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Chocolate-Dipped Cheesecake Pops

19 Jun

Olivia got a Ballerina Cookbook for Christmas and about once a week asks if we can make one of the recipes. This usually translates to, “Mommy, I’ll pick it out and pretend that I’m going to help. You do everything else.” Her latest pick was Sugar Plum Fairy Pops, or little balls of cheesecake, dipped in chocolate, and covered in various toppings.

After a couple of failed attempts at balling up sticky, mushy cheesecake, I gave up and just cut the cake into bite-sized squares. Tasted just the same but WAY easier. Once I stopped trying to roll impossible cheesecake balls, these were really easy.

Cheesecake Pops

Chocolate-Dipped Cheesecake Pops

1 prepared cheesecake
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp shortening
Lollipop sticks
Sprinkles, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, and any other toppings you’d like

 

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the cheesecake into 1½ inch squares and place on the baking sheet. Put a lollipop stick in the top of each square and push down so that it goes almost through the other side but not quite. Freeze for about 3 hours or until hard.
  3. Place chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  4. Remove the cheesecake pops from the freezer and dip each one, making sure the chocolate covers them entirely. Return each pop to the baking sheet and sprinkle with toppings.
  5. Let set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until ready to eat.

Makes about 24 cheesecake pops.

Cheesecake Pops

Baba Ghanoush

17 Jun

Baba Ghanoush is a Middle Eastern spread made of roasted eggplant and tiny bits of Heaven. It is also really fun to say. I have no more words—just make it, eat it, love it.

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush

1 large eggplant
¼ cup tahini, plus more as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1 pinch ground cumin
salt, to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

 

  1. Heat your grill to medium-high heat, and preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. Prick the eggplant with a fork in several places and place on the grill 4 to 5 inches from the fire. Grill, turning frequently, until the skin blackens and blisters and the flesh just begins to feel soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and bake until very soft, another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard the skin.
  4. Place the eggplant flesh in a bowl. Using a fork, mash the eggplant to a paste. Add the 1/4 cup tahini, the garlic, the 1/4 cup lemon juice and the cumin and mix well. Season with salt, then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and spread with the back of a spoon to form a shallow well. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the parsley.
Baba Ghanoush

Summer Rolls

6 Jun

Summer rolls are an easy and refreshing appetizer that are fun to make, so this is a great recipe to get your little ones involved in the kitchen. This recipe uses lots of “leaves” as my three year old would say, so feel free to modify your filling to suit your family’s tastes. You can fill these with mango, crispy rice vermicelli noodles, julienned carrots, cucumber … get creative!

Summer Rolls

You can find the rice paper rounds at most international supermarkets if you don’t have any luck at your local grocery store. Keep in mind that you’ll get a bunch in the package, so you won’t use them all in one go (unless you are making these for a party or something along those lines).

A huge THANK YOU to my brother, Josh, for this recipe and for teaching me how to make these—definitely easier than I ever imagined!

Summer Rolls

1 package of 8-inch rice paper rounds
1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch scallions
1 head of romaine lettuce
½ lb small shrimp
Peanut sauce for dipping

 

1. Steam shrimp and set aside.

2. Slice scallions into 3-inch pieces. Clean and separate lettuce leaves. Pull mint leaves and discard the stems.

3. Fill a large pie plate with water. Submerge one rice paper round in the water for 5-10 seconds. Place on a clean surface and place a lettuce leaf, 2-4 scallions, a few mint leaves, and 4-6 shrimp.

4. Carefully lift the edge of the rice paper and fold over, pulling back gently towards you to tuck in the fillings. Fold in the edges and continue rolling, burrito-style.

5. Allow the roll to sit for a minute before slicing in half. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping.

Summer Rolls

Hands-Free (Almost) Risotto

2 Jun

If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I love risotto. I tend to turn this side dish into the star by adding vegetables and protein for a one-dish meal. Is risotto versatile and kid-friendly? Absolutely. Is it easy to make when you are home alone with a three year old and an infant? Not so much.

The problem with risotto is that you have to stir it, constantly, for about 30 minutes while you gradually add small amounts of warmed broth. So if the baby spits up everywhere or your preschooler yells from the bathroom that she needs you … well, you (or more aptly, your dinner) are screwed.

So when Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote in Cooking Light how he makes the creamiest risotto (and it doesn’t involve constant stirring), I was all over it.

It all starts by rinsing the rice. Mix together the broth and wine and add the rice, agitating to loosen the starchy coating on the grains. When you strain the rice out, you’re left with a liquid that’s already infused with the essential starch that makes risotto thick and creamy.

Toast the rice with some garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil, just as you normally would. But instead of adding a small amount of the liquid and stirring until it absorbs, you add almost all of the broth (saving one cup for the end), bring it to a boil, give everything a quick stir, and cover. Then you cook it for 20 minutes, stirring just once halfway through. Add the final cup of broth at the end with a touch of cream and Parmesan cheese. That’s it.

I was skeptical that this easier method could yield the same quality risotto that I was used to getting with the more tedious approach. I am thrilled to report that I am now able to balance babies and risotto because this method ROCKS!

Risotto

Edamame Orzo Salad

1 May

My mom first made this dish for my brother and sister-in-law’s family wedding shower last summer. I promised in that post that I would share the recipe soon. Unfortunately, I never took any pictures of the dish during the shower, so I had to make it again (twist my arm) to photograph it for this post. Fast forward eight months and I have FINALLY gotten around to it. The good news is that you now have the recipe just in time to make it for your summer cookouts—enjoy!

Note: The picture below does not include the olives. The ones I had on hand were not pitted and I just don’t have that much patience.

Edamame Orzo Salad

Mediterranean Edamame Orzo Salad

Vinaigrette:
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Pasta:
1/3 box orzo pasta
2 cups cooked, shelled edamame
2/3 cup thinly sliced sundried tomatoes
¼ cup diced red onion
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
1/3 cup feta cheese

1. For vinaigrette, combine vinegar, garlic and oregano, and mix with a whisk or in the blender. Slowly add olive oil and mix well. Add salt and pepper.

2. Cook pasta according to the directions on the box and drain.

3. Add all of the remaining ingredients, including the vinaigrette, to the pasta and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving (the longer it refrigerates, the better).

Carrot Cake Mini Whoopie Pies

28 Apr

I made these carrot cake mini whoopie pies for Easter dessert, and they were a huge hit! The original Cooking Light recipe calls them sandwich cookies, but for all intents and purposes, they’re whoppie pies. The kids gobbled them up, despite the fact that they were very obviously full of veggies. The fact that there was delicious cream cheese frosting oozing out from the middle probably didn’t hurt. I will absolutely be making these again (though next time I am doubling the recipe)!

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

2 cups shredded carrot
2/3 cup packed brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup unsalted butter, divided
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp grated orange rind
3/4 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1 large egg
4.5 oz unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/8 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

 

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

2. Combine carrot and 3 tablespoons brown sugar in a bowl; toss to coat. Place carrot mixture in a fine mesh sieve; let stand to drain for 10 minutes. Discard liquid.

3. Place 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 45 seconds or until melted. Add oil, rind, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and egg; stir with a whisk until well combined.

4. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, remaining brown sugar (about 1/2 cup), cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add carrot mixture and butter mixture; stir until just combined. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets for a total of 28 cookies (14 per baking sheet); gently pat dough down to form 2-inch circles. Bake at 350° for 11 minutes or until set. Remove pans from oven; let stand 3 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Combine cream cheese, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add powdered sugar; beat at low speed 1 minute or until well combined (do not overbeat). Spread about 1 tablespoon icing on flat side of 1 cookie; top with another cookie, flat side down. Repeat the procedure with remaining cookies and filling.

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Brunchwich

10 Apr

I was flipping channels the other day and came across an episode of Sandwich King on the Food Network that was all about the brunchwich, a hearty gourmet version of your average breakfast sandwich that blends both breakfast and lunch flavors … hence the name.

Call it inspiration or just plain hunger, but I practically ran to the kitchen and got to work on my own variation. I give you the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Brunchwich, one of the best sandwiches I have ever made! And the possibilities are endless—I can’t wait to see what other combinations I can come up with.

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Brunchwich

Makes 2 sandwiches

2 eggs
6 slices thick-cut bacon
4 slices provolone cheese
1 small tomato, sliced
1 cup spring mix greens
2 hamburger buns
1 tbsp butter
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place the buns open faced on a cookie sheet and butter each half. Top each side with a slice of cheese. Toast buns in the oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is completely melted.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess grease.

3. Pour grease from the skillet into a coffee mug and set aside for disposal once cooled. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.

4. Using the same skillet that you used for the bacon, fry each egg over medium (solid whites and a still liquid but thicker yolk).

5. Assemble each brunchwich: 3 slices of bacon, 2-3 slices of tomato, ½ cup, fried egg, salt and pepper to taste.

Indian Chicken Curry à la the Eastern Spice Company

8 Apr

I love to make and introduce my family to diverse ethnic dishes. I think food is the perfect gateway to learning about other cultures. Growing up, we didn’t venture much outside of lo mein or spanakopita when it came to ethnic foods, mostly because there just wasn’t much else around.

Until I moved to the DC area 11 years ago, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know what shawarma, pho, falafel, or bi bim bap was, let alone ever eaten them. I’m excited that my girls will grow up with such a variety of cuisines at their fingertips and will, hopefully, see that delicious food is at the heart of every culture and that we aren’t as different as we may appear.

Indian Chicken Curry

The one thing that makes it difficult for me to cook outside of my comfort zone is the array of dish-specific, and often expensive, spices that you need to make a recipe truly authentic. So when the folks at Eastern Spice Company asked me to try out one of their spice blends, I jumped at the opportunity.

Eastern Spice Company specializes in bringing authentic eastern flavors into your kitchen one dish at a time. Simply choose a dish from their website and they will send you the exact amount and blend of spices needed to make the recipe, which you can conveniently pull up via the QR code on the tin. What I love most about this concept is that I was able to make a delicious Indian dish at home without having to spend a small fortune in the spice aisle.

I made the Indian Chicken Curry (Tamatur Murghi). It was a bit spicy for my three year old, but my husband and I both LOVED it. The recipe was easy to follow and completely doable for a busy week night—the entire thing took maybe 30 minutes total. The best part is, with the spices provided, all of the other ingredients are easily found in any grocery store in any town across the United States.

At $4 a tin (i.e. $4 per meal), these spice blends probably aren’t the most economical if you cook Indian food on a regular basis. But if you’re like me and you want to try something different, I would absolutely recommend giving one of the Eastern Spice Company’s blends a try. Use the code ESC10 for 10% off your purchase and get cooking!

The views and opinions presented in this post are my own. Other than a complimentary tin of spices, I did not receive any compensation for this post.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

2 Apr

It’s amazing the dishes you can create from cleaning out your pantry. My Stepmom threw a bunch of ingredients in a pot one day, and the result was a Southwestern Chicken Soup that has quickly become one of our family favorites. The best part about this dish is that it’s largely made from pantry staples, which makes it super easy to make on the fly.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

Southwestern Chicken Soup

3 large chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried cilantro (fresh is great if you have it)
1 can salsa verde
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 bag frozen corn
Shredded cheddar
Sour cream
Tortilla chips

1. Boil the chicken for 30-45 minutes or until done. Allow to cool on a plate and then shred each piece of chicken with a fork.

2. In a large pot, combine all ingredients through frozen corn and cook on medium for 45 minutes to an hour (you can also cook on medium-low for 2 hours).

3. Laddle soup into bowls and top with cheese, sour cream and crumbled tortilla chips.

Peanut Chicken with Soba Noodles

27 Mar

The best part about this peanut chicken recipe from Cooking Light is that you can control the amount of heat that goes into the peanut sauce. I love the flavor of peanut sauce, but it can sometimes get a little spicy even for me, let alone my three year old. If spice isn’t an issue for you, you can always use store-bought peanut sauce to save a bit of time.

The cucumber soba noodles are a fantastic, light side to go along with the chicken, though I have to admit that I preferred the soba noodles I made a while back to these—still, these were tasty, just a bit less flavorful.

Peanut Chicken Soba Noodles

Peanut Chicken with Soba Noodles

7 oz uncooked soba noodles
3 tbsp rice vinegar, divided
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
2 tbsp honey, divided
¼ tsp sugar
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 medium cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Cooking spray
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp water
2 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste) or chile garlic paste
Chopped fresh cilantro

1. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain and rinse with cold water. Drain. Combine 2 tbsp vinegar, sesame oil, 1 tbsp honey, and sugar in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the noodles, onions, and cucumber; toss to combine.

2. Combine remaining 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce, ginger, and peanut oil in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Thread chicken evenly onto 4 (10-inch) skewers.

3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Add kebabs to pan; cook 12 minutes or until done, turning to brown all sides.

4. Combine remaining 1 tbsp vinegar, remaining 1 tbsp soy sauce, peanut butter, 2 tbsp water, and sambal oelek in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle mixture over chicken. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with noodles.