Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Taco Dip

This is a recipe I learned from my favorite aunt, who makes it for every family function! Let me just say that this is always a huge hit. You will find that you have to start doubling the recipe just to keep people happy! It's perfect for making ahead of time (which is always important for big gatherings) and it's really quite addicting!!! This appetizer is delicious and crowd pleasing!

Source: My favorite Aunt

1 8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened ( you can use reduced fat)
1 16 oz. container sour cream (you can use light)
1 lb. ground beef
1 package of taco seasoning
1 small jar of taco sauce (whatever heat you want)
1 bag of Mexican shredded cheese
shredded lettuce
chopped tomatoes
tortilla chips

In a medium skillet, cook ground beef over medium high heat until cooked through and thoroughly crumbled. Add taco seasoning packet with the amount of water directed on the back of the package. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer, add sour cream and cream cheese. Blend together thoroughly (I find that using the whisk attachment on your Kitchen Aid mixer works the best).

Spread cream cheese/sour cream mixture on the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish or pan. Spread taco sauce over that, and the ground beef mixture over that, creating even layers. Top with shredded cheese, then lettuce then tomatoes. Serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wilton Course 3, Class 4 (Final Cake)

Well this was by far my favorite class (don't I say that after every Wilton class?!) I had such a ball doing a 2 tiered cake and really having the reins to create exactly what I wanted. I had an idea in my head about what I wanted to do for class for a week or so, but didn't know how everything would come together until I got to class. This class gave me a ton of confidence, and I'm really glad I've been through the 1st 3 courses. Not everything came out perfect (my fondant got wrinkled in some places and my string work wasn't the best), but overall I'm very pleased with it.

Next week I start the Fondant and Gum Paste course (our teacher calls it Course 4 but she says she's not supposed to call it that!) and I'm really excited for that one as well!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Golf Cake

Now that I have gained some new skills from my Wilton Classes, I decided to attempt making my dad a father's day cake without a pattern or anything from class. My dad loves to golf, and since this is prime golfing season I thought the cake would be fitting.

I iced the sides of the cake in white buttercream and the top in a mixture of green and a bit of yellow. The "grass" is moss green and a bit of black. The "sand" is regular granulated sugar dyed ivory and yellow (in the blender), and the pebbles are made from fondant. The tee sign (I think that's what it's called?!) is fondant on a piece of spaghetti I dyed brown.

This was such a fun cake to make and my dad was SO impressed!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon with Bearnaise Sauce

Sounds fancy, right? Actually this is so simple to make I'm almost embarrassed blogging about it. Honestly, I don't eat much steak. It's always so tough and dry, especially when my husband makes it on the grill (sorry honey, but it's true). The only cut of beef I really like is the filet, so for our anniversary I thought I'd give my husband a treat and make him a steak my way (no grills involved). I've seen the Food Network chefs make it before, so I didn't bother to look at a recipe. Looking back, this was probably stupid...thank goodness it worked out! But this came out just like how you get it at a restaurant. Fork tender delicious melt in our mouth filet. And now that I know how easy this is to make, I think I'll treat us with it more often!

I really had to get creative with the bearnaise sauce recipe since I pretty much didn't have any of the main ingredients at home! But it worked out and the sauce turned out great (even though I don't know how true to the actual flavor of bearnaise it was!) It was perfect with the filet!

2 servings of beef tenderloin (filet mignon) between 6 and 8 oz. each
4 slices bacon
extra virgin olive oil

For the Bearnaise Sauce
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 shallot, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon (Unfortunately when I got home I realized I didn't have any tarragon, so I used herbes de provance instead! It still tasted great!)
2/3 cup white-wine vinegar (Again, I didn't have any of this. So I used 1/3 cup white wine and 1/3 cup white vinegar!)
4 large egg yolks (I only had 3 so I used them!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Coarse salt

Let the beef come up to room temperature and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Pour extra virgin olive oil into a large skillet so it completely coats the bottom. Heat on medium high until almost smoking, and then add the beef. Cover and sear for about 3-4 minutes. Turn beef over and sear the other side for another 3-4 minutes, or until browned to your liking. Remove from pan and cover with foil. Let sit for a few minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and cover with non stick spray, set aside. Wrap 2 slices of bacon around each filet, and secure the bacon to itself (do not poke holes in your beef!) with a toothpick. Place beef on the top rack of your oven and bake until beef is cooked to your liking. For us (our steaks were about 6 oz.) this took 15 minutes for medium, and 20 minutes for medium well. Let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting into it.

While letting the steaks cook in the oven, you can make the bearnaise sauce. In a small saucepan, bring shallot, tarragon, and vinegar to boil over medium. Cook until liquid reduces to 2 tablespoons, about 4 minutes; strain. Rinse pan; return mixture to pan. Whisk together egg yolks and 2 tablespoons water. Add to pan. Cook over low, whisking, until mixture thickens and forms thick ribbons when lifted with whisk, 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in butter (if sauce bubbles at any time, remove from heat, and whisk in a piece of butter). Continue whisking until all butter is incorporated, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Anniversary Dinner

Yesterday was me and my husband's 2 year wedding anniversary. He asked if I wanted to go out but I actually wanted to just stay in and cook a fancy meal for us, which I haven't done in a while. Dinner came out perfect (thank goodness, because I did not have a plan B!) and I got the best gift ever from my darling husband...a counter top rotisserie! I'm so excited to use it!

Here was the menu:

To drink:
Lamoreaux Landing Chardonnay

Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon served with Bearnaise sauce
Grilled lobster tail served with garlic butter
Beer and Cheddar Risotto
Fresh Caesar Salad

Chocolate Cake with fresh raspberry filling

Needless to say we were stuffed at the end of the meal! But we had a great anniversary and I really enjoyed just staying in this year.

And now for your viewing pleasure, some of my favorite wedding photos. I don't think I'll ever tire of looking at them and remembering our day!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wilton Course 3, Class 2

Yikes! Sorry I've been such a slacker about blogging! I have no other excuse other then I've simply been super busy with work and my home life (my veggie garden requires a lot of TLC!) But I have been cooking like usual and continuing on with my Wilton classes!

I'm finally up to course 3 which I am SO excited about. I love working with fondant and I especially love how it looks on a cake. Class 2 was dedicated to learning about the basics of fondant and assembling our cake with it. We also make the fondant rose which was really fun and came out so pretty. So far course 3 has definitely been my favorite!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Tian

After another great trip to the farmers market, I found myself with an abundance of beautiful fresh veggies to use! So when I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats I thought it would be perfect to try out!

This recipe was truly fabulous. What a great way to present roasted vegetables, and it came out so delicious too! I didn't use the exact ingredients in the recipe, but I feel like that is the great thing about it! You can just use the freshest ingredients you have on hand. This is one that I can see me making over and over again!

Mine didn't come out quite as "pretty" as Annie's, because I used veggies that varied greatly in size and shape. But the taste was there which was all that mattered!
Adapted from Annie's Eats
Originally from Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris

Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (I added this)
2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced (I used one very large onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. medium round potatoes, unpeeled (I chose not use potatoes in this since I was making a side of potatoes au gratin for dinner that night)
3/4 lb. zucchini (I used 2 medium zucchini which ended up being just a bit too much!)
1 1/4 lb. medium tomatoes (I used 2 large tomatoes)
1 medium Eggplant, sliced (I added this)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs (I omitted)
2 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated (I used Parmesan and a bit of shredded mozzarella)
5-6 fresh sage leaves, chopped (I added this)
Aprox. 1 tsp dried rosemary (I added this)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9×13″ baking dish with olive oil. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan, and cook the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only one layer. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs (Or sage and rosemary, if using). Drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil (and balsamic vinegar, if using), if desired. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the grated cheese on top , and bake for 30 minutes more, or until browned. Serve warm.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Cake

With some leftover strawberries and rhubarb, I began my quest to find another great recipe to use for these seasonal items, before they went bad and were gone for another season. I am avoiding making a pie, and I'm not really sure why (do you like my awesome rhyming?! haha!) so I decided to try this crumb cake instead. Mine really didn't come out that "pretty" but the taste made up for it! I loved that I didn't have to cook the strawberries and rhubarb on the stovetop first...one less pan to clean! This was a great recipe and one that I will surely make again.

Source: Sugar Plum

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sliced strawberries
2/3 cup finely chopped rhubarb

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 1 (9-inch) round cake pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together 1 cup flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together 6 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar until creamy, about 1 minute; beat in yolks (and a drop of yellow food coloring, optional) and vanilla until combined. Gradually beat in flour mixture, alternating with milk until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Spread cake batter evenly into prepared pan.

Top batter with strawberries and rhubarb. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the crumb topping: Combine brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 5 tablespoons butter; knead together using fingertips or a fork until well combined and mixture starts to clump together. Keep in freezer until ready for use.

When cake has baked 20 minutes, top evenly with crumb mixture. Continue baking for an additional 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into cakes comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool for 30 minutes before running a knife around outside edges and inverting. Invert again onto platter.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Honey Lime Shrimp

I had half a bag of frozen shrimp in my freezer that I wanted to use up. I was making this on the side of my husband's favorite "thai pasta" so I tried to use flavors that would work well with that. I remember seeing a honey grilled shrimp on love deliciousness, so I started with the honey and went from there! These shrimp couldn't be simpler to make but came out so flavorful and delicious. As the shrimp cook, the sauce thickens right up so it adheres to the shrimp which creates wonderful texture and flavor. These would definitely be a crowd-pleaser!

*note: the quantity of the ingredients shown reflect the amount of shrimp I used. Obviously if you have more shrimp, use more of the ingredients so many of the shrimp can be submerged in the sauce!

Adapted from Love Deliciousness

Shrimp (as much as you want!)
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tbsp honey

Combine lime juice, ginger and honey in a bowl and stir to combine thoroughly. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and marinate at least 30 minutes, tossing shrimp every so often so all pieces of shrimp get in the sauce at some point. When ready to cook shrimp, spray saucepan with non stick spray and heat to medium. Add shrimp, being careful not to add the entire amount of the lime juice mixture to the pan. A little of the sauce is good though. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning shrimp over after about 5. I used pre-cooked shrimp, but if yours is uncooked make sure the shrimp are completely pink before you serve them. The sauce should start to thicken up and adhere to the shrimp after about 10 minutes. When that happens sautee for another few minutes and then serve hot.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Parmesan Encrusted Asparagus

At the farmers market I picked up some absolutely beautiful fresh asparagus that was grown in a town not far from my own. I swear they were the longest stalks I've seen! So since I had an abundance, I was anxious to try out a new way to prepare them and as soon as I saw this one on tastespotting, I knew that was the one to try! I was definitely inspired by this recipe, but went off on my own in terms of how to prepare it. The original recipe calls for frying the asparagus but I hate frying things so I just roasted it. Either way, it was fantastic and definitely a way I will be making asparagus again!
Adapted from Eat Make Read

1/2 - 1 bunch of asparagus, rinsed, dried and with the ends trimmed off
1 cup plain Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tablespoons Parmesan, finely grated
1 egg
splash of milk (I use skim)
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 375 and line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with non stick spray. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Create a breading station by putting flour, salt and pepper (to taste) on one plate, egg mixture on another plate with high sides, and on a separate plate add Panko bread crumbs, rosemary and parmesan cheese and stir lightly to combine. Dip the ends of the asparagus in the flour until coated, then the egg mixture, and finally roll in Panko mixture until the ends of the spears are completely coated. Line on baking sheet and bake for aprox. 15 minutes, or until panko is browned and asparagus is cooked though.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Herb Roasted Balsamic Potatoes

With an abundance of beautiful red potatoes I picked up at the Farmers Market last week, I decided to make a simple side dish to go with dinner. These were very easy to make and a great way to use up some leftovers. They were also extremely flavorful with the herbs standing in the forefront. Absolutely use whatever herbs you want, as well! These are just the herbs that I chose because I had them on hand, but the great thing about this dish is that it would suit most any herb, dried or fresh!

About 4-6 Red Potatoes, quartered, skins left on
1/2 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
aprox. 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
aprox. 1 tbps. extra virgin olive oil
about 5 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 - 2 tsp herbs de provance
a pinch of dried rosemary
Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together until the potatoes are completely covered in all of the herbs and vinegar. Pour into a greased baking dish and cook, uncovered for about 45 minutes or until fork tender. Also, make sure to toss the potatoes a few times during the cook time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wilton Course 2 Final Cake

I haven't been updating you all on my weekly Wilton classes because there is only 1 final cake involved in course 2. Every week you make different royal icing flowers, and then on the final class you learn to do basket weave on the side of the cake and then you arrange the flowers you made from previous classes. I really thought the cake turned out beautiful! The basket weave wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and I really like the rope boarder much better then the shell! All in all this was my favorite Wilton class to date! Also, this cake isn't exactly like some of the other course 2 cakes you might see...mainly the absence of the little blue color flow birds! But our instructor has been doing this for SO many years and they used to do the fence, which she liked better. Personally, I liked it better too! The pictures with the fence I took in class, then I went home to get some better shots but I didn't unwrap the fence again. Anyways, I really had a lot of fun with it. I think this cake would be lovely for a tea or garden party with the girls!

Next week: Course 3!

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