Friday, May 31, 2013

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods

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For our blue and pink themed gender reveal party, I wanted to make a dessert table filled with snacks that fit the bill. In addition to pink and blue cotton candy, gum, lollipops, drinks, cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries drizzled in pink and blue icing, I decided to make some chocolate covered pretzels.
Since some people like white chocolate and some people like semi-sweet, I did half of each and then sprinkled them with pink and blue sprinkles. These are a cute addition to any table setting. You can change up the sprinkles colors or even use different colored chocolate (which can be found in your local craft store). Enjoy!

Printable Recipe
  • 16 medium-sized pretzel rods
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 oz. white chocolate chips
  • Pink and blue sprinkles
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave-safe mug. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir. Place back in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and then place back in the microwave for 10 second increments until chocolate is fully melted.

One at a time, dip a pretzel rod in the chocolate. Use a spoon to make sure pretzel is fully coated (except the end you are holding). Allow excess to drip off. Lightly coat with sprinkles (I do this over a paper dish so I can add the extra sprinkles back to the container when I'm done). Lay on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with 8 pretzel rods.

Repeat these steps, using the white chocolate chips for the remaining 8 pretzel rods.

Once all 16 pretzels are coated, place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until chocolate is firm. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Source: SK Original

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vanilla Cupcakes & A GENDER REVEAL PARTY!!

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Salsa

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Happy Memorial Day! This salsa is a perfect accompaniment for grilled steak and probably grilled chicken. We couldn't get enough of this. The roasted red peppers have a hint of a smoky flavor while the jalapeno adds subtle heat to the rest of it. The lemon juice, garlic and oil mellow out the flavors and combine them into a refreshing topping for steak right off the grill. I would have eaten this straight from the bowl if there were any leftovers. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe 

  • 3 large red bell peppers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and minced
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat broiler to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

Cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds. Lay each pepper, skin side up, on the baking sheet. Press down so the peppers lay flat.

Broil for 15-20 minutes or until peppers are charred. Remove from oven and place in a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let stand for 20 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, peel the skin off the peppers. Cut the peppers into small chunks and toss with remaining ingredients.  Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve on top of grilled steak or chicken.

Source: Adapted from Epicurious

Friday, May 24, 2013

Smoked Mozzarella and Penne Salad

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I'm lucky there is a Whole Foods right across the street from my work, as well as about two minutes from my house. I love their selection of fresh and organic products so it is a real convenience that their store is only a few steps away.
Sometimes Chris and I will walk to Whole Foods to get lunch at one of their many hot bars. The selection is always so extensive, but I have a few regulars that I always gravitate towards. This Smoked Mozzarella and Penne Salad is one of them. I was stoked to find a duplicate recipe online so that I can now make this in the comfort of my own home. Smoked Mozzarella gives the salad a really unique flavor, while the Parmesan dressing makes it fresh and light. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe


Parmesan dressing:                                                
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 and 1/2 tsp.)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound penne pasta
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach, washed and stemmed
  • 2 small jars roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1/2 pound smoked Mozzarella cheese, diced
For dressing: Combine the Parmesan cheese, parsley, mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper with a hand mixer or in the bowl of food processor or in a blender until the dressing is smooth.

For salad: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until it is al dente. Drain the pasta into a colander, run cold water over it or submerge it in ice water until chilled through, and drain well.  

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, spinach, roasted red peppers, and smoked mozzarella. Pour dressing over top and chill until ready to serve.

Source: Group Recipes

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ranch Turkey Burgers

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My wonderful husband made these Ranch Turkey Burgers for my birthday eve dinner. Usually I need to douse my burgers with loads of ketchup, mustard, and maybe even light mayo if I'm feeling rebellious. But these needed absolutely nothing. Nada.
The ranch flavor was very evident in these burgers and there was enough moistness and amazing flavors going on that I didn't want to spoil it by using condiments. Just to get my filling of veggies in, I topped mine with lettuce, tomatoes and avocado slices, and it just amped up the flavor and added some texture. Chris played around with the ingredients a little and modified the original recipe, and these turned out perfect. They would definitely be a nice addition to your Memorial Day weekend bar-b-que. Enjoy!

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 (1 oz.) package ranch dressing mix
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 4 buns
  • Tomato, sliced (optional)
  • Lettuce (optional)
  • Avocado, sliced (optional)
Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat, and lightly oil the grate.

Knead together the turkey, ranch mix, garlic, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, and breadcrumbs in a bowl until evenly combined; divide into 4 equal portions and form into patties.

Cook on the preheated grill about 5 minutes per side for well done. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).

Serve on buns and top with tomato, lettuce and avocado.

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lavender Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

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I really enjoy making birthday treats for family and friends, especially if I have a good idea of something new they might like. For example, my mother-in-law is a lover of lavender, so I knew I wanted to try to make a dessert with lavender for her birthday celebration the other weekend.
I had never cooked with lavender before, so it was a new experience for me. I allowed the buds to sit in the milk for a few hours to soften up and flavor the milk. The aroma coming from the oven while these were baking was delightful, and the lavender flavor in the cupcakes afterwards was mild, yet noticeable. My favorite part was probably the frosting. Using a fresh vanilla bean gave it a strong vanilla flavor, while the buttercream practically melted in our mouths. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp. dried edible lavender
  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. agave nectar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. blue food coloring
  • 1/4 tsp. red food coloring
Vanilla Bean Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor, combine milk and lavender and pulse about 1 - 1 1/2 minutes until lavender is well chopped, scrapping down inside of processor once during processing. Pour into liquid measuring cup (be sure to scrape out all of milk and lavender from sides and lid), and allow to sit for at least one hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, whip butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Blend in agave nectar. Add eggs one at a time and mix just until combined after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Working in 3 separate batches beginning and ending with flour mixture, add dry ingredients alternating with milk mixture, mixing just until combined after each addition. Mix in the blue and red food coloring just until combined.

Fill paper lined muffin cups 2/3 full and bake in preheated oven 19 - 21 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool several minutes in muffin tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely then frost with Vanilla Bean Frosting. Store in an airtight container.

For the Vanilla Bean Frosting: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter and vanilla bean seeds on medium-high speed until nearly white and very fluffy, about 7 - 8 minutes, frequently scrapping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add in powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract and mix on low speed until blended, then increase speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 - 6 minutes, frequently scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Pipe or spread over cupcakes. For best results use the day prepared.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Classy

Friday, May 17, 2013

Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread

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Whenever we have pasta for dinner, we need to have some kind of bread. There's always sauce that needs to be sopped up, and we never intend to let it go to waste. Chris usually stops by Panera on the way home from work to get a fresh loaf, but every once in a while I like to try something new.
I had some refrigerated biscuits on hand that I was going to make plain, but I decided to spruce it up a little. Since I was serving the biscuits with the Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce I made, I wanted them to have some flavor. Pouring a mixture of butter, Parmesan cheese, garlic and Italian seasoning over top of the biscuits while they baked gave the outside great flavor and some crisp, while the outside remained soft and flaky. Enjoy!
Printable Recipe

  • 6 refrigerated junior buttermilk biscuits
  • 3 tbsp. light butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a mini loaf pan with cooking spray.

Line the 6 biscuits top to bottom across the loaf pan, allowing to run down the sides.

Mix melted butter, Parmesan cheese, garlic and Italian seasoning in a small bowl. Pour over biscuits in pan.

Place loaf pan on a baking sheet (to catch any overflow). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until biscuits are light brown and cooked through. Enjoy!

Source: SK Original

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

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My parents recently came back from a trip to Italy and their stories and pictures made me extremely jealous. My mom's favorite dish there was pasta that they cooked and put into a hollowed-out Parmesan wheel, and then tossed the pasta while scraping the edges of the wheel to add some Parmesan flavor. Sounds like a winner in my book!
Since hearing stories about all their amazing meals, I decided I wanted to make a pasta dish of my own. I don't have a spare hallowed-out Parmesan wheel lying around, so I decided to make a healthier version of stuffed shells instead. Using ground turkey in place of beef cuts down on a lot of extra fat, and I also used low-fat cheeses to lower the calorie content. They take some time, but the recipe makes a ton of shells (I made half and froze half for later) and the creamy filling in the shells with chunks of artichoke hearts is perfectly seasoned. Enjoy!
Printable Recipe

  • 1 (12-oz.) box jumbo pasta shells
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup) 
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 1 lb. ground turkey 
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus 1/2 tsp.
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 tsp.
  • 1 (8 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped 
  • 1 (15-oz.) container part-skim ricotta cheese 
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano 
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus 1 tbsp. for garnish 
  • 5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows 
  • 1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta. 

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and place in a large glass mixing bowl and let cool. While allowing the turkey mixture to cool, begin Arrabbiata Sauce.

Arrabbiata Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 4 oz. sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce 
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use. 

After you are finished making the Arrabbiata sauce: In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tbsp. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish and repeat with remaining shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month. To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen).

Source: Adapted from Food Network

Monday, May 13, 2013

Springtime Risotto

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The weather is finally getting warmer around here. I thought it would never happen. Between the random snowfall mid-March, to the windy weeks that followed and the rainstorms that went on for days, it's a nice change of pace to have some weather we can actually enjoy.
Chris and I got a new deck installed last week, so we've been looking forward to taking advantage of the longer days by having dinner outside. This is a quick meal I can make after work and even though it's warm, the vegetables make it fresh and light enough to enjoy outside with a glass of wine. Enjoy!

P.S. Happy Birthday, Mom!! xoxo

Printable Recipe

  • 1 tbsp. light butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup light cream
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup steamed asparagus, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat large skillet with high sides over medium heat. Heat up the chicken broth in a separate pot.

Sauté onion in melted butter over medium heat.

Pour in arborio rice and stir to incorporate evenly. Stir in carrot and sauté 5 minutes until rice starts to toast and onion and carrot start to get tender.

Pour in 1 cup of warm chicken broth, stirring frequently until rice soaks up the liquid. Continue in this fashion until all the chicken broth has been absorbed by the rice. Rice should be cooked al dente.

Stir in cream, peas, asparagus and Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Lauren's Latest