Friday, December 30, 2011

Jalapeno Popper Dip

In case you need a quick and easy appetizer for the football games on New Year's Day and are like me, who forgot completely about these games and focused all of my food efforts on New Year's Eve, then have no fear because this "man food" will save the day.

Please note that although I reference "man food" I almost ate an entire plate of this myself so there is certainly no discrimination intended. When I reference that term, I mean that you will win over the hearts of any man in your house who gets to devour this little treat... hence "man food!"

I made this for our ugly sweater party among many other cocktail party foods and this dip (by far the easiest thing I made that day) got the biggest and best reviews. I then made it for our family Christmas gathering at Todd's aunts house and again... BIG hit. There is just nothing better than having a "go to" appetizer that is quick, easy, and tastes SO good. 

I will say that I toyed with the thought of adding more jalapenos or more green chiles but don't do it. It's perfect the way it is. It has a great depth of flavor and just the right amount of heat the way it is.

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Makes: Appox. 10-12 servings
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
½ Cup Kraft Hot and Spicy mayonnaise
½ Cup plain mayonaise
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chiles, drained
1 (4 oz.) can diced jalapeño peppers, drained
½ cup shredded Mexican style cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  

In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, green chiles, jalapeños, and shredded cheeses.  Mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula until smooth and evenly combined.  Spread the mixture into a baking dish (approximately 9 x 9-inches).

Sprinkle the Panko Crumbs over the cream cheese mixture first, then add the parmesan on top of the panko. Spray lightly with cooking spray.  

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is hot and the topping is golden.  

Serve with a medley of crackers, baguette slices, and vegetables. 

Just posting this recipe makes me hungry.  I think I should make a batch to "test" before New Year's Day! Hope you love it!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Slighly modified from Annie's Eats; originally from My Baking Addiction

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Banana Crumb Muffins

The one thing I love on weekends is the smell of breakfast in the oven. I always like to get up early and get something cooking while I enjoy my morning coffee. This past holiday weekend I was busy with plenty of other things and didn't want to devote a ton of time to breakfast. I mentally thumbed though my memory file cabinet on previous muffin recipes I had made in the past and that's when I remembered this one.

It got rave reviews the last time I made it (many moons before this blog was born) and this time was no different. In fact, if you really want to get an honest opinion on something, ask a child. Christmas day we had our close friend and their 2 1/2 year old son stop over. I gave him a muffin to try.... and then another and when he asked for a third I almost gave him one because I was so flattered. (I knew three muffins was no type of dinner so I didn't.)  Either way, that little boy and his review of my muffins made my day. If you're looking for a fabulous quick and easy breakfast... here it is!

Banana Crumb Muffins 
Yield: Twelve Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
3 bananas, mashed 
3/4 cup white sugar 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
1/3 cup butter, melted 
1/3 cup packed brown sugar 
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly greased 12 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers. 

In a large bowl mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In your mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Slowly stir the flour mixture into  banana mixture until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. 

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins. 

Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: All Recipes

Coquito (A Puerto Rican Tradition)

Today I blog about a wonderful recipe given to me by my good friend Veronica. 

Veronica is from Puerto Rico and I adore her stories of family, friends, and tradition. Just this past week she stopped over with a beautiful bottle of Coquito, (pronounced ko-ke-to.) that she made from scratch in honor of her Christmas, New Year and The 3 Kings tradition in Puerto Rico.

Amongst the million things her and her husband Ron have going on while raising their beautiful daughter and re-modeling their new home, they still have time to swing over for visits with us. In her spare time, Veronica also sends out invitations on behalf of The Little Bitchin Kitchen and her husband offers his time as a taste tester for The LBK. Everything they do is just tremendously generous. Thank you Veronica and Ron for all that you do!

I felt compelled to share this drink because it you like Coconut and/or the Almond Joy candy bar, you will fall in love this drink! I couldn't get enough of it and the bottle she brought over was gone in a matter of hours. Thankfully, I was able to at least snap a picture of it so you can see how tasty it looks. 

Do yourself a favor and try a different tradition this year! I really think you will enjoy it! 

1 (15 oz) cream of coconut (Coco Lopez)
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk  
2 Cups of white Rum (recommended Bacardi or Don Q) 
½ Teaspoon of Cinnamon 
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract  

In a blender, pour cream of coconut, evaporated milk, rum, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Blend for about 30 seconds. Pour into glass bottles and chill overnight.

Before serving, shake each bottle well. If the mix is frozen use the blender one more time  for 30 more seconds. Serve in glass cups and sprinkle with a little more cinnamon.  

Cheers to you Veronica and Ron!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Hat Brownies @ the Annual Ugly Sweater Christmas Party

Presents are wrapped, baking is done, lights are up, and cards are sent. What have I forgotten? Well, how about a little fun? A little festive holiday cheer? How about enjoying a little time with family and friends? I think that is a must, especially during the holidays.

Last year, Todd and I started a holiday party tradition in at house. We certainly aren't the first to come up with the idea of having a house full of close friends dressed in really ugly holiday sweaters and I am sure we won't be the last. Yes, that's right, we have taken on the latest ugly sweater holiday trend and let me tell you... it is a blast! Let's be honest, looking ridiculously silly in a Christmas sweater that some person seriously cherished at some point is just plain funny. It really sets the mood for a fun party.

This year there were LOTS of ugly vests, sweaters, and holiday cheer! Some of them lit up like a Christmas tree, some were decorated with ornaments from a Christmas tree, and some were just REALLY ugly. It was hard to determine a winner because each ugly sweater had it's own dimension of ugly... between the swan that centered Todd's festive grandpa sweater, the gold and red beads that lined my pointsetta circus, Mickey and Minne mouse (enough said), and a Christmas bear sweatshirt that read, "I've been beary, beary, good this year!" - it was really just a toss up and a winner couldn't be determined. All in all though, we had a fantastic party and really good food and company. What better way to spend to the holidays?

Todd and I - 2011 Annual Ugly Sweater Party
In honor of the holiday spirit, I knew at least one item on my menu HAD to focused around the holidays. That's where the Santa hat brownies came into play. They were a real hit and a great party topic. They really looked lovely and tasted great too! Here's the recipe. (Note: I originally saw this on Pinterest and it called for a boxed brownie mix. You certainly could do that, but I decided to try a brownie recipe instead!)

Santa Hat Brownies
Yield: About 24 small round brownies

For the brownies:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package of strawberries, cleaned (for use when assembling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan or heatproof glass dish. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on 2 sides. Set aside. Place butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water; stir frequently until chocolate and butter are melted, about 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat; let cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture until combined. Whisk in eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Gently fold in flour and salt.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and smooth top with an offset spatula. Bake until cake tester inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Run a knife or offset spatula around the edges of the pan. Using parchment, lift brownies out of pan and onto the rack. Transfer to a cutting board; cut into small round circles using a cookie cutter.

For the Mascarpone Buttercream frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2-1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt 

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter and mascarpone cheese until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and salt.  Add 2-1/2 cups of sugar, half a cup at a time and continue beating until smooth.  Add more sugar, if needed to reach desired consistency and sweetness. Put into piping bag. 

To assemble:
Pipe a ring of vanilla buttercream on top of each brownie.

Cut off the base of a strawberry so it is flat and place it upside down on each brownie, pushing slightly to secure in place.  Top the tip of the strawberry with a dot of buttercream to finish the santa hat.

Note: If making them ahead of time, please make sure to set them in the fridge. I left them out for less than 20 minutes and the frosting started to get too soft. (Hence the pretty bad picture above.) I threw them back in the fridge and voila... back to great! 

Krystle and Todd -debating whether or not a keg stand is good idea at our age.

There are only five days until Christmas Eve. Enjoy them... and have a VERY Merry Christmas!!

Brownie Source: Martha Stewart
Idea Source: Daisy's World

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

I am taking a break from the holiday season and sharing something classic today. Although I didn't make this recently, I did recently pull a container of it out of the freezer last week and it reminded me to blog it. It was still really fresh and held the flavor profile very well. There is nothing better than having a really good make-ahead meal that you can freeze yet tastes the same as the day you made it. This recipe will make a ton of food. I like to make one big batch and freeze up a bunch for nights when there is just no time or energy to make dinner.

During Minnesota winters, hearty meals are a must. I try my hardest to eat light and fit throughout the year but once in awhile I feel the need for pasta and a strong desire for a fill-me-up comfort food. I love spaghetti because although it is an old classic so many make it different. I have never had two spaghetti sauces that tasted the same. In all honesty, I would prefer my mom's spaghetti and although I have her recipe,  it just never tastes like hers. Now days, I leave Mom's spaghetti to Mom and I make my own spicy version. After multiple adjustments, it is finally perfect for my taste.

That's just the thing about a sauce. It's made to your liking. You have to make it your own. Although you might like mine, you may love  it with more mushrooms or less garlic, etc. This is to be played with an adjusted to your liking. Therefore, please make this your own, however that may be, but please share what you changed. I would love to hear it!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs
Yield:  Approximately Eight to Ten 

For the Sauce:
4 (14.5 ounce) cans Red Gold diced Basil, Garlic,
and Oregano tomatoes (with their juices)
1 (15 ounce) can Red Gold tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can Red Gold tomato paste
1 1/2 Cups water (or more if you like thinner sauce)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 Small onions, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1-2 jalapenos, finely chopped
1 pkg baby portobella mushrooms
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
4 tablespoons italian seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon sea salt 

In a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat add oil, onions, green and yellow peppers, jalapeno, and mushrooms and saute until onions are translucent and mushrooms and peppers are soft to the touch. (About 8-10 minutes.) Then add garlice, cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic and warm spices in pan for about one minute.

Reduce heat to simmer and add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water and remaining seasonings and move onto making the meatballs. Allow to simmer at least 3-4 hours.

For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground (italian seasoned) turkey
1 pound ground Italian sausage, ground beef, or ground pork. (I use sweet Italian sausage.)
1/2-3/4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 cups dried minced onion
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 

In a large mixing bowl, combine egg, worcestershire sauce, cheese, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, seasoning, and whisk with fork. Add meat and mix thoroughly until ingredients are all incorporated into meat mixture.

Form into meatballs about 1.5" in diameter. (This will make quite a few)
In a large pan seperate from the sauce, heat to medium and add olive oil. Add meatballs and partially cook until browned on all sides. (Don't worry if they aren't fully cooked through, they will simmer for several hours and cook with the sauce.)
Place meatballs into mixture and simmer with sauce at least 2-3 hours before serving. Stir often and taste often.

I tend to like a really chunky sauce so if you don't add more tomato sauce, water, or another can of tomatoes. Recipes are just a guideline, so make it yours and add what you like! I typically serve this over vermicelli noodles in lieu of the standard spaghetti noodles and almost always top it with a tiny bit of fresh basil and fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a huge chunk of garlic bread on the side. Go big or go home, right? After all, you're going to need that bread to sop up all that extra sauce!

Hope you enjoy this as much as we do!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Baked Artichoke Dip

Well... we have gotten through another week of work.  It's finally Friday and I can't wait for the next two glorious sleep-in days. I live for the weekends. I love lounging around in pajamas, watching movies late into the night, sipping wine with friends,  and of course, spending time in the kitchen. This weekend, Todd and I are hosting our annual ugly sweater Christmas party. I can't wait to show you all the new recipes next week! (If they work out as beautifully as I have them planned that is.)

In the meantime, I am going to show you this little delightful snack that joined in our appetizer meal last weekend. Along with the blue cheese and honey bruschetta, we made this ooey-gooey super cheesy artichoke dip. Every restaurant has a great appetizer, but for $9 bucks a pop why bother leaving the house when you can whip up the same thing at home and for a lot cheaper!

Cheesy Baked Artichoke Dip
Serves: Two

1/2 Cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 Cup Hot and Spicy Mayonnaise
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 14-ounce can of artichokes pack in water, well drained and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 Cup Italian cheese blend
French baguette, sliced and toasted

Preheat oven to 375°F

In a small bowl whisk together the Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, pepper, onion, salt, and garlic powder until all ingredients are blended together well. Transfer to a 3 cup ramekin or baking dish. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.)

Sprinkle dip with Italian cheese blend and paprika.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler and place underneath for 2-3 minutes.

Serve warm with toasted baguette slices and/or crackers.

Source: Picky Cook; originally from Bon Appetit, February 2001

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Salty Dog

Last weekend, we had Todd's friend Dave over for dinner. Every time these two boys get together, they have a cocktail hour and the "Cocktails" book pulled from the shelf. Years back, when the book was purchased it was their goal to make every single drink in the book and rate it based on their opinion. One star being terrible and four stars being a tasty will-make again drink. This past weekend, when I noticed Dave skimming through pages, it dawned on me... I have a FULL book of drinks that have already been tested! What a great party and entertaining tool! (It also dawned on me that this is why I have had a full bottle of Benedictine in my liquor cabinet for the past 4 years. In 7 years of bartending I never used it, but Todd and Dave needed one shot for a cocktail recipe and bought the big bottle. You won't see that recipe as it only got one star. Note to self: Find new use for 4 year old bottle of Benedictine!)

Anyway, enough of the history and on to the drink! My one and only suggestion for this drink is to only use freshly squeezed grapefruits. Anything else would defeat the purpose of this wonderfully fresh drink that is so often forgotten about. For your next brunch, make these and leave the mimosas and screwdrivers behind!

Salty Dog
Serves: One  

Coarse Salt, for rimming the edge of the glass
Grapefruit Slice for garnish
1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (about 1 grapefruit)
2 ounces good vodka (such as grey goose, Chopin, or Kettle One)
1/2 cup ice plus 1/2 cup in tin shaker

Place salt on saucer. Moisten the rim with a grapefruit slice and dip in salt.
Add 1/2 cup ice to glass
In a cocktail shaker add the remaining ice, vodka, and grapefruit juice. Shake well and strain into glass.

Garnish with a twist or wedge of grapefruit.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato "Fries"

There is nothing better than letting yourself indulge in a treat once in awhile. I am a huge sucker for fast food french fries but I try to avoid such calorie costly foods and instead opt to make a healthy version of "fries." These are a great substitute for the real deal AND you won't suffer from the "Oh-my-goodness, What have I done?" fast food blues.

I really like spice, so if that is not your thing, feel free to cut it out of the recipe! Unlike most recipes for sweet potato fries that add cumin and/or brown sugar and a variety of other spices, I chose not to. I love the flavor of sweet potatoes by themselves and don't think they need anything to mask their original flavor.

Also, I have learned to really good tricks to making these. One is to microwave the sweet potatoes for approximately 2 minutes prior to cutting them into your wedges. It really simplifies the task. Sweet potatoes are really tough when raw and slightly warming them really softens them enough to make working with them much easier. Secondly, these can be hard to make in large bunches. I typically do no more than two sweet potatoes per baking sheet. The reason for this is that you want your fries to come out crispy and mimic the "frying" of regular fries. When you cram to many sweet potatoes onto one sheet they don't have enough room to bake but instead they steam off of each other and come out mushy  and soft.

Did I mention that sweet potatoes are a super food? Even better!

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato "Fries"
Serves: Two (2)

2 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Chipotle Chili Power

Directions: Preheat oven to 425°F
As discussed above, poke two small holes in each potato and microwave for 2 minutes or until slightly soft and easier to work with. Peel potatoes and slice each one into wedges or "fries" to the thickness of your liking. (The thicker the fry, the longer the baking time.)

In a large mixing bowl add sweet potatoes, olive oil, and seasonings and toss to coat evenly. Arrange on baking sheet approximately 1 inch apartment. (The distance between them will allow them to bake instead of steam off each other.)

Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Flip each one individually and bake another 15 minutes. Keep a close eye on them and continue baking until crispy and browned to perfection.

Trust me, you will feel like you just cured your fat tooth but you really just did your body a favor!
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Source: Myself! ;) 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta

After having company this past weekend and trying out LOTS of new blog worth recipes, I had a ton of left over ingredients that I didn't want to go to waste. I had a  little of this and a little and no direction for a complete meal (and a strong will NOT go to the grocery store with perfectly fine random items that needed to be used) so instead of making our normal Sunday meal together, Todd and I opted for some heavy hor d'oeuvres for the football game and decided to skip dinner all together.

So, a "meal" of appetizers came together. First up, this bruschetta that I have had in the "want to make" pile for quite some time. I love that it is so simple, yet the flavor is so complex. My only two suggestions are to use really good blue cheese and good honey,  because it does make a difference.

I tend to always have these items on hand as staple ingredients yet have never thought to use them in this way. Don't get me wrong, honey and blue cheese sound great together, I just wasn't clever enough to think it up. I am glad I tried it because this is going to be a great "go-to" recipe for times when you are faced with a surprise guest or impromptu gathering. I don't suggest pre-making this as it's best served while still warm.

Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta
Serves: Appox. four to six

1 fresh loaf of french baguette, sliced
4 tablespoons good olive oil
1 9 oz. wedge of good blue or gorganzola cheese (I used Amablu blue cheese)
Good honey (for drizzling over the top)

Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place sliced baguette on cooking sheet and lightly brush each with olive oil and bake for 6-8 minutes. (You want the bread lightly crisp but not crunch or hard.)

Take out of the oven and spread blue cheese on top of each slice of baguette. Return to the oven for 2 minutes or until cheese is soft and beginning to melt. Remove from oven and drizzle each slice with honey.

Serve immediately.

Note: To make this recipe with little twist, substitute raw or baked pears instead of baguette!

Here's a little sneak peak of what is to come this week:
  • A healthy side dish that tastes too good to be healthy
  • A quick and easy appetizer for game day
  • A signature cocktail from our home to yours
  • An easy bistro sandwich made at home

Please stay tuned!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Giada De Laurentiis

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oven Roasted Vegetables

After all that heavy but oh-so-delicious food last week, I definitely needed to get back on track with something on the lighter side. This recipe is inspired by the one and only Ina Garten, who so famously says, "How easy is that?" There are a lot of chefs that say "easy" but have clearly never looked up the meaning of the word. Ina or more commonly referred to as the Barefoot Contessa, is quite honestly the only chef whose recipes claim to be easy and actually area. She lets simple flavors shine and I really like that approach in cooking.

I love easy and I love to eat healthy, but I mostly love when easy and healthy tastes good. This tastes good! The fennel has a sweetness that packs a lot of punch but blends well the other vegetables. I am a BIG fan of brussel sprouts but if you are not, these could easily be taken out. Anything you want to add and/or delete isn't an issue for this dish as it's just vegetables...roasted together. The only thing I would suggest is to be careful of the amount of time you roast each veggie. Depending on the size and/or depth of the vegetable, each one may require a little less or a little more roasting time. In addition,  keep a close eye on them as you don't want to burn them. If you do those two things alone you cannot mess this up!

Oven Roasted Vegetables
Serves: 2-4

2 medium size fennel bulbs, tops removed
1 medium sized sweet potato
10-15 fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
1 bundle of fresh carrots (preferably with green tops still attached)
1/3 Cup good olive oil
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Microwave the full sweet potato for 2 minutes. This helps soften the potato for cutting and speeds up the roasting process. Peel and cube potato and place on sheet pan.

Next, cut the fennel bulbs into 6 wedges each, cutting through the core to keep the wedges intact. Drizzle the olive oil on the potato and fennel, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss with your hands.

Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, tossing once while cooking. Toss the brussel sprouts and carrots in and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.
Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and roast for another minute or two until the cheese melts. (optional)

Sprinkle with a pinch more salt and pepper and serve hot.

Happy Healthy Living!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Inspired by: "Oven Roasted Vegetables" in Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

Molassess Cookies

Well, Thanksgiving came and went... and fast! It was a wonderful holiday and I have plenty to be thankful for. On Thanksgiving, today, and everyday, I give thanks to my wonderful family, my dear friends (many whom are like family,) my freedom and those who fight for it, the things I get to see, touch, smell, and hear everyday and most importantly, God.

Todd, (my co-pilot, co-chef, best friend, and the love of my life) was severely injured in a horrible motorcycle accident this past spring. I give an extra special big thanks to the man upstairs who gifted him with more time on this earth. After months of recovery, he is finally back to 100% and I couldn't be happier. I know a lot of you who read this blog were the ones praying, supporting, calling, cooking, baking, and thinking of him during his recovery and I would also like to give thanks for you! We couldn't have done it without you.

Moving on from turkey day only got me excited for what soon follows... Christmas! Yet another season to be so thankful for what we have in life and that includes memories of loved ones that stir from your kitchen.  First on my craving list this year was molasses cookies, a craving that initially started at my grandma's house when I was itty bitty. I remember my grandmother making them by the dozens and since my early twenties I have been trying to re-create her molasses cookie. My grandmother's always stayed soft.. even after a few days and her texture was so perfect! They were so soft, spicy, and so chewy... the absolute BEST combination! I will say, it's not hard to make a molasses cookie as they all taste like molasses but finding one that stays soft after they cool is another story. Finding one to stay soft AND bring me back to being a kid at grandma's house was difficult, but this recipe is as close as I will ever get.

If you're like me and need a soft and chewy molasses cookie versus those store bought hard-as-a-rock things they call cookies...then look no further, it has arrived!

Molasses Cookies 
Yield: Approx. 3 dozen cookies 

2 cups (260 grams) all -purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1  teaspoon ground ginger 
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter room temperature 
1 cup (210 grams) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil 
1/3 cup (80 ml) unsulphured molasses (lightly grease measuring cup to prevent the molasses from sticking) 
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar for covering the cookie balls before baking (for dipping) 

In a large bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. 

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes). Add the oil, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Beat in the flour mixture mixture until well incorporated. Cover and chill the batter until firm (about 2 hours or overnight). 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  

Place about 1 cup (200 grams) of white granulated sugar in a medium sized bowl.  

When the dough has chilled sufficiently, roll into 1 inch balls. Then roll the balls of dough into the sugar, coating them thoroughly. Place on the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart and, with the bottom of a glass, flatten the cookies slightly. (Make sure the cookies are no bigger than 1 inch in diameter as they will get larger as they bake.)

Bake for about 9 - 10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crinkles yet are barely dry. (They will look a little underdone.)

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. 

Happy Holiday Baking!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: The Joy of Baking

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tangy Glazed Chicken

Last week, I started to feel uninspired by main dishes and more enthusiastic about desserts. Working full time doesn't leave me a ton of time to make a full meal AND a dessert, so thankfully my co-pilot was happy to take on all of the main meals for a bit. In fact, he was elated to get his time in the kitchen. He loves to cook as much as I do so this wasn't a "task" or "chore" by any means. 

The one thing I love about Todd's cooking is that he is very good at melding flavors. He knows how to use the spice rack correctly to get the most out of every ingredient he puts in a dish. Everything always compliments each other and because we cook such different foods, I am never bored with anything he fabricates. 

This dish is a perfect example of how Todd can take ordinary chicken and not only cook it perfectly, but flavor it so different than anything you have ever had before. The spicy and sweet flavors of this dish come together beautifully but the caramelized onions add a whole new depth of flavor. But the biggest beauty of this dish? It was fast and easy and who doesn't love that? So without further ado, here is Todd's latest recipe winner...

Tangy Glazed Chicken
Serves: Two 
2 bone-in chicken breast halves (8 ounces each) 
¼  teaspoon salt 
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper 
4-1/2 teaspoons butter 
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced 
1/2 cup chicken broth 
1/2 cup apple jelly 
3 tablespoons orange juice 
1 jalapeno, finely chopped 
Dash of cayenne pepper 
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley 
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Vigorously salt and pepper chicken breasts. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; brown chicken on all sides. Remove from pan and keep warm.
2. In the pan drippings, sauté onion, jalapeño, and celery until tender.(About 6-8 minutes.) Add the remaining ingredients and cook and stir until jelly is melted. Return chicken to pan. Cook chicken in sauce, uncovered while continuing to spoon pan mixture over the breasts. Continue glazing chicken for 30-35 minutes or until chicken juices run clear. Remove skin if desired. Top chicken with onion mixture.

Whatever you do, DON'T leave this sauce in the pan. Make sure you drizzle every last drop of it onto your plate as that is what makes this chicken so very tasty! I am pretty sure this dish could make a vegetarian eat chicken! 

Hope you enjoy!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jambalaya Stuffed Peppers

What do you get when you take a tried and true quick and easy jambalaya mix and combine it with an old stuffed pepper recipe? You get a spicy kicked-up stuffed pepper that is sure to earn you some recognition in your house. (And in very little time!)

My original stuffed pepper recipe took the backseat in my recipe box for quite sometime. It was a ground beef /tomato sauce version and long before I became comfortable modifying recipes I had decided it was bland and boring. There it sat... for years. When it finally re-surfaced one day, I looked at it in a whole new light. I imagined it with a whole lot more flavor. Adding peppers and spicy italian sausage would sure to the trick. A cheaters jambalaya mix, couldn't hurt either, right? (I know there are a lot of foodies who don't like to use anything boxed and to some extent, I agree. However, there are certain things and evenings when a cheater's or boxed version comes in handy and this is one of them.)

I am more than happy with my jazzed up take on an old classic. I hope you like it too

Jambalaya Stuffed Peppers
Yield: 8 peppers

8 bell peppers, de-seeded and cored (any color variety)
1 Cup Water
1 small green pepper, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
½ Lb. sliced portobello mushrooms
1 jalapeno, diced
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can of fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) pkg. Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix
1 Cup shredded cheese (any shredded cheese will work fine)
1 Cup Spicy Marinara or Tomato Sauce (optional)
1 Lb. fresh deveined tail-off shrimp or 1 Lb. Hot Italian sausage (or ½ Lb. of each.)

Preheat oven to 325°F degrees

Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the eight bell peppers. Arrange peppers in a 9x13 baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward. (Slice the bottoms of the peppers if necessary so that they will stand upright.) Add 1 Cup water to the bottom of the baking dish and bake approximately 15 minutes (or until the desired tenderness.) Remove from oven, drain any excess water and return peppers to baking dish.

Prepare the Zatarain’s Jambalaya mix per the stove-top package directions and set aside.
In a large pan, brown ground Italian sausage until cooked through. Drain the excess fat and set sausage aside in small bowl. Return the pan back to the stove and add the olive oil, onion, garlic, mushrooms, cayenne pepper, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and diced green and red peppers. Simmer until tender. (About 10 minutes).  Add in shrimp and cook until pink and translucent. (About 6 minutes.) Add in diced jalapeno and simmer another 2 minutes. Stir in jambalaya rice mix and mix thoroughly to blend well. Remove from heat.

Spoon mixture into pepper until each pepper is overflowing. Evenly add the cheese to the top of each pepper.

Bake until heated through and cheese is melted (Approximately 15 minutes).

Remove from oven and drizzle each pepper with marinara sauce, if desired.

I have always wanted to give this recipe a go with chorizo... and change it to more of a mexican stuffed pepper but I just haven't found the time.  I am sure any way you adapt this recipe to your liking will work out lovely. Enjoy!

Cheers to cooking old things new ways!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Myself. :)