Saturday, June 30, 2012

Goat Cheese Swirl Brownies

Yes, I am posting twice today.

I know this is a little overkill, but I made more brownies, yes, also overkill, but I am very happy with these decisions.

There has been a lot going on lately which is why I was unable to post yesterday, and I probably will be missing for a while in the next few days.  Thus, I am posting twice today, while I can.  First, camp is taking over my life.  I have been so busy, but I have been having a really great time and I am actually really happy! This summer has gone great so far! Also, cute food shows up at camp too!

Anna made these for snack on Pirate Day!

Second, my computer is basically in hospice care and could die at any moment.  So, I purchased a new computer yesterday (yikes there goes all my money) and I now have to get it set up.  This means I will be computer-less for a day.  I am totally freaked out about this, but I supposed I'll find a way to survive.

And third, I've been keeping up with my half-marathon training, seeing all my friends, and of course keeping up on this blog! Plus, it's Brownie Marathon! And, so I have yet another brownie recipe to share.  I decided to make something adorable for the little picnic on the beach I am having tonight with my friends.  I found a recipe for Goat Cheese Swirled Brownies and I thought it would be a great way to try something new and stick with my brownie theme! Plus, I decided to make my brownies 4th of July themed! Check 'em out :)

Goat Cheese Swirled Brownies (adapted from My Fancy Pantry)

Your favorite brownie recipe (I made Ghiradelli brownies)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
8 oz goat cheese
2 tbsp 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp flour
1 egg
red and blue food color
1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease and line a 13 by 9 inch pan with parchment paper.

2. Make the brownies according to the box and mix in the dark chocolate chips. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and set the rest off to the side.

3. Beat the goat cheese, cream cheese, honey, flour, and egg until smooth and creamy.  Divide the mixture into three small bowls.  Color one with blue, one with red, and leave the other alone.  Drop spoonfuls of the goat cheese mixtures into the pan with the brownie batter. Spoon the rest of the batter on top and then, using a toothpick or knife, swirl the goat cheese into the batter.  Bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool.

Enjoy :)

Champagne Brownies

I was looking through my saved recipes that I've been wanting to try and I realized there were a TON of brownie this blog is about to have a BROWNIE MARATHON!!!!

That's right, get excited for a landslide of ooey gooey chocolatey maddness.

First up, Champagne Brownies.  I found the recipe for this one over at 6 Bittersweets.  It is also a great way to kick off the 21 day countdown to my 21st birthday! This recipe really blew me away! I mean, champagne and brownies? I really wasn't sure how this could turn out anything short of amazing.

Well, actually, it didn't turn out pretty.  I mean, the brownies were amazing! They were fudgey, with a perfectly crisp top, and a hint of zing from the champagne.  However, I was lazy and didn't line the pan with parchment paper.  When it came to getting the brownies out of the pan, even though they were well chilled, it was a mess! So, we ate these guys straight out of the pan.  I think they tasted even better that way.  No plates, just a fork and a pan! If you would like beautiful brownies though, I would highly recommend lining a pan with parchment paper!

Champagne Brownies (adapted from 6 Bittersweets)

10 oz dark chocolate chips
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
4 extra-large eggs (the original called for large, but these were all we had)
1 cup flour
1 cup champagne, divided

1. Preheat the oven to 325 and LINE AN 8 INCH SQUARE PAN WITH PARCHMENT PAPER (leave some hanging over the sides of the pan). Grease the parchment paper.
2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter and both chocolates by heating for 30 seconds, stirring, and repeating until the chocolate is melted.  Stir in the salt, vanilla and 1 3/4 cups sugar and then place the mixture in a stand mixer to cool for 5 minutes.
3.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.  Beat in the flour until incorporated.  Finally, beat in 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp champagne and beat on high for 2 minutes.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out wet, but with no batter attached.
5. While baking, in a small saucepan, bring 2 tbsp of champagne and 1 1/2 tbsp sugar to a boil.  Brush mixture over hot brownies right when they come out of the oven.  Let the brownies cook completely.  I put mine in the fridge for a few hours.  Then, using the parchment paper, you can lift the brownies out of the pan and cut.  Or, if you were lazy like me, just get a fork and go to town!
Enjoy :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Baked Wonton Appetizers

This is officially one of my favorite go-to appetizers!  My mom had a ton of extra wonton wrappers from my brother's graduation party.  We bought WAY too many.  So she froze a bunch of them and then I found some great ideas over at Ashlee's blog. I absolutely love Ashlee's blog, ABPetite!  She always has great ideas and this post gave me some great ideas for what to do with wontons! My mom didn't want to fry anything and we needed a good appetizer for a little weeknight get-together with some friends.  These were perfect!

I made guacamole, salsa with sour cream, and applesauce with cinnamon wontons and they were a big hit! All you have to do is drop about a teaspoon (maybe heaping) in the middle of the wonton, brush some water around the sides of the wonton, and then pinch all the corners together to create a little delicious bundle.  Then, just bake at 350 for 20 minutes!

Head over to ABpetite for some other fantastic flavor combinations and ideas!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge June 2012: Battenberg Cake

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was brought to us by Mandy from What the Fruitcake?!.  Thank you so much Mandy for a fantastic challenge! I had a ton of fun with this one.  Our challenge was to create a Battenberg Cake. Mandy highlighted Mary Berry's techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

I decided to have a ton of fun with this one.  As the guidelines required the typical shape and design of the Traditional Battenberg I had to stick with that.  But, we were encouraged to use whatever flavors and colors we wanted! I decided to dedicate this cake to my little brother.

My brother, Zack, is going off to college for the first time in the fall.  I am a hard-core Badger and I love Wisconsin so I was a little sad to see him choose University of Illinois.  However, the engineering program is going to be perfect for him and he is even trying out for the marching band! I know that he made a great choice and I am sure he is going to have an amazing time.  I made my Battenberg Cake blue and orange in honor of his new school! Good luck in the fall, Zack! I know you will do great!

Traditional Battenberg Cake (adapted from Mary Berry's Battenberg Cake)

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
3/4 tsp baking powder
food coloring
1/3 cup apricot preserves
7 oz plain marzipan
powdered sugar (just a little)

1. Preheat oven to 350, grease an 8 by 8 inch baking pan, and create a divider along the middle of the pan using foil and parchment paper.  Grease the divider as well.
2. Whisk the flour, ground almonds, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time until well combined and then beat in the vanilla and almond extract.  Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients until just combined.
4. Place half of the batter into a small bowl and the other half into a different small bowl.  Mix in blue food coloring into one of the bowls and red/yellow into the other until you have your desired coloring.  Or, use your own colors!
5. Place each color on each side of the divider and bake for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack.
6. Once cool, trim the sides of the cake and make sure that each side is even.  Cut each color into half and place in the Battenberg design.  Heat up the apricot preserves and brush the strips of cake with them so that they stick together.
7.  Roll out the marzipan on a clean surface sprinkled with powdered sugar into an oblong shape so that the width is the length of the cake and the length can wrap all the way around the cake. Brush the top of the cake with apricot and place on the marzipan.  Brush the other sides and wrap the marzipan around.  Make the traditional markings with a knife and trip off the ends to reveal the Battenberg pattern!
Enjoy :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Exciting News

Oh my! Exciting things have been happening over here lately.

First, I made an awesome dinner Sunday night that really made me appreciate the power of food bringing people together.  My mom, dad, Bri, and I enjoyed BBQ Pulled Apple Chicken, Strawberry Spinach Salad (Fresh, sliced strawberries, baby spinach, goat cheese, and candy pecans with Poppyseed Dressing), Broccoli-Slaw (recipe on the bag plus 1/2 cup of Dried Cherries), and Grilled Corn on the Cob.  Plus, I made a delish Strawberry Cake.  It was a lovely evening!

Great way to do corn: just butter, garlic, salt, and pepper,
wrap 'em up in foil and place on the grill until cooked! 
Awesome way to eat: enjoying the outdoors
on a gorgeous evening

Next, I was nominated by two fabulous bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award! Huge thank you to Caity from Awkward Kitchenette and Emma from Food, Fork & Good for their nominations.  I truly appreciate their kind words about my site and I encourage you all to go check out their blogs.  They are both fantastic! I already recieved this award a while back and so I am going to refrain from passing it on this time around, but please head over to these two ladies lovely sites for some great stories, photography, and of course, recipes.  Also, their other nominations are fantastic as well!

And then, I woke up this morning to discover that yesterday, my blog reached 1000 views in just ONE day.  I remember when I was super pumped when I reached 10,000 views TOTAL.  But, now I am up to 28,000! I couldn't figure out what was going on, until I noticed that Blogger made me a Blog of Note! AND THEN, this morning I woke up to one of the more exciting e-mails of my life: my Strawberry Yogurt Cake made the FoodBuzz Top 9!!!!

I can't believe that so many people are enjoying my site.  This was all started because I was bored and wanted a way to keep track of my college experience and celebrate my love of cooking.  This is all just a hobby for me and way to keep me sane.  I love being able to get my thoughts down in writing and food is just something I am completely in love with.  The fact that others are enjoying my recipes and stories as well is a huge blessing and completely baffling to me.  I just want to say, Thank You! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Easy Slow-Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken

It's Monday again and so it's time for a little Half Marathon Monday update! I completed Week 5 of my 10 week training and so that means I'm halfway there! Woooaahh! I'm livin' on a prayer...great song right? This week I ran 4 runs: 3, 5, 3, and 10 miles.  I felt great after every single one.  And you know why? Because I wasn't afraid to run indoors! It was about 98 degrees on Wednesday and felt like it was 120.  So, I headed to the gym and ran on a treadmill.  It was great! I even got to watch TV while I ran for about 45 minutes (Food Network of course).  I also participated in Pilates and was going to do Zumba, but it was cancelled :(.  Instead, I did lots of walking on my days off with friends and family.  That is the best part of working out: when you get to hang with other people.  This week I have two 4 mile runs, a 5 mile run, and finally an 11 mile run.  Plus, hopefully Zumba won't be cancelled and I'm heading to Pilates tonight.  Hopefully the weather will be a little kinder this week and I will get to enjoy more of the outdoors!

Last night, my family gathered round for a lovely meal and I wanted to share it with you! We were pretty busy yesterday: My mom and I went for a walk (as Zumba was not happening), my brother had a baseball game, we needed to run some errands, and I saw Legally Blonde with my friend Michael.  Basically, no one was around to cook.  So, we threw some chicken in the slow cooker with this great BBQ sauce we purchased at one of the stands at Strawberry Fest, and in 8 hours (ta-da!) we had pulled bbq chicken.

BBQ Pulled Apple Chicken

5-6 chicken breasts
1 granny smith apple, cored and chopped
2 cups bbq sauce (make your own or use your favorite)
1/3 cup water (optional-if you want a less thick sauce)

1.Place all the ingredients in your slow-cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
2. After 8 hours, using two forks, shred the chicken and then let sit on warm in the sauce until you are ready to eat!
Enjoy :)

This recipe is featured on Foodie Friends Friday Linky Party!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Strawberry Fest 2012!

The Village of Long Grove does Strawberry Fest every year and I have never been! Well, that might not be true.  My mom thinks that we came once before and it was so long ago that I was being pushed around in a stroller.  Essentially, I have no memories of Strawberry Fest.  Bri, my mom and dad, and I all decided to see what it was all about. And then, I made a cake.

But first, my mom and I stopped at the mall (I am in desperate need of jean shorts) and we saw: PUPPIES! They were doing an adoption drive and we fell in love with Aiden.  Someone needs to adopt him ASAP.  My mom and I were tempted, but we decided that poor Ricky and Lucy (our cats) would not be too thrilled about a new brother.

After the mall, we drove out to Long Grove.  It was hoppin! There were tons of booths with all sorts of fun stuff such as clothing, jewelry, crafts, art, and of course, strawberry items!

Strawberry Daiquiris! 

Strawberry Donuts!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries!

We purchased a ton of fresh strawberries and I have been brainstorming yummy ways to use them since.  Here is my first strawberry creation: Strawberry Yogurt Cake!

Strawberry Yogurt Cake (adapted from Live Love Pasta)

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, divided
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup applesauce
3 eggs
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1/3 cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sliced strawberries (fresh from Strawberry Fest!)

1. Preheat oven to 325 and grease a bundt pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, and 1 cup whole wheat flour.  Whisk in the baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter, applesauce, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the lemon juice. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the greek yogurt, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix in the milk and vanilla.
4. In a small bowl, toss the strawberries with 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour, stir into the batter. Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for about 60-65 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool and dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Enjoy :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chocolate Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Maybe because it's the weekend, or maybe because I just ran 10 miles, I feel like making a ton of desserts.

Last night, Bri and I went downtown to meet up with his sister and her husband for dinner.  We were going to eat at this great pizza place that is tons of fun and more importantly right across from one of my favorite frozen yogurt shops.  However, the wait was over TWO HOURS.  That was a little too intense for us and so we ended up going to a different place, Small Bar, which was also fabulous.  Unfortunately, it was not across from delicious dessert, but the food was so great that I ate a ton and didn't really feel like having any sweets (totally out of character, I know).

However, today is a different story.  Following breakfast and a 10 mile run, all I want is sugar.  This might not be the healthiest, but I feel like a little indulgence.  So, I am going to make ice cream.  I've heard that you can use coconut milk to make ice cream and it is something I have been wanting to try.  Two Peas & Their Pod made Chocolate Cookies and Cream ice cream with coconut milk and it looked so good that I just had to make some.  Here is my version!

Chocolate Cookies & Cream Ice Cream (adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod)

1 3/4 cups Coconut Milk (I used Coconut Dream)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
10-15 oreos, chopped (I used Double Stuffed...woah dream big!)

1. Place all the ingredients, except for the oreos, in a food processor and process until well combined.  Pour into your ice cream make and freeze according to instructions.  During the last 5-10 minutes, add in the chopped oreos.
2. Pour the ice cream into a container and freeze until set.
Enjoy :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spinach, Artichoke, and Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

TGIF! I made it! I survived the first week of camp! This week was a lot of fun and I am having a great time with all the staff members and all the campers.  We had a blast kicking off camp with fun getting to know you games and we even got to go to a bowling alley as a special field trip.  It was a great week, but it also taught me a lot about myself as a site director and leader.

I discovered how much I appreciate when people are doing a good job because they want to and they get satisfaction out of it.  It really annoys me when I have to remind people to work harder and do a good job because that is so not my style.  I tend to try really hard to constantly improve because I want to and I love it when others do this as well.

I also discovered more about myself as a teacher.  It is so rewarding when campers, on the second day, bring me random art projects that they made for me or want me to have.  I love being around kids and I love how it motivates me to be my best so that I can be a positive role model in their life.  Today, a camper came up to me and said, "You should be a teacher." And I responded, "That is what I want to be when I grow up." And she paused, thought, and then said, "Well, good because you would be a really good one, I would want to have you as a teacher." And then, she walked away and continued playing the game in the gym.  I smiled to myself and recognized that my day had just been made by a random camper who was simply thinking out loud.  I have a hard time identifying what it is that makes a good teacher, but I am glad that people recognize that whatever "it" is, I have it.

My day continued to get even better as my mom and I threw together a really great dinner.  We made an amazing salmon dish-broil your salmon instead of baking it-it's awesome.  Then, I made a stuffed mushroom recipe that I had had my eye on for ages.  And finally, we threw together a random vegetable dish to complete our light, fresh, healthy, and delish dinner! The mushrooms were absolutely phenomenal and you must try these.  Even if you don't like mushrooms, the filling for these is so good that I think it would be worth making.

Now, I am going to go enjoy my weekend and think about how I can make the next week of camp even better :)

Spinach, Artichoke, and Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms (adapted from Circle B Kitchen)

12 Stuffing Mushrooms (baby portabellas-or Trader Joe's Stuffing Mushrooms)
6 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
6 oz artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 medium shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
lemon juice (1-2 tbsp)
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
handful of shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with foil.
2. In a small saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and saute the shallot and garlic until shallot is translucent and softened. Place into a large bowl and let cool.
3. In the same large bowl, place the spinach, artichoke hearts, goat cheese, and about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  Toss to combine.
4. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and wash them.  Let them dry on a paper towel.  Once dry, stuff the mushrooms with the spinach mixture and place on the prepared pan.  Season each mushroom with salt and pepper.  Drizzle a little lemon juice over the mushrooms.  Next, sprinkle a little parmesan cheese and olive oil over each mushroom and bake for 10 minutes.
Enjoy :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pink Champagne Cupcakes

Yesterday was my best friend, Katie's, 21st birthday. Katie is one of my dearest friends; she is practically my sister.  I was honestly more excited about her birthday that I think I will be about mine (which is in 1 month from today!).  I love Katie so much and she is truly part of my family.  I feel so blessed to have a friend like her. I can't wait to celebrate with her 21-style in 1 month when I join her in being 21!

We went to a restaurant called Bluegrass for dinner and the service was amazing! The waiter, chef, and owner all brought her special dishes and everything was amazing.  They made her their signature martini, brought out amazing appetizers, and of course, there was a special dessert.

Yes, there is a live fish in there...

After dinner,  She had a bunch of friends over for dessert and I really wanted to bring her something cute and special.  I searched through my Intoxicated Cupcakes book and found the perfect little treat: Champaign Cupcakes.  They were pink and sparkly and truly represented Katie in every way.  Plus, they were perfect for a 21st birthday as they had champaign in the cake AND the frosting! 

Champagne Cupcakes (from Intoxicated Cupcakes by Kate Legere)
For the cupcakes:
6 large egg whites
5 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 2/3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup Champagne 
1/4 cup sparkly sprinkles (or confetti)
For the glaze:
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
6 drops pink food coloring
5 tbsp Champagne
sparkly sprinkles for decorating

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
2. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peak forms. Set aside.
3. In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
4. In another medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.  Alternate adding the flour mixture and the Champagne to the butter mixture, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Stir in the sprinkles.
5. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites.  Then, fold in the remaining 2/3.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and baking for about 20-23 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool cupcakes completely.
7.  Make the glaze by whisking all the ingredients, except for the sprinkles, together.  Spread glaze on cooled cupcakes and top with the sprinkles for decoration.
Enjoy :)

Happy Birthday Katie!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Graduation Party

Like most people, I have jumped on the pintrest bandwagon and I am seriously hooked.  You can follow my pintrest boars here if you are interested.  I love finding fun recipes, cute crafts, teaching ideas, and other fun finds.  A few weeks before my brothers graduation party I saw some adorable candies that you can make for graduation.

First these adorable graduation hat candies.  All you need: reese's, Ghiradelli chocolate squares, M&Ms (we picked out the red ones), twizzlers for the string, and frosting to get everything to stay together. 

Next, we made a sweet/salty treat with circle pretzels, hershey kisses and M&Ms.  We got special navy blue and orange M&Ms to represent my brothers college.  All you do: place pretzels on a baking sheet with kisses inside each circle.  Stick in the oven at 350 for about 3 minutes.  Remove and, using the M&Ms, press each kiss down into the circle.  Let the chocolate chill until hardened. You get an adorable snack that represents your graduates future school!

 And of course, we had a great cake!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pizza Puffs

Today I have a fun recipe for yet another appetizer that can be made in cupcake form.  These pizza puffs are the perfect bite-sized appetizer for a kids birthday party.  They are super simple and you end up with an adorable bite of pizza.  Just dip in marinara sauce and you are ready to go!  I made the basic version, but the original recipe has a bunch of ideas for different flavors of pizza, so you should definitely check it out.  Or, just add the flavors that you enjoy! My version below is for about 100 mini puffs.

Pizza Puffs (adapted from Six in the Suburbs)

3 3/4 cups flour
3 3/4 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 3/4 cups skim milk
5 eggs
5 cups low-fat mozzarella cheese
Marinara Sauce

1. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly grease a mini muffin pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and garlic together.
3. In a stand mixer, whisk the milk, eggs, and mozzarella cheese together until the eggs are well combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients until incorporated.
4. Fill each cup in the mini muffin pan about 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm and with marinara sauce for dipping.  We had the marinara sauce in a mini slow-cooker with the pizza puffs nearby and it was perfect for a large party! You can also place the pizza puffs in the fridge and then reheat them by placing them in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes.
Enjoy :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Taco Cupcakes

It's Monday again.  Today is actually pretty exciting since it's the first day of camp! The campers are coming today and I couldn't be more excited.  I can't wait to get this summer off to a great start.  This week's theme is Opening Ceremonies (fitting in with the Olympic Summer Theme) and we are going to be playing all sorts of games and doing tons of art.  Plus, we get to go on a field trip to a water park on Wednesday.  It's going to be a blast.  Being the first week, it's also going to be crazy hectic and so I am awake far to early trying to make sure I am completely ready to go.

Also on this Monday, I am happy to update my Half-Marathon Monday news.  As of now, the longest run I have completed has been 8 miles.  I felt great afterwards.  This week I have two 3 mile runs, a 5 mile run, and then a 10 mile run.  I'm also planning on doing some Pilates and Zumba somewhere between those.  Plus, I'll have camp every day with 60 9, 10, and 11 year-olds.  This week should be interesting...I'm wondering if I'll be too tired, but I'm hoping to push through and stay positive.

My 8 mile run was completed Saturday morning and then following that, I helped my family get ready for the huge open-house graduation party for my little brother.  I was in charge of appetizers.  I made mini mac and cheese cupcakes, pizza puff bites, and taco cupcakes.  Also, I had enough supplies to make about 100 of each of the appetizers.  Everything was great, but now we have a ton of leftovers and I'm pretty sure I am going to be eating mac and cheese, tacos, and pizza puffs for a while...good thing they turned out so well and good thing I'm working out so much :)

So much food
Taco Cupcakes (adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything)

3 lbs. lean ground beef
3 packets of taco seasoning
2 16 oz cans of refried beans
about 96 tortilla chips
96 won ton wrappers
3-4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. In a large pan, brown the beef, drain the fat, and then add the seasoning and the water required for the seasoning.  Let simmer for about 5-6 minutes and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly grease cupcake pans (you will make 48 cupcakes with this recipe).
3. Place a won ton wrapper into each cupcake well, top with a spoonful of refried beans, 1 crushed tortilla chip, a spoonful of beef, and then a couple pinches of cheese.  Place another won ton wrapper on top and push down to press the bottom layers together.  Top this won ton again with refried beans, then the tortilla chip, beef, and then the cheese.  Place in the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until the won ton is lightly browned and the cheese is melted.  Serve immediately, or place in the fridge to store.  To re-heat, simply place the tacos in a pan in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes.
Enjoy :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mac and Cheese Cupcakes

Happy Father's Day!

I love the holidays that celebrate things that are truly important to everyone.  Father's day is one of those holidays.  It is a day where everyone gets to really think about a man in their life who has loved and supported them unconditionally.  My dad, and I might be slightly biased, is the best.  My dad has five kids! He truly made a career out of having children.  He started when he was 23 and he had his last kid when he was 46.  He has been raising children for most of his life, and, I've gotta say, he's pretty good at it.

I love my dad so much.  We are so similar and sometimes I'm amazed at how much I act, talk, and look like him.  Truly, it's a little scary.  From girl scouts, to musical theater productions, to school performances, he has always been there.  He is absolutely fantastic.  And now, he is fully supportive of all my endeavors with my education and other life experiences.  I can't express how much that means to me.  Although I complain about how I take after him, big nose and all, I truly love it.  He is an amazing man and I feel truly blessed to have him as a role model.  I know that one day I will have a family and I will continue to take after my dad and that is something I am relieved and excited about.

Thanks Daddy for being the World's Greatest Dad! I love you!

Today, I am also bringing you a fantastic little appetizer that would really be a hit at any party.  So, if you are having a big family dinner, brunch, lunch or whatever, you should make these.  They are mini mac and cheese cupcakes.  I made them for my brother's graduation party figuring that the little kids and the high schoolers would love them.  However, I found that they really just brought out the kid in everyone who was there and they were a huge hit.  I made a different variation of these before, but this recipe was even better! The mac and cheese was creamy and delicious, the bites were small enough to pop in your mouth all at once, and they can be made ahead and just warmed up the day of! The recipe listed below was adapted and doubled from the original and it made about 200 mini cupcakes.  If you want less, and you probably do, just make 1/2 or 1/4.  However, they do re-heat nicely so maybe you do want 200! They are pretty delish :)

Mini Mac and Cheese Cupcakes (adapted from Macaroni and Cheesecake)

2 lb. macaroni noodles
6 tbsp butter
8 tbsp flour
2 cups skim milk
1 cup half and half (I used fat-free)
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups milk cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
4 extra large egg yolks
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp paprika

1. Cook macaroni noodles according to directions on box, drain and place back into a very large bowl.
2. Preheat oven to 425 and grease or place mini cupcake papers in a mini cupcake pan.  I did papers because they were easier to remove and provided less clean up in between batches, but you don't need to use them as the mac and cheese cupcakes will stay together.
3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour for about 1 minute.  Pour in the milk and half and half and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.  Pour in the sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, and parmesan.  Continue to stir until cheese melts.  Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in the egg yolks, salt, nutmeg and paprika.
4. Pour the cheese sauce into the large bowl of pasta and toss to coat the pasta evenly.  Place spoonfuls of mac and cheese into each cupcake well, fill to the top and sprinkle with a little extra parmesan cheese, and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Or: place in fridge and when you are ready to eat them heat in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
Enjoy :)