Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dulce de Leche and Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding

I was never a huge fan of bread pudding because I always thought it came out too dry and not sweet enough. Well, this one changed my mind! Soaked in a creamy caramel sauce and dotted with chocolate, the bread was moist and delicious.

Make sure you buy a nice egg bread, or challah, for this. The only change I made from the original recipe was to use dark chocolate chips instead of bittersweet, and I would suggest using a whole cup instead of just a half.

If you can't find dulce de leche sauce, mixing equal parts butterscotch and caramel sauce works just fine, and you can really taste the rum so use one of good quality.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

Dulce de Leche and Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oven-Fried Shrimp with Aioli

I think I've talked before about how great the recipe section on Williams-Sonoma's website is. It is full of great, classic recipes that always deliver. When I am in need of a dish to either inspire me or to complement a menu I am already working on, I turn there first.

This recipe from there was simple and easy to put together. I almost always use frozen shrimp I buy at the grocery store for any weeknight dish; but since this recipe was so straight forward and I was going to be serving it to friends, I ordered some nice pink Brazilian shrimp from the butcher.

I was able to prepare this slightly in advance, coating the shrimp with panko and then storing them in the fridge until I was ready to bake them right before serving. The aioli is delicious - just don't go overboard on the mayonaise so that you can taste the garlic and lemon in it. Link below!

Oven-Fried Shrimp with Aioli

Friday, April 22, 2011

Warm Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Bacon, and Goat Cheese

This salad earned rave reviews during dinner and also garnered a lot of attention when I posted on Facebook that I was making it. I'm pretty sure the secret is that the dressing is made almost entirely of bacon grease. Healthy? No. Delicious? Yes.

The original recipe called for adding orzo and pecans to the salad but since I was already serving orzo and don't really like nuts I just adjusted a few things so that it fit my menu better. You can make the dressing in advance and just reheat over low heat on the stove to get the bacon grease all nice and warm again. I hope you enjoy this decadent salad as much as we did!

Warm Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Bacon, and Goat Cheese
adapted from How Sweet It Is
makes 4 servings

6 slices bacon, uncooked
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces baby spinach
8-10 large strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add bacon slices. Cook until brown and crispy, turning once. Remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel. Cool slightly and coarsely chop.

Leave skillet on and add red onion, sprinkle with a little salt, and stir to coat with grease. Cook until soft and caramelized, 8-10 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add strawberries and mix to coat. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and add bacon crumbles. This can be prepared a few hours in advance, just reheat whole mixture gently when ready to serve.

Place spinach in large serving bowl, top with bacon mixture, then goat cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss to combine all and serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Dinner with Friends

This past weekend we had our good friends Krista and Evan and their daughter Ella up for dinner and games (once the girls went to bed!). Of course I wanted a menu I didn't have a lot of prep work for and I wanted to try and usher in the warm weather with some summery dishes. This of course involved grilling and a pasta salad but I also wanted it to be special enough to serve to such close friends. I think I did a pretty good job! The link for the chicken below is right to Williams-Sonoma's website because the chicken is so ridiculously easy I don't even need to blog it.

Krista so nicely brought 2/3 of the appetizers (as well as some delicious Malbec to go with dinner) so I have no recipes there but everything else will have a link over the next week or so! Enjoy!

Spring Dinner with Friends



  • Dulce de leche and chocolate chunk bread pudding served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baked Pasta with Turkey Meat Sauce

My father-in-law so nicely comes once a week to watch Abbie so that I can go to a late afternoon class at the gym. Since the class is so late in the day, by the time I get home, it's a rush to get dinner on the table. Baked pastas are perfect for these evenings because I can prep all the way up to the baking stage while Abbie naps earlier in the day, then I just pop it in the oven when I get home from the gym.

This recipe caught my eye because I had a lot of these ingredients already on hand. The original recipe calls for only 3/4 pound of ground turkey and I thought I would stretch the meal a little by using the regular package of 1.25 pounds turkey. Well, the outcome was a little dry, since I used the same amount of sauce and cheese to cover more meat. So I am going to recommend you follow all the amounts of the original recipe for a nice, quick weeknight dinner. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tilapia with Lemon Pesto and Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

I've been making this recipe for a few years and for some reason have never blogged it. I swear I did but then in looking through my blog recently for it, couldn't locate it (although I have been known to post things twice!). And since I started making it pre-blog I had no idea where it came from. Thankfully, Proceed with Caution just posted it and linked me back to Elly Says Opa, who came up with this great dish.

The lemon in the pesto adds a brightness to the fish, and the smashed garlic cloves give a delicious flavor to the roasted tomatoes. I like to serve this with rice pilaf and roasted asparagus. Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Casual Cousins Dinner

Last weekend we had my cousin Katie, her husband Jeff, and her daughter Carlyn along with my sister Meghan over for a casual dinner. I wanted to plan something Carlyn would enjoy that was also on the "casually elegant" side for the adults. I think it worked! Chuck grilled the steak of course, which I ordered from the butcher, so they were delicious. And I was able to prep virtually everything else in advance. I didn't really change anything from the original recipes I used, so I will link you right to them below instead of writing separate posts for them. And please enjoy the best shots we could get of a 3-year-old and a very squirmy 1-year-old! Casual Cousins Dinner Appetizers



Monday, April 4, 2011

Chicken Hot Pockets

This is a nice, hearty appetizer good for a cocktail party or any other event where you aren't serving a full meal right away. Basically a crescent roll wrapped around a mixture of chicken, cream cheese, and green onions; it's great finger food and very delicious.

I thought it would be a little troublesome to fold the cresecent rolls around the mixture but it was really very simple and just took a little bit of prep time. I was bringing these to a party so I made the chicken mixture in advance, refrigerated it and then assembled the pockets and baked them right before the leaving for the party. These can be reheated in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, covered with foil.

Assembled and ready to go in the oven

I had printed this recipe out before I started blogging so there is no citation, but I changed a few things around anyway. If this looks like it might be your recipe, please send me the link to it and I will give you credit!

Chicken Hot Pockets
adapted from unknown source
Makes 24 pockets

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
2 cups chicken (about 1 pound or two chicken breasts), cooked and shredded
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 green onions, chopped
3 (8-ounce) packages crescent rolls
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with non-stick foil or parchment paper.

In large bowl, combine cream cheese and melted butter with an electric hand mixer. Add chicken, salt, pepper, and green onions, and mix to combine.

Unroll dough (it's easier if you do this one package at a time). Cut each package into 8 squares. Firmly press perforations in rolls to seal. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of chicken mixture into the middle of each square. Pull the 4 corners of the square up to the center; twist and pinch edges to seal.

Place on prepared baking sheet. Lightly spray the top of each pocket with cooking spray.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Oreo Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

This is a great, classic dessert bar with a made-from-scratch brownie foundation and a delicious sweet cream cheese topping. And don't forget the Oreos! They kind of reminded me of the Princess Brownies I have blogged before, but more delicious (and more time-consuming). This is a perfect dessert to bring to a party or to keep in the house and devour yourself.

A few notes: 1 1/2 cups of Oreo cookies is about 18 cookies (although if you have leftovers, they make a perfect topping for ice cream). I also baked this for way longer than Annie directs, about 38 minutes in my oven; and although Annie suggests storing these in the fridge, I think it dries the bars out, so try them at room temperature. Otherwise, these are perfect - enjoy!

Oreo Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies