Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dark Chocolate & Cashew Cookies

I've never really been a chocolate lover. In fact, I thought I hated dark chocolate for most of my life. So I was pretty shocked, when about 4 years ago, pregnant with Little Mister, my husband surprised me with an $80 gift card to Godiva. That same day, my parents brought me their gift which was also- you'll never guess.... Dark Chocolate! I was kind of confused, I'm not going to lie.
  Um, I don't like chocolate but, Thank You for the gifts......

Well, it turns out (and who knows it have may been a weird result of pregnancy) I did like it! The dark chocolate  squares my parents gave me were awesome, so I was a little more enthusiastic about heading to Godiva with an insane amount of money to spend on sweets.

  I went a little truffle crazy. But the truffles could never compare to the gem I found among the gift boxes. Dark Chocolate Covered Cashews.

  Cashews, in my opinion are as good as it gets in the nut world. So buttery and delicious. I bought two bags of these little treats, and later went back for a third.

  I have never had them again. Because, I am cheap, and these chocolate covered nuts were around $15 for a tiny little bag.

 But the memory of them inspired these Dark Chocolate and Cashew Cookies. They are now my favorite cookies. So make them, and enjoy!

2 cups of good dark chocolate chips and 1 1/4 cups of cashews are the stars of these cookies.

Moment of truth: it was suppose to be 1 1/2 cups, but while I was prepping I ate a 1/4 cup of the cashews. So if you want to bump it up- I'm sure it would be great!

After mixing up the dough, I dropped rounded tablespoon fulls onto parchment lined cookie sheets.

After 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven, these cookies were just begging to be eaten!


Dark Chocolate & Cashew Cookies
An L.A. Walter original recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks butter (softened)
  • 1 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn baking soda
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 1/4 cups roughly chopped cashews


Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
 Cream together butter and sugar in an electric mixer (or w/ a hand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, coffee (I just used leftover from my french press) and vanilla until combined.In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add in the flour mixture. Once combined stir in the  chocolate chips and cashews.

 Drop dough by rounded tablespoon fulls onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Allow to cool on pan 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to complete cooling.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Puzzle Bento- with a side of "Walmart Rant"

 I have to share E-man's bento box with you guys today. Although, I will admit it didn't take much effort to put together on my part (most his lunches don't-they just look that way!). But, this bento is sort of a personal triumph for me.
  Let me explain, and keep in mind I know I'm kooky.
Ever since August when I began my bento obsession I have been suffering an internal battle over this


I had convinced myself fully, that a puzzle themed lunch would be the lunch of all lunches-yet, the frugal mom in me couldn't commit to the price....$15.00. Plus shipping and handling. Like I said, an internal battle was fought over this and never to be resolved.
   Until, I discovered that Munchkin makes a sandwich cutter in the shape of four puzzle pieces. And guess how much- Only $3! And guess what- they actually had it in stock at my local Walmart!
  Let me tell you- I try to avoid shopping at Walmart when possible, but for this- the holy grail of sandwich cutters, I could make an exception.

 I grabbed a friend, and headed off to Walmart with so much hope and determination. 
But, Walmart- like always- was waiting there to crush such hopes and dreams. And after mildly harassing and what may be considered stalking a Customer Service Representative (Walmart's title, not mine of course!) this coveted cutter proved to be elusive. "I hate these kinds of things, they are such a pain to look for!", cried Fred- my new found nemesis upon my presenting him the Penguin version of the same cutter. To which I replied as sweetly as I could- "but couldn't you just take a look for me? Your website says this location has them in stock." After a lot of banter back and forth and a rising tension overflowing with passive aggressiveness from both parties- Fred agreed to venture to the black hole that is the Walmart stock room.

 20 minutes later, he returned from I'm not sure where because we(my poor friend and I) waited outside the doors he went into for him to emerge.
   And he had nothing, but a smug I-told-you-so-attitude. I thanked him of course for his effort. And sadly sulked home. My friend laughing at me the whole time.

Look, I told you was kooky- and once I get my heart set on something I can't help but to get wrapped up in it.

 Well, readers- let me confirm to you that I have now in my possession this bad boy right here- 


That's right! I found it, months later on a whim, I happened to be at Walmart and just popped over to the baby isle and there it was! I was more excited about this, than anyone should be- EVER. But, it was my victory and a happy dance ensued.

  And then, I had to wait all weekend and a national holiday before getting to make this-

Isn't she beautiful? E-man's lunch today was a puzzle shaped turkey and cheese on whole grain bread, all natural parm popcorn, fruit salad, an Apple Berry GoGo Squeeze, and two of the "bones" leftover from Little Mr.'s party made from white chocolate, pretzels and mini marshmallows.

  I am sure he is going to love it- because he loves puzzles. So... If you find this cutter in your local Walmart, treat yourself to it and your kids can have an awesome lunch like this! 
    But, I don't advise making it a conquest like I did or you may end up with Walmart-induced-heart-ache.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

PB & Banana Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls



First thing: I want to let everyone know I am not completely obsessed with Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls. You may have seen my other recent post Apple Berry Pie on a Cinnamon Roll Crust and are now starting to wonder what the deal is. Well in fact, I actually have for years despised them, because when I make them the middle is raw, the bottom is burnt, and they never fluff up like in the picture.

 But...The thing is I have this other nerdy little hobby you might not know about. I coupon. I'm not too crazy about it, I don't spend 6 hours a day clipping away or anything. But, I do take advantage of great deals when I can. And recently I got a crap ton of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls. For less than 50 cents a can. Too bad I can't seem to make them right!

  And people you can only make cinnamon roll waffles so many times- am I right? (I'm lying by the way, you can make these every day because they are bomb)....

 So, now you know why I keep making things with store bought cinnamon rolls instead of  making my own from scratch. 

  And this is how I came up with my newest recipe.

When I tasted these I felt like an evil genius. I may have been laughing manically as well. Cinnamon rolls make a fluffy little home to gooey peanut butter and its life time lover- banana. Combine this with less than 15 minutes of total prep and bake time and 3 ingredients and I really feel like we have something wonderful here.

Start with an 8 count can of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, and slice them in half, carefully down the middle. Like so-




  









Next press one half into a lined (I used silicone, but you could probably use paper cupcake liners too) muffin pan. Press up the sides a bit to make a little nest of dough. Add in a dollop of peanut butter. I used my favorite impulse measuring device- a baby spoon. But if you must have a measurement let's say one teaspoon. Top this with two thin banana slices.
Add the remaining half of cinnamon roll dough and pinch down around the ends to kind of seal together the dough.
Now simply bake these at 375 degrees F for 11 minutes. Allow to cool around one minute before popping out of the baking cup. I didn't use the icing that comes with the can because I don't think these need them but by all means add it if you want! These are incredible warm, but delicious at room temp as well. Enjoy!






PB & Banana Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients
  • 1 8 ct.can Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls
  • Peanut butter
  • Half a banana

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Cut cinnamon roll in half lengthwise, careful not to squish up the dough. Press one half into the bottom of a lined muffin pan, pressing up onto the sides to make a nest like shape. Add in a dollop (about 1 teaspoon) of creamy peanut butter. Top with 2 thin slices of banana. Place the second half of the cinnamon roll on top, pressing the dough down into the cup to slightly seal together the two halves of dough.
Bake for 11 minutes, or until golden and puffed up. Allow to cool for 1 minute in the pan before popping out. Best served warm, but good at room temp as well.

  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mom's Enchiladas

I think it is just human nature to look back at your childhood and reminisce about your mom's cooking. For me, this didn't hit until I had my first son. Up until that point- although I knew my parents were great cooks- I was just happy to be out of the house and never put face to face with goulash again.

  Then it happened, for the first time in my adult life I was home on the evenings and after making Hamburger Helper once, and my husband telling me I should probably not do that anymore I felt we were destined to eat scrambled eggs and spaghetti for the rest of our days. Maybe it was postpartum emotions that first got me to remember all the good things my parents made when I was younger. How could I get this food again? What will my kids say when they grow up and can't remember anything good I made? 

  That's when I decided to call my mom for a recipe for the first time. It was this recipe. My mom's really awesome enchiladas. They were always so good. My siblings and I even ate them cold the next day- that is how good they were. My mom, luckily, provided her recipe and now over 5 years later I still have them in my rotation. 

 Now, I feel like I have to say the following just to get it out there: These are not really traditional enchiladas. My mom doesn't remember where she got the recipe, but I'm thinking it was probably from some company- Kraft or Campbell's or something. And, if you are looking for a really authentic enchilada you might want to keep looking (or make these anyways because they are awesome!). Also, my parents don't even make enchiladas like this anymore. They eat completely different now, and would probably make enchiladas on corn tortillas with black beans and spinach. 

    All that being said- These are so good, and are sure to be an easy Dinner Win.

Start making your filling by simmering bone-in chicken thighs with a few garlic cloves for about 45 minutes. This is such a great way to prepare shredded chicken, and using the thighs guarantees you will get moist chicken-and it will cost less too!


 Once your chicken is shredded up, the sauce is as easy as heating a can of tomato soup with one cup of Velveeta cheese. Once melted remove from heat and add in sour cream, cumin, and black pepper.
Mix half your sauce with the chicken and one cup of shredded cheddar cheese.


Now stuff your flour tortillas, give them a roll, and place them seam side down in a large casserole dish.

Cover with 1 cup of shredded cheddar, and the rest of your sauce. (My mom's tip- use the same sauce pan to cook refried beans in, it gives them an awesome flavor).

Pop in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. These like to rest for about 5 minutes after coming out of the oven so give them a little time to cool and settle before serving.

Look at that cheesy goodness! You can top these off with sour cream, salsa, and guac- but they are super good going solo too.


Mom's Enchiladas

Ingredients
  • 2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup (don't add any extra liquid)
  • 1 cup cubed Velveeta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground  black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
  • 8-10 flour tortillas

Directions
Place chicken thighs in a large pot, and cover with cold water. Add in the garlic cloves and little salt and pepper. Boil over med-high heat for around 45 minutes. Drain away liquid, and after allowing to cool shred chicken (a combo of fork and fingers works great for this). 

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

In a medium sauce pan heat tomato soup and Velveeta over medium heat. Stir frequently, and when the Velveeta has melted remove from heat and stir in the sour cream, cumin and black pepper. 

Reserve half of the sauce and mix the remaining with the shredded chicken, and 1 cup of cheese. Use this to stuff into flour tortillas. Roll them up (don't seal the ends) and place seam down in a large casserole dish. 

 Cover with the remaining sauce and cheese evenly. 

Bake for 20 minutes, and allow to cool for 5 minutes once removed from the oven.

 Top off with salsa, sour cream, or guac to your liking and enjoy!




     

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes


Working in restaurants for the last 7 years, I have been so fortunate to get to eat some really amazing food produced by some great chefs. I remember the first time I had Crab and Lobster Bisque Mashed Potatoes at this little steakhouse I was working at a few years ago.

 It was like my eyes were opened to this whole world of non-traditional mashed potato creations and from then on I was hooked.

  Now, this comforting side dish might not be the fanciest potato I've ever tasted- but it is my Go To recipe for a mash. Buttery Yukon Gold potatoes all mashed up with sour cream for extra creaminess, and roasted garlic for an amazing boost of flavor.
 
If you've never roasted garlic before, I am confident you will find it easy to do, and an awesome way to get an awesome garlic punch in your dish without having to mince until your fingers are sticky and stinky (I like the smell, but still......).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grab 2-4 heads of garlic. Cut just the top off of the entire head of garlic leaving the little nub at the other end to hold all the cloves together. Place your garlic on strips of foil and liberally apply extra virgin olive oil.  Now wrap them up nice and tight, do another layer if your didn't cover it all. After 30 minutes you will have an awesome smelling kitchen and nice soft garlic. I always do this a little ahead of time, because when it comes out it is hot as hell, and you have to squeeze the garlic out with your fingers.



When your garlic has cooled enough to handle, squeeze the cloves out into a small bowl, and mash up with a fork. 

Meanwhile, start on your potatoes. I chopped up 4 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes and submerged them in cold water. This is a good tip I learned a few years ago. Always start your potatoes in cold water with a little salt, rather then hot boiling water.

Heat on high uncovered until boiling. Once the potatoes come to a boil, it will be about 15-20 minutes until they are fork tender(you can easily slide a fork into them without them breaking apart too much).

When they are soft enough, drain them and immediately put the hot potatoes back into the hot pan you used to boil them. 

Add in your butter, sour cream, milk, garlic paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash with an old school masher-thing like mine, or whipped them if you like. I like mine a little lumpier than some people might, so feel free to whip them up as smooth as you want!


I'm convinced that this dish can easily be served along side any kind of cooked meat. Also my weirdo husband and kids don't like gravy on their potatoes so ours go naked or topped with cheese and bacon- but if you love gravy feel free to top it off with a little country love..... 



Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Yields 4-6 servings

Ingredients
4-6 medium sized washed Yukon Gold potatoes
2-4 heads of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup milk

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 Cut a thin slice off the tops of your garlic heads. and place on strips of foil. Apply a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil and roll up into a tight ball. Pop in the oven for about 30 minutes. Garlic should be nice and soft. Allow to cool before squeezing the garlic cloves into a small bowl. Mash up the cloves and set aside.
 Chop the potatoes into small pieces (no need to peel) and submerge into a large pot of cold water. Add in 1 teaspoon of salt to help flavor the potatoes as the cook. Heat on high heat uncovered until boiling. Once at a boil continue to cook for around 15-20 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. 

Drain water form the potatoes, and return quickly to the hot pan. Add the sour cream, butter, milk, and garlic. Mash to desire consistency with a potato masher, or whip with a hand mixer. Salt and pepper to taste. 






Friday, February 1, 2013

Classic Chili

Having a family was truly what motivated my first interests in cooking. Until I was a stay at home mom for a year, I worked 6 nights a week and I couldn't tell you what my husband actually ate for dinner.

 Oh how things have changed so much in just a few years. Now, I still work at night,  but only a few nights a week. And, the control freak inside me won't allow me to let my husband feed himself and the kids for those 3 nights. At least twice a week, I make them dinner before I go to work. 
  It isn't that I don't trust my husband to take care of our little guys. I don't honestly think he would feed them fast food for an entire weekend either. It is just that there is this guilty part of me (that surely is just a mom thing), that even though my voice of reason tells me it is ridiculous- I really think I have to make them dinner.

 So, I want to share with you my family's favorite make ahead meal- Chili in the crock pot. My crock pot and I are very close friends, and if you don't have one that is okay too. You can still make this chili!  This is in fact just slightly tweaked from my dad's chili recipe so that I can make it in the slow cooker. 
 This is everything you could want in a chili- 2 kinds of beans, a nice smoky sauce, and ground beef. It is in my opinion the classic chili. Full of flavor, and achieving a comfort food status that could make any cold winter night feel cozy.

 Keep in mind, that I did make this before leaving for work last night, so the last pictures were taken by  my husband.


This chili starts pretty basic, with sauteed onions, ground beef, and a little seasonings.


 While your meat and onions are cooking, be a multi-tasker(because you're awesome like that!) and mix together your tomato sauce with your spices, and sugar. Also, if you are a Crazy Person like me- make sure you buy 8 8oz cans of tomato sauce instead of one big one, so you can save around $2.00........ 

When your ground beef is finished cooking, add it into the chili- if it looks greasy drain it before putting it into your sauce...but most the time I don't feel the need to do that.

Cook this mixture on low for 4-6 hours, or high for 2-3. About 30 minutes before you want to serve your chili add in the pinto and kidney beans. Adding them at the end will prevent the beans from burning.

 Serve this chili up with whatever you like- Cheese and Saltines are faves for us, but you couldn't go wrong with hot sauce or Fritos!

  


Classic Chili 
Adapted from my Dad's chili recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 medium white onion (chopped)
  • 1-1/12 pounds ground beef
  • 64 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 cans pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 2 cans dark red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)

Directions

In a large skillet brown the onion and ground beef, season with 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon chili powder.

 While the meat is cooking stir together in medium or large crock pot the tomato sauce, remaining spices and sugar. Mix well.

 Add the meat into the crock pot, draining away grease if needed.
 Stir and cook on low for 4-6 hours, or on high for 2-3 hours stirring every so often. Add beans into the chili 30 minutes before serving, stirring occasionally. 
 Serve with your favorite garnishes on top- shredded cheese, crackers, fritos, sour cream etc...

Alternate cooking method-
 Prepare as stated, putting the sauce into a large pot on medium- low heat instead of the crock pot. Add in cooked beef and onions, and beans and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour stirring often until nice and thick.