubling or even tripling the batch because, trust me, people will come back for more.





Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Apple Enchilada Extraordinaire


Apple Enchilada was an interesting concept I saw on Pinterest.  I had a bunch of apples so I decided to try it.  Of course as per my usual habit I had to tweak it and improve it.  Think of a "regular" enchilada it has four main components: tortilla, filling, sauce and of course the rich gooey topping. The original Apple Enchilada recipe I found was sadly bereft of said gooey topping so I most definitely had to remedy that.  The result was rich, delicious and universally praised by all of my original test subjects... um. family and co-workers. 


Apple Enchilada Extraordinaire 

Ingredients:

Filling:

6-8 apples of your favorite variety 
3/4 C apple cider 
3/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg 

Sauce:
1/2 C butter
1 C brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c apple cider + 2 Tbsp cider 
1 Tbsp corn starch 

Topping
1 C brown sugar
3/4 C flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C butter, softened
1 1/2 C rolled oats 
1/2 C chopped pecans (or other nuts of your choice) 

10 tortillas 

Directions

Core and finely chop apples
Place in a large deep pan and add the rest of the filling ingredients 
Bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat and simmer for three or four hours until the apples break down and become soft and gooey
Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool

During the last 30 minutes or so of the apples cooking prepare the sauce
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat
Add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, mix until well incorporated 
Add the 1 cup of apple juice
Heat until boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally 
Mix the remaining apple juice and cornstarch together until smooth
Whisk into the sauce and cook another few minutes until the sauce thickens

Heat each tortilla to make it more flexible (optional)
Spread a small amount of the sauce in a baking dish
Place filling inside a tortilla and roll up, place seam side down in the baking dish, they may be a bit cramped and that's okay
When all enchiladas are assembled pour the sauce over the  enchiladas, making sure to get the sauce in between the enchiladas
Allow to sit for 45 minutes. Don't rush this step, it is critical to the overall success of the dish

Meanwhile, mix the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon together 
Mix in the butter to make rough crumbles
Stir in oats and pecans
Sprinkle over the enchiladas
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the topping is golden and crisp.

Tips and Hints

  • You can grate some of the apples for an added depth of texture
  • When I didn't have time to cook the apples on the stove top for the required time I put them  in the crock pot on low while I was at work and they were perfect after about eight hours 
  • For a quicker version use canned apple pie filling 
  • You can use apple juice in place of the cider, but the cider add an extra depth of robust
  • Best served warm fresh from the oven 
  • Carefully separate the enchiladas with a knife for ease of serving
  • Top with vanilla ice cream for an added layer of yum