Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Black Bean Burgers

I decided to make these after I baked some kaiser rolls and had leftovers. Because freshly baked bread can go bad pretty quickly, I wanted to use these up. I didn't want to make a traditional burger since I'm trying to eat less meat, nor did I want to just make a sandwich. Then all the stars aligned and Katie posted a black bean burger on her blog, Good Things Catered. Perfect!

It's funny, after being a vegan for 5 years and a vegetarian for another 5 years (betcha' didn't know that about me!), I had never had a black bean burger. I had veggie burgers a lot but a black bean burger was never something I was attracted to. Boy, was I missing out.

These were SO flavorful and had an absolutely perfect texture. And they were so easy and adaptable to just about anything you have on hand in your pantry! Even my hunter meat loving husband was impressed. I adapted the portions and the procedure because I don't have a food processor, and 4 big burgers were too many for us. To say I'll make these again is an understatement since I've already made them again! These are a new staple in our house!

Adapted from Good Things Catered

1 can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed well
1/4 medium yellow onion, minced well
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, shredded finely
1 egg
1/4 c. herbed bread crumbs
1 sprig thyme, chopped
3 green onions, green parts only, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment. Using a fine meshed sieve over the sink, add shredded carrots and press out all moisture using your fingers. Then in a large bowl combine all ingredients and mash well with a potato masher.

Using hands (if mixture is relatively goopy, don't worry), place bun-sized patties onto baking sheet. Put into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until edges have crisped up and burgers are cooked through. Remove from oven and serve on a fresh roll with nice thick tomato slices and fresh lettuce.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Florida 2010

First of all, let me apologize for my absence! I've been vacationing in the Orlando, Florida area this past week, and had an absolutely wonderful time. Perfect weather and wonderful company! My husband and I actually went with my parents, because while this was a vacation for me and my mom; my husband, dad and brother were there for business.

Not only did we have a lot of fun roaming around Disney and being kids again, we ate at some really spectacular places! Here were our favorites, and if you ever find yourself in the Orlando area I definitely suggest checking some (or all!) of these out!

Raglan Road Irish Pub - this was the first place we ate, and it was a wonderful way to start our trip. This restaurant is in Downtown Disney, which is certainly easy to get to. The atmosphere is great and so is the entertainment. Halfway through our dinner a live band started playing traditional Irish music, and an Irish dancer showed us a dance. The service was great and so was the food. We all really enjoyed this place.

The Samba Room - We actually ate here for a dinner put on by someone my dad does business with. So I can only comment on how the party was, but it was just amazing. I think we were all the most impressed with this restaurant. The atmosphere was wonderful, the staff was friendly and courteous, and the food was to die for good. From the hand passed appetizers, to the amazing Lobster tail and Filet Mignon for dinner, to the delicious little cheesecake pops for dessert, we were just so impressed with this meal from start to finish. It also overlooked a beautiful pond, so it really had a beautiful view even though we were in Orlando.

Funky Monkey Wine Company- My mom and I decided this would be a great place for dinner just by going into the restaurant in the afternoon. Royal purple graces the tables and chairs, with trendy lighting decorating the ceiling. I loved how ecclectic and different this restaurant was, as there aren't many (ok, any) restaurants like this where I'm from. We all shared some Sushi which was great, and everyone really enjoyed their main course. And this goes without saying, but the wine selection was just wonderful.

Maggiano's Little Italy - This restaurant was close to our hotel, so we always saw people buzzing in and out...which is a good sign! So one night we tried it and were so glad we did! We thought the food was just great and the menu offered all of your traditional Italian favorites, along with some wonderful additions. I had the Chicken & Truffle Tortellacci with White Wine Cream Sauce, Smoked Ham & Asiago Cheese and it was just fabulous (and on my list of meals I need to try and re-create!)

Bahama Breeze - we actually never ate dinner here, but my mom and I had a few lunches here because it was right next door to our hotel. I thought it was great for lunch...there were a lot of options and they all fit the "Caribbean theme." I also loved their selection of tropical drinks...there were many to choose from!

Don Pablo's - If you're looking for a casual tex-mex restaurant, this is it! We were all exhausted after walking around Disney all day, and no one was hungry after lunch. Until 8pm, when we decided that we were hungry again! But no one felt like getting ready for dinner and we hadn't made reservations anywhere, and this was in walking distance of our hotel. While the atmosphere isn't the best, this is still a fun tex-mex restaurant where you can order a pitcher of margaritas and a burrito and have a fun and filling dinner!

Les Chefs De France
- This restaurant is actually in "Paris" in Epcot. My family and I have been dining here since we've been coming to 20 years. :) We don't come every year but but when we do come we always make sure to hit this restaurant. First of all, we can get Escargots here which we all know is my favorite food of all time. And besides the escargots, there are a lot of great Parisean choices for lunch or dinner. The wait staff is always fun to talk to as well, since most (if not all) are from France and love to talk about their travels.

California Grill
- This restaurant is located at the Contemporary Resort in Disney and was highly recommended by my good friend Julie. We got a reservation for the last night of our trip, and were SO glad that we did. First of all, I have to say that even if you're not staying in Disney, the contemporary resort is very easy to get to. You can just follow the signs and drive right up to the hotel. Also, try and get reservations during the fireworks over Cinderella's castle. I made reservations two weeks before our trip and every night we were in Florida, except for the last night, was booked solid for a table during the fireworks. So take that as a warning - make reservations early! We got to the Contemporary resort a bit early and our table was already ready. We sat down, ordered our drinks and sushi, and then went outside to an observation deck where we watched the beautiful and amazing fireworks to music. And I'm sorry, no fireworks can ever beat Disney fireworks. They are amazing. When we came back to our table, our delicious sushi was waiting for us. Not was the food just wonderful, I honestly can't say enough about our waitress and the other wait staff. They were just wonderfully friendly and SO knowledgeable. Our waitress knew everything about the menu...from what wines went best with what food, everything about the sushi and of course the main course and dessert selections. We really had a wonderful experience here and were all so glad to have gone.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chocolate Chambord Truffle Brownies

When I saw this recipe, I knew it would be perfect for Valentine's Day. Chocolate, truffles, brownies...three of my favorite things. And of course I had to add some chambord because chambord and chocolate were just made for each other.

I normally don't like "frosting" on brownies, but this ganache is just a heavenly addition. The density of the brownie and the creaminess of the ganache is a wonderful combination that just exudes decadence.

I cut these brownies out into heart shapes for Valentine's Day, but you can also just cut them into squares or make them in a spring form pan and cut them in wedges. But no matter how you serve these, they will be a delicious treat for any occasion.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tsp chambord (optional)
Heart-shaped sprinkles, for garnish (optional)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread shortening into an 11-7 inch pan, line with parchment paper, then spread shortening on the parchment paper. Set aside.

Make batter: Put butter and chocolate in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Let cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; set aside.

Put sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture, milk, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add flour mixture; beat, scraping down sides of bowl, until well incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, 27 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan.

Make topping when brownies are cool: Put chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until just simmering. Pour over chocolate and gently whisk until smooth. Add chambord if using and whisk to combine thoroughly. Keep in mind that you can use more chambord for a stronger raspberry flavor, but the more alcohol you use the less the ganache will set up. I found 2 tsp worked well. Allow ganache to cool, stirring every 10 minutes, until slightly thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.

Pour ganache over cooled brownies in pan; let set, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate until cold, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Let brownies stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving. Lift out brownies; cut into wedges, wiping knife with a hot, damp cloth between each cut. Scatter sprinkles on top.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Baileys Irish Buttercream

I can't believe it, but my little baby brother just celebrated his 21st birthday. I guess he's not so little anymore. To celebrate this milestone birthday, I had to bake him some cupcakes. But not just any cupcakes...spiked cupcakes of course. I mean, what's a big sister for?!

I brought these to work in celebration of Kevin's birthday (we both work at the same place) and he and our coworkers just loved them. Last count...Kevin ate 4 with Jimmy coming in at 3. These were gone in a flash and everyone raved.

The Guinness pretty much bakes out of the cupcake itself, but leaves you with a super-moist, perfectly flavored chocolate cake. The buttercream is delicious...Great consistency and flavor with the Bailey's definitely at the forefront. I skipped the ganache portion of this cupcake, simply from lack of time and from the fact that I didn't want these to be TOO boozy since I was bringing them to work! (If you want the recipe with the ganache, head over to Smitten Kitchen) But even without the ganache, these were delicious. I already have requests to make them again!

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup Guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream (I used light)

Baileys Irish Buttercream
3 to 4 cups confections sugar (I used about 3.5 cups)
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream (I used 3 tbsp Bailey's and 1 tbsp milk to get it to the right consistency)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add Guinness. Bring to a simmer. Whisk in cocoa powder until mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sour cream until thoroughly combined. On low speed, drizzle in Guinness-chocolate mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture, a little at a time, and mix briefly on slow speed just until the mixture comes together. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely. (I always bake my cupcakes and cakes the day before I frost them which always works out well for me).

To make the buttercream, whip the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I use this. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but this product is amazing and SO WORTH IT. If you're debating on buying it or not, I HIGHLY suggest you do. I honestly can't remember the last time I used my "actual" paddle attachment since I bought this) for several minutes until the butter is very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I'm pretty sure I'm still not saying this correctly, since I first 'heard' of it browsing through Good Things Catered last week. But I decided to try it since it looked like a healthy side dish. And that it was.

And not only was it healthy it's super filling and comforting. This could easily be a meal in and of itself (which I'm guessing it probably is supposed to be) but it also worked great as a satisfying side.

Lentils, brown rice, caramelized onions...what's not to love?!
Source: Good Things Catered

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tsp salt, plus more for serving
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
4 c. water (for some reason I had to use way more then this...the rice and lentils kept absorbing all the water but it wasn't finished cooking. I'd say I used at least 5 cups, but I started with 4 and just kept adding more until it was right.)
1 c. lentils, rinsed and picked through
1 c. long grain brown rice (I used short grain since it was all I had...this worked fine)

optional (non traditional):
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/16 tsp ground allspice

-Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium heat.
-Add onions and salt and cook until they are deeply caramelized. (This takes a while but be patient).
-After about 35-60 minutes (usually takes me about 45 minutes) the onions will be a rich amber color and darker in spots.
-Make sure not to burn, it will turn the taste of the entire dish.
-When the onions are ready add the garlic and spices and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
-Add water and deglaze the pan, scraping up all browned bits.
-Add lentils and bring to a boil.
-Cover pan and cook for 15 minutes.
-Add rice and stir to combine.
-Recover pan and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until rice is done.
-Mix thoroughly, cover and turn heat off.
-Let sit until slightly cooled and thickened, with no liquid left in the pan.
-It is now ready to serve: plate and season with salt and pepper to bring out taste.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chili with Cornbread Dumplings

I've been making this recipe for years now. It's healthy, flavorful, filling and is so easy to put together. The chili itself is on the mild side, so if you like really spicy chili I'd suggest putting more red pepper or chili powder in. But for me, this is perfectly spiced.

The addition of the cornbread dumplings really makes this dish for me. It's unexpected but goes just perfectly with the chili itself. Another great thing about this chili is it makes GREAT leftovers. After I make this chili I put the rest in individual containers and bring them to work over the next week or so.

This can be made vegetarian or non-vegetarian. I've done it both ways and it always comes out great. I'll include the directions for both versions.

This is always a great recipe and something I hope you'll like as much as I do!

Source: "More Healthy Homestyle Cooking" by Evelyn Tribole, page 160-161

1 lb. ground turkey breast (optional)
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 can chopped tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
3 cans reduced sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I have also used a mix of beans and great northern beans also work just fine)
1 can diced green chili peppers (4 oz)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups reduced fat biscuit mix
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/3 cup fat free milk
1/4 cup corn kernels


Coat a large pot (I use a dutch oven) with non-stick spray and warm over medium-high heat. Add the turkey to the pot and cook, stirring to break up the meat, for 5 minutes or until brown and crumbly (skip this step for a vegetarian version).

If not using meat, add 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil to large pot and warm over medium heat.

For vegetarian or non-vegetarian version, continue with the following steps.

Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the chili powder, cumin and red pepper. Stir in the tomatoes (with juice), beans, tomato sauce, and chili peppers (with juice). Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer.

To make the dumplings, stir together the biscuit mix, cornmeal, cheese, cumin and chili powder in a medium bowl. In another small bowl, mix milk and corn. Add to cornmeal mixture and mix until just moistened.

Drop the dumpling mixture by heaping tablespoons onto the chili, covering the surface but with a little chili showing between dumplings. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in a dumpling comes out clean. Spoon into bowls and serve.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Roasted Salmon with Garlic and Tomatoes

This is another salmon recipe I found that was easy to make and tasted great. I also loved that I got a main course and side dish out of one recipe which is great for the weeknight. I added goat cheese to this which really kicked up the flavor...but if you aren't a huge goat cheese fan it could easily be left out.

This was a light, healthy recipe that tasted like a salmon dish that you might get at a restaurant. It was so flavorful and was really a great way to prepare salmon.

Adapted from Real Simple

1-2 salmon fillets
1/2-3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2-4 springs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
Goat cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and coat a medium baking dish with non stick spray. Add salmon, skin side down, to baking dish. Spread cherry tomatoes around fillet(s) and sprinkle salmon and tomatoes with salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Sprinkle garlic and thyme over salmon. Drizzle everything with just a bit of olive oil.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Then pull salmon out of oven and sprinkle goat cheese to taste over salmon and tomatoes. Put back in oven and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until salmon is opaque throughout and goat cheese is very lightly browned.

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