Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Aruba Sunsets

Sunsets over the ocean.  Is there anything better?  
These are some pictures from my brief three day stay in Aruba before Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seashells in Aruba

Walking the beach in Aruba

Recipe: Ceviche

My return from vacation ceviche - sadly no beach in sight

I scouted some recipe ideas online - here was my creation
1 lb shrimp
(no tails - and these were actually pre-cooked, even though the lime juice will cook raw shrimp)
The juice of 3 fresh squeezed limes, plus about 1/8-1/4 cup bottled lime juice
let lime and shrimp marinate all night in fridge - then add the following, stir,
and serve with tortilla chips
5 green onions, chopped
1/2 tomato, diced (not a big tomato fan here)
1 piece of celery, chopped
freshly chopped parsley and cilantro (about 1/4 cup total)
ground pepper
splash of olive oil
dash of hot sauce

One of the best things about traveling to the islands is the prevalence of seafood.   Over my 10 days in Aruba and Curacao, I had ceviche three times.   As you can see from the pictures below, the ocean adds a delicious quality to the food.
Piet's Pier - Hyatt Regency Aruba

SHOR - Hyatt Regency Curacao

SWIM - Hyatt Regency Curacao

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Recipe: Smoked Cheese Pasta Bake

Probably one of the first recipes I ever used from Cooking Light magazine.  This was in the January/February 2007 issue.  And it was delicious again yesterday.

1 lb uncooked penne (used whole wheat for added nutritional value)
1 26oz jar fat-free marinara sauce (or the sauce of your choosing...I also added a can of diced tomatoes with garlic and oregano for extra tomato goodness)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 10oz pack frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
Cooking Spray
1 1/2 cups reduced fat sour cream
1 cup (4oz) shredded smoked mozzarella (tried it this last time with smoked Gouda, also worked well)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup (2oz) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (can also use low fat mozzarella if needed)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook pasta according to package, omitting salt and fat.  Drain.
Heat marinara sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add salt, pepper, and spinach, stirring until blended, cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; stir in cooked pasta.
Coat 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Spoon half of pasta mixture in to dish.  
Combine sour cream, smoked cheese, and basil; spread over pasta in dish.   Spoon remaining pasta over the top.  Sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until bubbly.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Recipe: Peanut-Mallow Crunchies

So, let me say that if I ever coin the name for a recipe, the word 'mallow' will not be used.  Regardless if marshmallows are an ingredient.  I made these this past weekend as I was looking through the cabinet and thinking "wow, these marshmallows from the camping trip are still soft, better do something with them."  And having learned that the recipes written on the back of packages actually do have promise, I present to you 'chocolate crunchies' or 'hedonistic haystacks' or 'peanut piles.'  (ok, piles does not make any food sound better...retract!)

30 large marshmallows
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter/margarine
4 cups crispy rice cereal
2 cups unsalted peanuts
(I omitted the 2 cups raisins...why ruin a perfectly good snack)
2 cups pretzel sticks, broken into 1/2 inch lengths

Melt marshmallows, chocolate and butter over very low heat, stirring frequently to blend (this will take longer than you expected).  Combine remaining ingredients in a large greased bowl.  Pour melted mixture over the cereal mixture.  Stir gently until all pieces are well coated.  Pat into a greased 11x17 jelly roll pan or drop on a greased cookie sheet.  Let cool to set.  Makes one pan or 48 clusters.

I used a pan.  Then cooled in the fridge and then broke/tore it into pieces.  Most of it is frozen for future treating.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Recipe: Eggnog Cookies

Usually I start baking for the holidays around the week of Thanksgiving.  Since this year I will be relaxing island-style away from a kitchen, I've started a little early.  The freezer makes all things possible.   My mom gave me the Mrs. Fields Best Ever Cookie Book when I moved into my first real apartment in 2002.  I think I've made this recipe each year since.

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter/margarine, softened
1/2 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large egg yolks
ground nutmeg for garnish

Preheat oven to 300.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and 1/2 t nutmeg.  Mix well and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with mixer until grainy. Add eggnog, vanilla and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until smooth.

Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until combined.  Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.  Bake for 20 minutes (Colorado time...the recipe says 23-25).  Transfer to cool surface immediately with spatula (and they aren't kidding...you let them sit on the cookie sheet and you may never get them off). 

Recipe: Butterscotch Blondies

Another great find from allrecipes.com.  I've now decided to try and take pictures of the different recipes, but admit that food photography may not be my strong suit (yet).

1 (18.25oz) package yellow cake mix with pudding
1/3 cup butter/margarine, softened
3 eggs, divided
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I admit, cooking light style, that I used about half)
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 (14oz) can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  In large bowl, beat cake mix, butter and 1 egg at medium speed until crumbly.  Press evently into greased 13x9 baking pan (use foil and make it easy on yourself).  Bake 15 minutes.  Remove from oven; sprinkle with pecans and butterscotch chips.

In small bowl beat milk, eggs and vanilla.  Pour evenly over chips.  Bake 25-30 minutes until center is set.  Cool thoroughly, then cut into bars.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stick Figure Families

My sister and I have a running joke about stickers that people put on their cars, whether it is turtles, flipflops or stick figures that represent each member of the family.   I saw a car that had a sticker of a woman with 2 cats and I threatened to do that to her car - classifying her as a cat lady.  So when she returned from Disney World last month, she wouldn't give me my gift, unless I proved that I hadn't put stickers on her car. 
My gift?  Two stickers.  One with a woman wearing mouse ears.  One with a dog.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recipe: Macaroon Brownies

Coconut and chocolate....a match made in heaven.   I found the original recipe on allrecipes.com, but modified it.   And by modified, I mean I love the filling and use regular brownie mix.  Especially when said mix is on sale for $1 at King Soopers.

1 box brownie mix (family size for a 9x13 inch pan)
4 cups flaked coconut
1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1 T vanilla

Prepare the brownie mix following instructions.  I use a 9x9 inch silicone pan so they are deep dish brownies.  Pour half the brownie batter in the pan.   Mix the coconut, milk and vanilla in a bowl.   Drop / smooth onto the layer of brownie batter.   Top with remaining batter.   If you want to, you can add chocolate chips to the brownie batter, just for fun.   Bake according to the instructions for a 9x9 pan, probably 35-40 minutes.

Enjoy deliciousness.

Thanksgiving Fries

Just a brief moment to give a shout out to Big Game Restaurant for this amazing dish on their menu.   Just as amazing as the Illini winning their homecoming game were the Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Fries.   They are topped with marshmallow cream and toasted cinnamon pecans.  The person who created this should be given a prize.


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