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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 5 Desserts from 2011

Even though I'm not much of a baker, I managed to get a few things right in 2011. Here are the Top 5 Desserts:

1. White Chocolate Dipped Oreo Truffles (copycat recipe from Nikki Chef in Training)

2. Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Cupcakes with Apple Cinnamon Whipped Cream

3. Red Wine Poached Pears (I honestly don't know how this did well with this horrific picture, but they did taste awesome!)

4. Cherry Almond Biscotti

5. White Chocolate Limoncello Cheesecake

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 5 Side Dishes from 2011

Here are the Top 5 Side Dishes from 2011:

1. Jalepeno & Sweet Potato Fritters (Copycat Recipe from Rich & Sweet)

This was also the Top 3rd Recipe from all of the ones I posted with the White Chocolate Oreo Truffles #2 and My Favorite Things Giveaway being #1. Thanks for a great recipe Bia from Bia's Rich and Sweet Kitchen! <3

2. Buttermilk Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter & Sage

3. Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

4. Chick Pea, Pumpkin & Cilantro Fritters

5. Black Bean Zucchini Fritters

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 5 Appetizers from 2011

How is your week going so far? I was always fortunate that even while I was still working, the company I worked for closed between the week of Christmas and New Year's Day. It was a week filled with returns, more shopping, visiting those I didn't get to see over the holiday and doctor's appointments, and so far, nothing has changed because I've been just as busy! For the first time in a long time, I am hosting New Year's Eve at our home with some of our close friends and their children (about 25-30 people in total). I can't wait to actually stay awake this year to actually see the ball drop from Times Square. :)

I wanted to make some small plate appetizers to leave in separate rooms of my house so that no matter where someone went, there would be something for them to pick on. I have to say that none of the current Top 5 appetizers are on this list BUT there are some other great recipes that I will be making and they include:

Asian Chicken Wings
Spinach Artichoke Dip (I'm going to use the same topping I used to make the french bread pizzas with because it was so good)
Grilled Teriyaki Beef Skewers (this is a new one and I'll post the recipe in 2012)
Pretzel Chicken Nuggets (by popular demand a.k.a. my daughter and her friend picked this one!)
Mini Hot Dogs (there are going to be at least 12 kids here and this is an oldie but goodie!)
Pizza Rolls (Again, kids! And..yes, I will be buying the frozen kind!)

Roasted Chick Pea Hummus with Homemade Pita Chips (Hummus will also be a new recipe in 2012)

Here were the Top 5 Appetizer Recipes from 2011:

1. Garlic & Herb Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

2. Sausage, Apple & Sage Stuffed Bread

3. Cranberry Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

4. Fiesta Chicken Spinach Dip

5. Mushroom, Tomato & Goat Cheese Stuffed Bread

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Top 5 Poultry Recipes from 2011

This week, I'm going to spend some quality time with my family but I've had so many new friends join Carrie's Experimental Kitchen over the last several months, that I thought I would do a Top 5 Most Viewed Items under specific categories of food each day. Simply click on the title and it will take you to the original post where you can find the recipe. As you can see, my photography skills certainly improved as I got the hang of this blog thing! ;)

Here were the Top 5 Poultry Recipes from 2011:

1. Balsamic Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken

2. Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

3. Chicken in a Lemon Thyme Sauce

4. Pistachio Breaded Baked Chicken

5. Garlic and Herb Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

Friday, December 23, 2011

Creamy Mushroom & Thyme Soup

I've been so busy running around preparing for Christmas that I haven't had much time to breathe, let alone eat. In between baking and shopping, I've managed to put food on the table but my kitchen certainly looked like a war zone in the middle of it. So when I found myself actually home for a few hours the other day, I decided that I was going to make myself some lunch. Since it's been so cold, I really just wanted some soup and this one only took 20 minutes to make..Bonus! I lightened it up by using mostly 2% milk, but you could use all heavy cream if you prefer. 

Creamy Mushroom & Thyme Soup
1-10oz. Package Button Mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 tbsp. Onion, chopped
1 tbsp. Butter
2 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
1 tbsp. Fresh Thyme, removed from stem
1/4 c. Heavy Cream
3/4 c. 2% Milk
1c. Low-Sodium Vegetable or Chicken Broth(I used chicken since I didn't have any vegetable broth left)

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the mushrooms, thyme and onions. Saute for 5 minutes until the mushrooms have softened. Stir in the flour forming a roux, then add in the chicken broth. Heat the milk and heavy cream in a separate pan, then add it to the mushroom mixture. Let simmer for 15 minutes, then use your immersion blender to blend all of the ingredients together until it’s smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with some fresh thyme. Makes 2 1/2 cups.  


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Homemade Kahlua

Need a last minute gift? How about some homemade Kahlua? It takes under 1 hour to make and who wouldn't love this coffee flavored liquor? It's been a family favorite for years and I just love it mixed with some ice and a little milk. I've found that decorative bottles have been a little hard to locate near me so I've been ordering them online ( have been great!) and having them shipped to my home. That is until about 3 days ago when I happened to go into The Christmas Tree Shops for the first time and found several different types, all for under $4! 

Homemade Kahlua
1 1/3 c. Water
1 c. Granulated Sugar
1 tbsp. Instant Coffee
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 c. Vodka (I used Kettle One)

Add the water, sugar and coffee to a medium saucepan. Whisk all ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved and let simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool Add 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and the vodka and mix well. Pour into a corked bottle. Makes approx. 2 cups. 

Serve over ice and Enjoy!

Potato Encrusted Fried Shrimp with an Onion Sherbet Dipping Sauce

When Hilary from Baking Bad posted a month ago that she wanted to do a Chopped Challenge on her blog I was all over it. I don't watch many cooking shows (or much tv before 9pm for that matter) but I was introduced to the show Chopped on The Food Network when visiting my Mom in FL last year. Her and her husband are AVID TFN watchers and this show came on during one of our visits. I have to say that the show really intrigued me. The contestants are given 4 ingredients (most of the time they're really "out there") and they have to make an appetizer, meal and dessert course. With each course, one contestant is eliminated, leaving only 2 contestants to make the dessert course where the panel of judges get to decide who gets Chopped and who is the winner. I love to watch the creative juices flow as they decide what it is they're going to make with what they are given. 

So with this challenge, we were given 4 ingredients. 
1. Instant Mashed Potatoes (which I've NEVER purchased, let alone eaten in my life...well except for the time we had to make them at Johnson & Wales while I was in college for the dorm students!)
2. Shrimp...Which was going to be a little tricky since I don't eat any fish/shellfish. I had to rely solely on my "guinea pigs" ;)
3. Fruit Roll Ups...Here we go, this was going to be the tricky part
4. Pearl Onions...Again, don't eat these either. 

So this is what I came up with. The Verdict was that the shrimp were INCREDIBLE and the potato coating was extremely tasty. The Onion Sherbet Dipping Sauce was "ok" but a little sweet for my family's taste. This is what I used, so you be the judge! :)

Potato Encrusted Fried Shrimp with an Onion Sherbet Dipping Sauce
1lb. Extra Large Shrimp (21-25), cleaned and deveined
1-7oz Box Instant Mashed Potatoes
1 Orange, zest only
1 tbsp. Fresh Thyme
Egg Wash (2 eggs + 1/4 c. 2% Milk)
1 c. All-Purpose Flour
Canola Oil, for frying

Prepare three separate bowls. One for the flour and one for the egg wash. In the third bowl, mix together the instant potatoes, orange zest and thyme. Dip each piece of shrimp first into the flour, then egg wash, then into the potato mixture. Pour approximately 1" of oil into a large frying pan and heat. Carefully place shrimp into the hot oil and fry until both sides are golden brown and shrimp is white in color and cooked through. Drain on paper towels or brown paper bag to remove any excess oil. Serve with Onion Sherbet Dipping Sauce.

Onion Sherbet Dipping Sauce
1-9oz. Package Frozen Pearl Onions in Cream Sauce, defrosted
4 Fruity Ice Cream Fruit Roll Ups (Orange, Strawberry, Raspberry)
1/4 tsp. Dried Thyme
1/2 Orange, juice only
1 tbsp. Balsamic Pear Vinegar

In a small saucepan, add all of the ingredients and stir until the fruit roll ups have melted. Pour into a blender and liquify. Strain the sauce through a sieve and reheat sauce. Serve with shrimp. 

This recipe will be judged by anyone that goes to the Baking Bad website. This week she will be featuring all of the contestant entries. So head on over there this week grab a cup of coffee or tea and plan to stay a while because Hilary has some wonderful recipes of her own over there. You will be able to vote for the entries and I'll keep you posted as to when the voting will begin! (JUDGING OVER)


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Baked Rigatoni with Meat Sauce

Well, this is not the healthiest thing to eat, but it's what Gabrielle wanted for her birthday dinner last week. I do try to lighten it up a bit by using part skim ricotta and mozzarella, but if you don't care about the extra calories, by all means, use whole milk products! This is such an easy dish to make, especially if you have some sauce in the freezer or if you prefer jar sauce, that will work too. She loved it and it made enough to have lunch the next few days too. This meal also freezes well (prior to baking it in the oven), if you want to make it ahead of time or make extra so that you can just pull it out of the freezer in the morning and bake it on one of those hectic nights.

Baked Rigatoni with Meat Sauce
1lb. 90/10 Ground Beef
4 c. Prepared Marinara Sauce
1lb. Rigatoni Pasta (or you could use ziti)
1-15oz. Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
1 Egg
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 tbsp. Parsley
1 1/2 c. Shredded Part Skim Mozzarella

Boil water in a large pot and prepare the pasta according to package directions, removing while the pasta is still somewhat firm. Drain and add back into the pot (You don't want to cook it all the way because the sauce and cheese mixture will cook the pasta even further). In a large non-stick frying pan, brown the ground beef and remove excess oil. Add the marinara sauce and let simmer 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, garlic powder, salt, pepper, parsley and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Add this mixture along with the meat sauce to the pasta and mix well. Place in an oven safe baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes until the cheese has melted and it is heated through. Serves 10.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Liebster Blog Award II

I was reading some of my comments on one of my blog posts today and noticed that I had received a Liebster Blog Award (my second one) from Little Mommy, Big Appetite. I'm so grateful and thank her from the bottom of my heart. She has a wonderful blog and makes real food with fresh ingredients that everyone will love. And, she even makes some of her own baby food and since I did the same thing, she's ok in my book. ;) 

In case you are not aware, this award spotlights the up and coming blogs that have less than 200 followers. 

By accepting this award, I get to:

1. Copy and paste the award on my blog.

2. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to me. 

3. Reveal my top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

4. Hope that followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

It was so hard to chose just 5 so I picked some of the newer blogs I follow that also don't have more than 1000 Facebook followers. Here are some of my favorites: 

Amee's Savory Dish

Family Fresh Meals

Greg's Kitchen
Food Thoughts of a Chef Wannabe
The Culinary Lens

Spinach Artichoke French Bread Pizza or Artichoke Spinach Dip

If you're like me, by Friday night I'm usually wiped and don't want to fuss over a big dinner. The girls are usually coming and going (as their social calendar has taken precedence over mine at this point) and hubby is still working late. So I like to make things that are fast, easy and can be reheated quickly. A few years ago I found a recipe in Rachael Ray Magazine for these Spinach Artichoke Pizzas and as I was flipping through my recipe box looking for cookies last week, this one popped out (if you don't remember, my hubby accidentally dropped my recipe box a few months ago and who knows what you'll find in each category now!). I figured I'd give it a try. I didn't follow her recipe exactly but the premise was still there. These were incredible AND I think I found a new way to make Artichoke Spinach Dip too because this way was even better than the way I had made it previously. 

Spinach Artichoke French Bread Pizza
(And Artichoke Spinach Dip!)
Inspired by Rachael Ray
1 Loaf Ciabatta Lunga
1-15oz. Can Artichoke Hearts, chopped
1-10oz. Package Frozen Chopped Spinach, defrosted and drained
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. Butter
2 tbsp. Flour
1 1/2 c. 2% Milk
1 c. Shredded Asiago Cheese
1/2 c. Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
8oz. Fresh Mozzarella, 16 thin slices
1-2 tbsp. Fresh Thyme

Cut the bread into four sections, then slice horizontally, creating eight halves. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the garlic. Stir until the flavor of the garlic starts to release then add the flour, forming a roux. Reduce heat to low and add in the milk, both cheeses, and the ground pepper. Whisk together until all of the cheese has melted and the sauce becomes thick. Add in the artichokes and spinach and mix until well blended. Portion the sauce on top of each bread half and top with 2 slices of fresh mozzarella and thyme. (You will have some sauce left. Serve it w/ tortilla chips as a snack another time!). Bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes, then broil for 2 minutes to get the cheese browned. Serves 8. 

Points+=9pts (Approx. It is 7pts. without the bread)


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Black Bean, Chicken & Spinach Chili

Well it's a week before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Oops, wrong story! Sorry, I'm just excited for one of my favorite holidays. Though I do love waking up to a really quiet house and just enjoying my cup of tea before everyone else gets up. The tree is lit. It's quiet and peaceful. Today I'm going to finish my holiday baking but wanted to share with you this great new chili recipe I made last week. And, if you're in the part of the country where the temperatures keep dropping, this will make the perfect, cozy meal for any day of the week to warm your spirits. 

I know what you're thinking. That this sounds like an odd combination. But TRUST me when I say it was incredible! I had purchased some black beans a while ago and forgot I had them in my pantry. When I picked up some ground chicken on sale recently, I figured I'd make something using the two ingredients. So I kind of mimicked my Fiesta Chicken Spinach Dip recipe a little bit and made it into a chili form. Now I made this in my Dutch oven but you could certainly get this ready the night before or in the morning and cook it in a Slow Cooker on warm/low for the day while your out. Serve it over some rice or noodles (we used brown rice) or make a tossed salad and dinner is served!

Black Bean, Chicken & Spinach Chili
2 lb. Ground Chicken
2 tbsp. Canola Oil
1/4 c. Red Onion, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
2 tsp. Chili Powder (we don't like our chili too hot but you could certainly use more if you like extra heat)
1-15oz. Can Black Beans, rinsed
1-10oz. Pkg. Frozen Spinach, defrosted and drained
3 Plum Tomatoes, chopped
1-6oz. Can Tomato Paste (I use Hunts)
1 c. Water

In a Dutch oven, add the oil and brown the chicken until it is cooked through and there is no pink. Add the onions, garlic and chili powder and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Add in the beans, tomatoes, spinach, tomato paste and water and mix well. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so to make sure it's not sticking to the bottom. Serves 6. 

Points+=10pts (without the rice)

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Homemade Irish Cream

This technically isn't "baking" but I did need to make some to make some of those Bailey's Irish Cream Truffles that are on my list (coming next week!). This makes the perfect last minute hostess gift or just to have some for holiday baking or entertaining. When making this, make sure to buy the freshest heavy cream and eggs so that it will last longer. It should be kept in the refrigerator and expires the same date as your heavy cream or eggs; whichever comes first. (It may last longer but I'm not sure how long and wouldn't want to get anyone sick~Mine will last through the holidays until January 4th).  Just get yourself a decorative bottle, a nice gift bag and Voila! 

Homemade Irish Cream
1-14oz. Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 c. Heavy Cream
3 Eggs
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
1 tbsp. Chocolate Syrup
1 tsp. Instant Coffee granules
1 c. Rye (Whiskey)

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour in sealed container or decorative bottle and keep refrigerated. Makes 4 cups. 


Holiday Baking #5: Oatmeal Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now, THESE are my FAVORITE cookie to make. They're so easy and taste incredible. Maybe it's because of the pecans (I just love them!) but they really are very good. This recipe was adapted from the Quaker Oats Oatmeal Raisin recipe many years ago. If you don't like pecans, you can use whatever you wish...walnuts, almonds, leave the nuts out altogether..your call. The basic recipe is so good. I've even made these with white chips and dried cherries. The other thing I like about this recipe is you can throw all of the ingredients into one bowl instead of making bowls for dry/wet ingredients and it comes out perfect every time...less mess!

Oatmeal Pecan Chocolate Chip
Adapted from Quaker Oats
2 Sticks Butter, softened
1 c. Granulated Sugar
1/2 c. Brown Sugar, packed
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 c. All-Purpose Flour
3 c. Oats (I use Quaker regular oats, not the quick ones)
1 c. Chopped Pecans
1/2 c. Mini Chocolate Chips

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar (I use a wooden spoon). Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Next, add in the flour and baking soda and mix well. Add in the oats, pecans and chocolate chips and mix well. Using a kitchen teaspoon, drop the cookie dough onto a greased baking sheet, leaving about 1-2" between them. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Makes 4 dz. 


Holiday Baking #4: Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Biscotti

I started off thinking I was going to make a plain chocolate chip biscotti but when I reached in the cabinet for the vanilla extract, I accidentally grabbed peppermint extract instead. So, I changed up this recipe a little bit to make it a little more festive (at least color wise). I split the dough and colored half of it red, then twisted the two together to look like a candy cane. Once I cut it, it really doesn't look like a candy cane but it's minty, chocolatey and the girls will love it! Maybe next time I'll just make individual twists of the two colors. :)

Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Biscotti
2 c. All-Purpose Flour
1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
1/2 c. Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Peppermint Extract
3 eggs
3/4 c. Mini Chocolate Chips
1/2 tsp. Red Food Coloring

In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the peppermint extract and eggs. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, mixing well. Next fold in the chocolate chips. Split the dough in half and place one half into a separate bowl and add the red food coloring. Mix well until all of the dough has changed color. Turn the "white" dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky, then split the dough in half and form two, 12" long log shapes and flatten down so that it is no higher than 1". Next, repeat this process for the "red dough". Take one "white" log and one "red" log and twist together. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, carefully add the dough and bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool, then slice diagonally into 1/2" slices and put them back on the baking sheet. Bake for an additional 10 minutes per side and remove from oven. Let cool and allow to harden before serving. Makes 2 1/2 dz.