Thursday, May 31, 2012

Triple Citrus Bars

Kitchen inspiration and ideas take me to my happy place and keep me sane.   Sometimes they come to me in the middle of the day or late at night and I quickly sketch them down on whatever I can find .  Often I find little notes of made up recipes in an old purse, in my kitchen junk drawer, or tucked into a book that I have yet to actually make.  This wonderful jewel of a summer treat happened kind of like that.  I made something similar 2 summers ago and never wrote down the recipe (I do that a lot).  I kind of forgot about them until I recently found an old picture that I took.  This time, in my re-creation, I have "upped the ante" by adding lemon, lime and orange. Boy did they turn out dreamy- moist, tart and sweet with a fresh burst of citrus. At first I thought I would call them a citrus brownie, but that doesn't sound quite right or do them justice.  So, I bring you Triple Citrus Bars, a delightful new treat to try out for your next cookout with friends or on a random Thursday night (like me) when you have a sweet tooth and are itching to get creative in the kitchen.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I am! 

Triple Citrus Bars 
(For this entire dish, you will need approximately 1 lime, 3 oranges and 5 lemons)

1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 sticks (or 1 cup) butter, softened
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/12 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Citrus Glaze
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice 
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/2  hefty cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate (can be thawed or frozen, does not matter)

1. In a medium bowl combine flour, salt and baking soda, whisk well with wire wisk, set side.
2.  Zest all of your citrus, divide as necessary for the bars and the glaze.  Set aside.
3. Using the same fruit that you zested, juice the fruit and divide into proper amounts as necessary for the bars and glaze. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add softened butter and stir on low until butter is combined.  Add eggs, sugar, zest and juice.  Mix on medium speed for about 1 minute until ingredients are well combined and creamy. 
4. Add in flower mixer and stir into wet ingreidents by hand, with a wooden spoon.  Stir until combined and no dry crumbs remain, being careful not to over mix.
5.  Pour mixture into a greased or sprayed 9 X 13 pyrex glass baking dish.
6. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, no longer, toothpick inserted should come out clean. 
7. While bars are cooking, make the glaze.
8.  Lets bars cool completely and pour an even thin layer of glaze over the bars, spreading as necessary with a flat spatula.  * If  you are waiting a couple of hours to serve the bars, wait to pour the glaze until close to serving time. 

*For the Glaze:
Mix all ingredients well in electric mixer with paddle or in a large bowl using a hand mixer.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Vinaigrette

I love salad, really, I love salad.  I am just one of those weirdos.  Even as a little girl, when I was 5 years old, I would order a salad for dinner at pretty much any restaurant we went too.  Oddly enough,, my favorite thing to order was a pancake and a dinner salad.  As an adult, I imagine my 5 year old asking the waitress for a pancake and a dinner salad and I have a good laugh.  I have to admit, I still have been known revert back to my 5 year old ways.  Seriously though, I love gourmet salads and I realized I never put salad recipes on my blog.  It's usually because I don't have a recipe, it's just a bunch of yummies thrown together in a bowl. Every great salad should be finished with a great dressing!

This strawberry delight is healthy, flavorful and super simple to make.  It goes great on any spring or summer salad, especially one with fruit. My favorite is a spinach salad with strawberries, green apples, crasins, red onions and toasted or candied nuts. Plus, it's low calorie.  While there is a time a place for a calorie loaded steak and blue cheese salad (um, yum), it's nice to have go to dressings that are tasty and low cal, especially with summer around the corner,  Time to get your sexy back . . . .

**A little trick for this dressing is using prepackaged frozen strawberries.  If you let them sit out and thaw, they get extra concentrated with their own juice and flavor and it really creates a bolder strawberry flavor. 

Fresh Strawberry Vinaigrette 
1/2 cup defrosted, prepackaged frozen strawberries (a mixture of the juice and berries)
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
6 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tabespoons red onion
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth and combined.  Stir or shake before pouring on salad.  Best served fresh but will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables and White Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette

After an overdose of sugar Easter weekend that trickled into the first half of the week,  I am long overdue to get back to my healthy roots. When I used to train full time, my clients would get so scared about healthy foods.  I got a lot of "you aren't going to make me eat cardboard are you?".  Pheesh, a foodie like me, I am never going to make anyone eat cardboard health.

In honor of healthy food that tastes great, I am dedicating the rest of Spring to super healthy and tasty recipes that complement the season.  To kick things off  I share with you a fab salad that I threw together the other night. The roasted vegetables and slighty sweet and tangy vinaigrette make this quinoa salad a new favorite. It's hearty enough to eat as a main course but also a great side with your protein of choice ( I served it with grilled chicken).  It's also ready from scratch to table in just about 30 minutes.  This would be great with really any roasted vegetables so use whatever is in your fridge.  Enjoy!

I am new to the tutorial pic world, but here are a few hints about dicing and slicing.

Dice up your vegetables into 1/2 inch squares,and place them on a big sheet pan-

Toss them with EVOO and salt and pepper-

Cook them for about 13 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  Until they look like this bellow-still colorful and slightly firm overcooking will take out all of their flavor too!

Chop up your basil while you are waiting for the quinoa and vegetables to cook.

That's all of the tutorial pics I have for this one.  Toss the quinoa, vegetables, vinaigrette and basil all together and you get this beauty-

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables and White Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette

3 cups cooked quinoa, cooked in chicken broth (1 1/2 cups dry with 3 1/4 cups chicken broth)
1/2 cup carrots, diced small
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced small
1/2 cup  asparagus, diced small
1/3 cup red onion, diced small
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
Sea Salt to taste

White Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of pepper 
Pinch of pepper

1.  Cook quinoa as instructed except replace water with chicken broth
2.  While quinoa is cooking prepare the vegetables and vinaigrette as instructed.
3.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Chop vegetables into a small dice, keeping them uniform in size.
4.  Place vegetables into a sheet pan and toss with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5.  Cook for 13 minutes, or until fragrant and still slightly al dente.
6. While vegetables and quinoa are cooking, place vinaigrette ingredients in a small container with a tight fitting lid, shake well for about 30 seconds.
7. Chop fresh basil.
8.  When quinoa and vegetables are done  cooking toss together and then toss together with vinaigrette and finally with fresh basil.  Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Flemmings Steak House Cheesy Potatoes {Best Easter Dinner Side}

Where do I begin with these cheesy, creamy, rich sticks of potato perfection?  Well, I must start by saying they are my very favorite potato dish on the planet, hands down, no potato dish beats this one for me.  I especially love them with ham,  so these are the official Easter Potatoes when I am cooking.  Man alive, there is just something to be said about good ol ham and potatoes, these are my gourmet version of the ultimate comfort food.

The subtlety of the leeks, jalapeno and white pepper along with the obvious over abundance of cheese and cream is spot on. This recipe was inspired by a potato dish I had at Flemmings Steakhouse on my honeymoon (almost 8 years ago).  When I got home I scoured the internet for Flemmings Potatoes and found a bunch of different recipes.  I experimented with what I found and came up with theses bad boys.  Yes, they are bad boys, very, very bad.  I am sure they have enough calories to sustain an entire family for a week.  Hence, I make them once a year on Easter and maybe one other time if special occasion arises .  Calories don't count on Holidays, so if you are looking for a potato recipe for Easter Sunday (or any other holiday or special ham occasion),  look no further.  Say goodbye to those old fashioned scalloped potatoes or frozen hash-brown  processed cheesy ickyness. Take a walk on the gourmet side of potatoes, once you do, you will never turn back. 

Flemmings Steak House Cheesy Potatoes
Serves 8 to 12.  
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced according to prep instructions bellow.  
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half and half
3 cups good quality cheddar cheese or sharp cheddar cheese, plus 1 1/2  cups reserved (or a little extra if you feel like getting carried away) for sprinkling on top
3/4 cup, thinly sliced leeks (white stalks only, no green) 
1 small jalapeno, seeded, and finely diced
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons white pepper

Peel potatoes, cut in half lengthwise.  Cut each half in half lengthwise again, making 4 pieces.  Cut each piece into match stick slices about 1/2 inch thick.  

1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray 9 X13 glass baking dish.
2. Place cream, half and half, salt, pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stir frequently, being careful not to burn.
3. Place jalapeno, leeks and cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Add cream mixture, mix well.  Add potatoes and mix to combine all ingredients.
4.  Spread mixture evenly into prepared baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
5. Cook for 60 minutes.
6. Remove from oven, remove foil and top generously with cheddar cheese.
6. Place back in the oven and bake uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. 
** These always seam to take a little longer to cook then my recipe says, so give yourself a little extra time, just in case, it also depends on how thick you cut the potatoes.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Reese's Peanut Butter Bars

I can hardly believe that is has been almost 5 months since I have posted.  It's really a shame because many good eats have come and gone through my kitchen since then. I am still getting used to juggling this 3 kiddo thing- between cleaning bums, kissing my sweet baby girl, refereeing 2 very active little boys and training for a marathon on top of everything, not much time has been left for my neglected food blog.  Things like this delicious Reese's bar and a crisp Diet Coke get me through my extra crazy days!  As a professional health nut, I can only warn you against my wicked ways of coping, however as a crazy, busy Mom, I say go for it! 

These bars are seriously incredible, addicting, over the top yummy and double-delicious  (I know I just used a lot of verbs but it had to be done). It's quite amazing, they taste exactly like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  To sweeten the deal, they are even super easy to make and take less then 10 minutes to put together.  I served them at 2 parties this weekend and everyone was in chocolate peanut butter bliss, requesting the recipe.    

Since it's Monday, I will do you a favor and start your to-do list for the week- 1. Make Reese's Peanut Buttercup Bars and 2. Exercise really hard (because you won't be able to eat just 1 or 2).  I wish my ginormous list was that short and simple, here's to dreaming . . 

Reese's Peanut Butter Bars
2  cups (or about 2 packages graham crackers) fine graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks butter), melted
1 cup, plus 5 tablespoons peanut butter, divided. 
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Non-stick cooking spray
*If you want to make this gluten free, substitute gluten free graham crackers in the crust.    

Prep:If using whole graham crackers (my recommendation) , pulse them in a food processor until they are fine crumbs, do this in 2 batches (1 package at a time).
In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave, after mixing butter into the recipe, reserve bowl for a second use.

1. First, spray the bottom and side of a 9X13 pan well with non-stick cooking spray, set aside.  Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, 1 cup peanut butter and melted butter in a large bowl.  Mix until moistened and mixture is well combined and sticks together. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of a 13X9 pan into an even crust.  Set aside.

2. Using the bowl you used to melt the butter, add in the chocolate chips and  5 tablespoons of peanut butter.  Melt the chocolate mixture in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth, being careful not to burn.

3. Pour melted chocolate mixture evenly over the peanut butter crust.  Let cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  If you are running low on time, you can stick them in the freezer and they should be ready in about 30 minutes.

4. Cut into squares and serve.

* Since they are no bake, I recommend storing them in the fridge until ready to serve, they will hold their shape and texture better.

*Also, they are a great make ahead dessert and can be made a day or two in advance.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

These bars are a-maz-ing!  I wish that I was responsible for this most fabulous recipe but I cannot take any of the credit.  I was introduced to these bites of heaven via my fab friend (and cook) Stacie, and they hail from Melanie over at MelsKitchenCafe, she has a dynamite food blog, definitely worth taking the time to browse her site!  These babies are 5 layers of bliss, the bottom is a buttery cookie crust, topped with a creamy layer of cheesecake, then comes the tart and sweet cinnamon apples, topped with an oat streusel (my favorite part) and then finally, a drizzle of caramel sauce.  Really, need I say more.  I have made these for a couple of showers (baby and bridal) and there has never been one bar leftover.  I have emailed this recipe to most people who have tasted.  Honestly, I am drooling just thinking about them!  My one bit of advice is that they are kind of messy and fragile, so be careful as you cut them and place them on your serving platter. 

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
Cream Cheese Layer:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Streusel Topping:
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
Caramel Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cups half-and-half or cream
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, two tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine all the streusel topping ingredients and mix until crumbly. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly but combined. Press evenly into a 9X13-inch baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
While the crust is baking, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Mix well. Pour over the warm crust.
Spoon the apple mixture evenly over the cheesecake layer. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples. Bake for 30 minutes until the filling is set.
Cool the bars to room temperature. Drizzle with the caramel topping (or plate individual slices and drizzle with topping one by one).
For the caramel sauce, mix butter, brown sugar, half-and-half or cream, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thickened slightly. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold. If the caramel sauce has cooled in the fridge long enough to harden, warm slightly before drizzling on bars.

Recipe Source: MelsKitchenCafe

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creamy Bachamel Mac N Cheese with Roasted Cauliflower

Alrighty, time to step away from our Halloween sugar over-load for a moment and talk about pure comfort food with a gourmet twist.  I really should be posting something super healthy to balance out my (our) over dose of candy and pumpkin goodies, but I have really been wanting to post this creamy, dreamy, straight to the hips dinner for a while now.  Roasted Cauliflower really goes well with cheesy pasta, I love the combination.  The Bachemel base allows you to use a lot less cheese but it doesn't taste any less cheesy.  The sauce also sticks really well to the pasta (a bad recipe is too oily and the cheese doesn't adhere to the pasta well enough).  This is a great balance of creamy, cheesy deliciousness with a touch of gourmet when you toss in the roasted cauliflower.  Just right with a salad on a cool winter night.  Enjoy!   PS- Kitchen to table in about 30 minutes.   
** My husband ate the leftovers the next day with chopped turkey bacon we had leftover from breakfast, I took a bite, it rocked.  A great way to add meat if you are a "it's not a meal without meat" kind of cook or you just love bacon. 

Creamy Bachemel Mac N Cheese with Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 8 to 10 (recipe can easily be cut in half)

1 stick butter
1/2 plus two tablespoons flour
4 cups of milk
1 cup cheddar
1 cup mozzarella
1 pound dry macaroni pasta
sea salt and white pepper to taste
1 head Cauliflower
About 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400.  
2. Start your water for the pasta
3. Cut  head of cauliflower into bite size pieces.  Place on baking sheet and toss in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast at 400 for 12 to 15 minutes. Cauliflower should be slightly soft but still hard enough to hold it's shape well and not feel "mushy".  Just taste one
4. In the meantime,  Cook pasta according to package directions. 
5. In the meantime, make the sauce.  
6. In a large saucepan, melt  butter over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add flower while whisking, whisk until smooth, this should take about 2 minutes.  Gradually add milk and whisk continually until the sauce is smooth and creamy.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.  Remove from heat add cheeses and season with salt and pepper.  Toss in cauliflower and serve while hot.