Thursday, May 31, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Bruschetta

Over memorial weekend, I finished the last of my yard work "projects" for the summer. All that is left to do now is sit back, entertain, and enjoy the beautiful three months of (usually) wonderful weather that we get here during Minnesota summer.

My favorite place during the summer months is definitely my deck. I grab a cold, crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc, a pile of magazines, (you know, the ones you subscribe to monthly but don't get the time to thoroughly enjoy until you finally have a free evening six months later,) and grab a seat outside.  I sit, sip, and flip through recipes, entertaining ideas, and fun party decor for inspiration.

As I sipped and flipped one night, I came across this recipe. It was a nice and light variation of the much loved caprese bruschetta. I was immediately intrigued, especially since it was a Giada recipe and I really liked her Blue Cheese and Honey variation. I decided to test this over the past weekend but as usual, made a few changes. I removed the butter and added the Boursin Gourmet Spreadable Garlic and Herb cheese and subbed a sliced baguette in lieu of white bread. I loved it, my company loved it, and as far as preparation... it couldn't get any easier!

Disclaimer: I am in no way employed by or payed by Boursin to plug their product... I just really, really love that stuff!

Strawberry Balsamic Bruschetta
Serves: Approx. 15

One french baguette loaf, sliced into about fifteen, 1/2" pieces
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup diced Strawberries (or any berry or berry medley you prefer)
1 Tablespoon Sugar
One (1) 4.4 oz package of Boursin Gourmet Spreadable Garlic and Herb Cheese*
Gia Russa (or any) Balsamic Glaze, (for drizzling.)
1/2 Cup Chopped, Fresh Basil, (for topping.)

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush baguette slices with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F pre-heated oven. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Add diced strawberries and sugar to a small bowl; stir, and let sit for no less than 25 minutes.

Once baguette slices are cool to the touch, spread a dollop of the Boursin Cheese spread on top of each slice. Top each with a spoonful of the strawberry mixture. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and top with chopped basil. Arrange on a serving platter and serve immediately.

Note: (You will only use approximately 1/2 the container of cheese, unless doubling the recipe.)

Source: Adapted from Food Network

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

I have addressed my issues with keeping sweets in our house many times on this blog before, so I won't bore you with another rant on how wildly obsessed I am with eating an entire pan of cookies in one sitting and then follow it with a nice healthy appetizer to try.  Instead, I will actually share a wonderful cake recipe that I found on another blog and let you be the judge and jury on whether or not you can resist devouring the whole thing in one sitting.  I do however, refuse to be responsible for your guilt and/or stomach ache afterwards. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, I jumped at the opportunity to host Todd's family celebration of May Birthday's this year and what better way to celebrate a birthday then with cake? Finally, a good reason to fall off my "healthy" wagon.

I know what you're thinking when you read this title. You're thinking, "Holy Hannah, that sounds heavy and rich!"  Yet it is not. This cake has a wonderful airy texture and the filling is delightfully thin, fluffy, and not to over bearing on the peanut butter flavor.It's truthfully awesome.

One of my favorite comments when I made this cake was, "SERIOUSLY KRISTEN... THIS CAKE IS TO DIE FOR!" I have never dubbed myself as a "baker" per say, (Most of the time I would prefer to be making "to die for" entrees or pretty yet delightful appetizers,) but I do try.  I always dabbled a little bit but when it came to cakes and pies I was never shy to the boxed mix aisle at the grocery. Thankfully, I have been reading a lot of blog recipes lately and Annie's Eats has AMAZING items that I always want to try. Her blog gave me the courage to skip the box and go home-made!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake 
Serves: About Twenty (20)


Monday, May 14, 2012

Cucumber Bites with Garlic Herb Filling

Every May, Todd and I get together with his father's side of the family, The Jewetts, and celebrate May birthdays. Todd, his grandmother Audrey, his late grandfather Bill, and his uncle Wayne all blessed this world with their presence at one point in the month of May and once a year we make it a point to all get together and honor their day(s) of birth.

This year, the gathering date fell on Mother's day and gave us all another reason to celebrate!!  I had a ton of new recipe finds that I was DYING to try, so I quickly swooped in and offered to host before anyone else got the chance. The only question was, which of these 100+ recipes that I have scattered throughout blogs, Pinterest, and other websites will I dare to make?!

I knew if I was going to host this, that I needed to fulfill appetites of men. It didn't need to necessarily be pretty... but it had to be filling. Shannon, Todd's aunt,  has five growing boys... six if you count her husband Woody. Then there is Todd and his uncle Tim... and let's face it, guys like guy food, not chicky stuff. So, I compromised. A few "man food" for the boys... and a few cutesy appetizers for us girls. Even though these were cute... the flavor was wonderful and the boys liked them too!

I must admit, this was the easiest appetizer I have every made!  No joke.

Cucumber Bites with Garlic Herb Filling
Makes: About 36 Cucumber Bites

1 (5.2 oz) Package Garlic Herb Boursin Cheese*
4-5 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 English Cucumbers, partially peeled. 

Clean and partially peel your cucumbers with a vegetable peeler. Cut into 1-inch thick slices. With the small end of a melon baller, remove enough of the cucumber to leave a small hollowed out area for the filling to sit. Salt and pepper each cucumber to your liking. Arrange these on your serving and tray and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix boursin cheese and heavy creamy until a consistency that can easily be piped. Transfer to a pastry bag and set aside. 

Pipe a small amount of cheese mixture into each cucumber. Chill until you are ready to serve. 

*Note: I can't help but thinking how good this recipe would be with blue cheese in place of the boursin. The extra pop of flavor is enchanting. I think I will try this next time. If you try it before me, please let me know your results!

Source: Modified in the tiniest way from this original @ Annie's Eats.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I don't usually keep cookies in my house for two reasons: 
1. Todd will eat all of them. (This is really not a huge deal, but he is diabetic and I feel slightly guilty when I place a large vat of cookies in front of him knowing full well that they are his weakness.)

2. I will eat them. The only time I don't want to eat an entire plate of cookies is when they are from some grocer deli and are rather disgusting OR when the taste testing proves them to be "just okay."

That is not the case with these cookies. These cookies are not for the faint hearted average cookie liker and they are more than "just okay." They are phenomenal! These peanut-buttery, soft and chewy chocolatey pieces of heaven will change your life. (Okay, maybe not, but they are quite delicious!)

Make up a batch of these for the cookie connoisseur in your house. I guarantee they will fall in love.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes: About 3 dozen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth or chunky, your preference)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In your electric mixer with the paddle attachment,  beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips and mix for about 30 seconds.

Place sprinkling sugar, (the remaining tablespoon,) on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake!! Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not. (I promise. No longer than 12 minutes.)

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Cookies will be really soft right out of the oven. If you try to move them too soon you will risk them falling apart. That wastes perfectly good cookies, so don't do that!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Source: Slightly Modified version of Smitten Kitchen's Peanut Butter Cookies