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. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yes, yes, I know. You saw that title and thought, "Is she seriously thinking about Christmas already!?" The answer, although it might annoy a lot of people, is yes. I always welcome the holidays this time of year because I love what they represent to me.  To me, holidays represent happiness and family. I love when my entire family gathers around mom's tiny dining room table to devour a turkey and give thanks to what we do and don't have in life.  I adore watching my niece and nephew's eyes light up at the idea of Santa Claus sliding down their chimney and eating the cookies they left out for him. I love the holidays, and just because it's only early November doesn't mean I can't begin practicing my favorite recipes in that honor. 

First up... a cupcake for the season. Even I knew it was too early for a gingerbread house or sugar cookie cut-outs, but a gingerbread cupcake? Why not? It's something everyone can enjoy while preparing to prepare for the holidays and JUST to make sure I wasn't being over zealous with the Christmas stuff, there was no red or green involved. (The red polka dot cupcake liners do NOT count as a Christmas item since they were in the "cute" bin of baking items not the "Christmas" baking bin.)

If you like gingerbread and you like cupcakes, then the buck stops here! Enjoy, whether you make them for the holidays or because it's Thursday and you like gingerbread. 

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: Approximately 12 cupcakes 


For the Cupcakes:
1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon of salt
½ Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ Cup of water
½ cup of unsulphured molasses
3 large eggs; room temperature
¼ cup grated fresh ginger

For the Frosting:
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl add butter and water and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on low until melted together

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and dry spices in a bowl.

In your electric mixture with the paddle attachment, beat together the molasses and brown sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds between each. Beat in the flour mixture slowly until just incorporated. Add the butter mixture and the grated ginger and beat until smooth.  (Batter will be runny.)

Spoon into cupcake papers, about 3/4 full. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for a minute to set before moving to a wire rack to fully cool. (Watch these closely. At 12 minutes they appeared nowhere near ready, but at 14 they were perfect)

In your electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Lastly, beat in the vanilla extract.

When cupcakes are completely cool, frost and eat!

Happy pre-holiday season and most importantly, happy baking!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Adapted from Simply Recipes

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mini Butterfinger Cheesecakes

A few weeks ago for a football game, I decided to try focusing my efforts on dessert in lieu of always having appetizers. I felt it was time to discard the boring old dips and cheese trays and give some spotlight to dessert. Normally, I don't make dessert all that much because I don't have a test audience, and although Todd does his part (and then some) on being my food guinea pig, I felt a different audience would be nice for testing out a new recipe. The football game was a great opportunity, after all, there would be children, beer swilling men, and women who love to treat themselves to a treat. 

I hit the food blogs and found a perfect recipe to try and re-create in my little bitchin kitchen. The results? Huge hit! Everyone loved them. My favorite part? They are miniature!! It would be much to rich to serve this any bigger. But best of all, this is a GREAT way to make cheesecake crowd friendly!

Mini Butter Finger Cheesecakes

Yield: 24 Mini Cheesecakes 

For the crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. butter, melted
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white
3 tbsp. heavy cream
Pinch of salt
6 fun sized Butterfinger candy bars, chopped

For the topping:
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Set a 24-well mini-muffin pan on a baking sheet and line with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and salt.  Toss with a fork until the mixture is completely moistened.  Press a small spoonful of the mixture firmly into the bottom of each well.  Bake for 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F.  

To make the filling, add the (room temperature) cream cheese to a bowl and mix with well with hand mixer. Add in the peanut butter and beat again until well combined.  Mix in the sugar, eggs, cream and salt and continue to mix. With a spatula, slowly fold in the crushed Butterfinger pieces.  Spoon the mixture evenly into the wells of the pan over the crust and bake for 20-22 minutes or until the center is set.  (The cakes may puff up a lot while baking, but they come down once they have cooled). Let cool for at least two hours before removing from the pan. 

For the topping, heat the chocolate and the heavy cream in the top of a double boiler until the chocolate is melted.  Stir just until smooth and glossy.  Spoon over the tops of the cakes and sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy bar pieces.  

Chill until ready to serve.

I will admit, this was not the quickest dessert I have ever made and it was slightly "putsy" if you will, but the results were well worth it! 

Happy cooking! - The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Annie's Eats

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Boursin Scalloped Potatoes

My dear friend and neighbor, Mrs. Munson, gave me this recipe and it has now become a staple in our house. I am always sneaking a peek at what's in her oven because I have never tasted a bad dish come out of her kitchen.  I make new recipes all the time that epically fail, but not her. Everything she makes is good.

Whenever I walk into her house there is a wonderful aroma that always leaves me feeling happy. (That, and the large glass of red she pours doesn't hurt my mood either!)  I can be mid-conversation about our day when I interrupt her to say,  "Seriously, what are you making? It smells SO good!" She always just laughs and says, "oh it's nothing... just a little something I whipped up!"  Her level of cooking is beyond "whipping something up."  It could be a nine course meal for the queen of England and she would still say, "ah, it was nothing, just a little something I whipped up!"  That is one of the many things I love that about her. She loves her kitchen, it's never a chore to make good food, and she loves to host.

Before she inspired me with this recipe, I had never attempted homemade scalloped potatoes and boy oh boy was I missing out.  I will never again pick up a box of those dried up things they call potatoes... not after having these.

Boursin Scalloped Potatoes
Yield:  8 servings 

1 Cup Whipping Cream
1 Cup Milk (1% or 2%)
1 (5 oz.) Pkg. Boursin Cheese (garlic and herb)
3 Lbs. red new potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Preheat oven to 400°F
Butter or spray a 9"x13" baking dish
Place whipping cream, milk, and boursin cheese in a saucepan over low heat until cheese melts and mixture is smooth. About 10 minutes.
Arrange half of the potatoes in your baking dish. Generously season with salt and pepper. Pour half of the cheese mixture over the potatoes. Then add the rest of the potatoes and generously salt and pepper again. Pour the remaining cheese mixture over the potatoes.
Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until potatoes are golden brown and tender
Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve

I should make mention that the recipe originally calls for 2 cups of whipping cream, but to lighten up the very rich flavor of the cheese, I use half whipping cream and half milk. 

As the Barefoot Contessa would say, "How easy is that?"

-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Mrs. Munson