Friday, March 17, 2017

Vanilla Mint Cupcakes

A wonderful little cupcake with just a hint of mint topped with a delicious mint frosting with chocolate curls! Perfect for St. Patrick's day!

 Vanilla Mint Cupcakes

1/2 cup Butter, softened
1 1/4 cup Sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then add the vanilla extract and mint extract and mix well. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Add half of the milk and mix well. 

Next add another third of the flour, mix, and then add the remaining milk. Finally, add the remaining flour and continue beating until well mixed. Using a measuring cup and pour batter into a lined or greased cupcake pans. 

Vanilla Mint Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 tablespoon milk
2-3 drops green food coloring

Beat the butter and a 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and mint extracts and milk and continue beating. Continue to add powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. Add green food coloring and beat until color is well incorporated.

Chocolate Curls 

Place a bar or block of chocolate on waxed paper. Make small chocolate curls by pulling a vegetable peeler toward you across the short side of the chocolate. When sprinkling curls on cupcakes, use the wax paper so your hands do not melt the chocolate. The curls will be easier to make if the chocolate is slightly warm.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Leprechaun Cookie Bars

With St. Patrick’s day rapidly approaching, I wanted to come up with something special for my friends and family. These are so good. I love a chewy cookie or brownie and the center of these are super soft and chewy. I like to put them in little tins for St. Paddy's day with a little card that says "I'm so lucky to have you in my life." Always a big hit! 

Leprechaun Cookie Bars 

Cookie Crust Layer

10 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour

In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the sugar nad the cocoa and whisk to combine. Remove from heat and add salt, vanilla, and eggs and whisk until combined.  Then add the flour and continue to stir until smooth.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking pan with foil and then spray with non stick cooking spray.  Press the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan forming your crust.  Set aside.

Cookie Dough Layer

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup green mint chips

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the butter, shortening and both sugars and cream together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour baking soda and salt. Beat this into the butter and sugar mixture.

Spoon the mixture onto the layer of dough in the baking dish,  being careful not to disturb the cookie crust. Using a rubber spatula or greased fingers press the cookie dough batter onto the crust.  Then sprinkle the chocolate and mint chips on top of the cookie dough batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown on top.  Cool slightly before drizzling with icing.

Mint Drizzle

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon mint extract 
2 tablespoons milk
3 drops green food coloring

Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk and mint extract until smooth. Mix in the food coloring a drop at a time until you get the right color of green you want. Drizzle over top of cookie bars. Add more chocolate chips for garnish.

Cool completely at room temperature or chill in refrigerator before cutting into bars.  

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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Sausage Alfredo Bake

I'm all for quick and easy recipes…..the kind of recipes that get you in and out of the kitchen fast.  I also love simple-to-make dishes that take very few ingredients. But I have just one rule: Whatever quick and simple recipe I’m making has to taste homemade. So, how do you get that homemade dish worthy of being called restaurant quality?  You make your own sauce!  Never buy Alfredo sauce in a jar when it takes less time to make it than to open it!  Here’s just an example of the perfect fast and simple recipe that you can make in less than 30 minutes, start to finish. Serve it with a side salad and some hot crusty bread and you’ll think you’re eating carryout from a high end Italian restaurant!

Sausage Alfredo Bake

1.5 lbs Italian Sausage (sweet or hot)1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 box Penne or Penne Rigata Pasta (one has ridges one doesn't)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper
homemade Alfredo Sauce (see below)
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Cut sausage into bite sized pieces. In a large skillet over a medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the sausage pieces and brown until done.  Remove from skillet and set aside. Add sliced mushrooms to the same skillet and saute until tender. Season the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper. Return sausage to skillet and mix them with the sausage and set aside.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt to a large pot of boiling water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain very well and return pasta to warm pot off the heat. While pasta cooks, make  your sauce.

Homemade Alfredo Sauce

4 tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy cream (must be heavy cream or whipping cream)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chopped garlic and saute until golden (about a minute or two). Add 2 cups of heavy cream and allow to simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese and whisk continuously until the cheese in completely melted. Salt and pepper to taste. That's how simple it is to make your own sauce! 

Add the sausage and mushrooms to your pot of cooked pasta and toss. Next, add the half cup of mozzarella cheese to your Alfredo sauce and stir until cheese has melted.  Then pour your sauce into the pot of pasta and stir to coat everything well.

Pour the pasta into a oven proof dish. Cover with mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until hot and bubbly and the cheese has melted.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve with crusty bread and a salad. YUM!   

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My Incredible Lasagna Roll Ups

The less time it takes me to make dinner the better. Especially lasagna! Who doesn’t love it but who wants to take all that time to make all those layers?   Rather than making a big pan of lasagna, these are perfect for dinner size portions.  I use a blend of three cheeses (Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Parmesan). Add some garlic bread and a side salad and you’ve got a delicious quick meal!   

My Incredible Lasagna Roll Ups
1 pound ground beef
12 lasagna noodles 
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) jar Ragu Chunky Tomato, Garlic, Onion Sauce
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook lasagna noodles according to directions on package. Once cooked, lay them out in a single layer on wax paper.

In a skillet over medium heat, saut√© the onion and garlic until tender and transparent.  Add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper to taste. After browning, drain the beef.  Add pasta sauce, tomato sauce, oregano and basil. Lower the heat to med-low and cook for 30 minutes covered.

Combine 1 cup of the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and all of the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl. Add the egg, parsley, salt and pepper, then mix until all ingredients are combined. 

In a 9 x 13 inch baking pan, spread 1 cup of the meat sauce or just enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Lay out a lasagna noodles and spoon about 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture down the middle of each noodle. Top with a little of the  meat sauce. 

Roll the lasagna noodles and place them seam side down in the pan.  Finish by topping with remaining meat sauce and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top. Cover with non-stick aluminum foil.

Bake covered in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and cheese is bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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