Side dish

Thin Mint Cupcakes

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My daughter wanted to enter a baking contest so we decided to embrace the Girl Scout cookie season. We tweaked a standard mint cupcake recipe – source (www.yourcupofcake.com), and added Thin Mints to the mix.

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

The Verdict? These were absolutely delicious. They were time consuming, but so worth it!

What you need:

 
1 cup sour cream
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
¼ cup water
½ cup buttermilk
Devil’s Food Cake Mix
Chocolate Mint Filling:
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
¼ cup powdered sugar
Mint Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
6 tablespoons butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
green food coloring
Thin Mint Cookies – one box (break cookies in half)
Step one:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
Step two:
2. Using a whisk, mix sour cream, oil and vanilla extract together. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well in between each addition.
3. Alternate adding the cake mix and liquids (buttermilk and water), starting and ending with the cake mix.
4. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake for 14-18 minutes, or until and inserted knife come out clean.
Step three
1. Chocolate Mint Filling: Melt chocolate chips and heavy cream together in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat. Stir in peppermint extract and powdered sugar.
2. When cupcake come out of the oven, use a squeeze bottle to fill the cupcake with the filling, or use the filling as a ganache and dip the tops of the cakes into it.
3. Mint Buttercream: Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, heavy cream and peppermint extract and beat well. Add green food coloring and stir well
4. Pipe buttercream onto cooled cupcakes and top with a broken thin mint cookie.
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The finished product
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Side dish

Beef Stir Fry: Mongolian Style

I am not sure there really is such thing as an authentic Mongolian beef; from what I understand this is an Americanized concoction. Regardless, I enjoy the flavor very much and decided to look out into the internet universe for some ideas. Here is what I found (with some of my own twists).


I served this with white rice, and used fresh veggies from the garden. Green beans and spinach would be my top choice, but you could certainly use bok choy or broccoli for variation. I got the beef (thin sliced top round) from my favorite butcher. It’s perfect for stir fry and cost effective.

You can adjust the heat by adding more chili or ramp up the sweet by adding more brown sugar.

You need:

  • 8 ounces top round thinly sliced or flank steak cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4  cup vegetable oil, for frying the beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 5 dried red chili peppers or 1 Tbs chili paste
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • one shallot, sliced* (optional)
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce for cooking
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 scallions cut on the diagonal
  • Vegetables of your choosing – green beans, bok choy, broccoli

Step one:

Combine soy sauce with brown sugar and set aside.

Marinate the beef in one teaspoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of soy cause, and 1 tbs of cornstarch. Make sure it is room temperature before going to the next step. 15 min- 1 hour

Step two:

Dredge the marinated beef in the remaining cornstarch. Heat the oil on medium so that the meat will be seared and crisp up quickly. Brown the beef on either side, ideally getting a bit of a crust on the side. Set aside the beef out of the pan. 4-5 minutes

Step three

Reduce the heat to medium. Saute garlic for 2- 3 minutes. Add in chili peppers and continue cooking for several more minutes. Make sure to scrape the pan for any cracklings from the beef and mix it in. Add ginger, chicken broth, and then desired vegetables. Cook for 5 more minutes.Finally, add back in the beef and drizzle the soy sauce mixture over the pan. Stir and continue cooking until the liquid is mostly absorbed. 15-18 minutes

 

Adapted from: http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/07/mongolian-beef-recipe/

Side dish

Roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts and asparagus

I stole this idea from my friend who is a wonderful cook.  This pairs well with chicken, turkey or any kind of beef dish. It is quick, delicious, and easy.

All you need:

  • small red potatoes or fingerlings.
  • Brussell sprouts, five or six
  • asparagus
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Trim the ends off of your Brussell sprouts and asparagus. image(10) image(8)
  2. Half the Brussell sprouts.
  3. Wash and cut potatoes into quarters or slices.

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4. Lightly toss the potatoes with olive oil and minced garlic

5. Arrange on a cookie sheet with asparagus and Brussel sprouts. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. Salt and pepper to your taste

6. Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes. Flip the potatoes once, about halfway through.

Note: you can use sweet potatoes, instead or add fresh herbs for endless variations on the same theme.

Dessert · Holiday · Recipes · Side dish

Pecan Cheesecake Bars

This recipe from positivelysplendid.com popped up among my facebooks friends, so I thought I would give it a try. The pictures looked incredible (yes, I look at dessert photos the same way others look at centerfolds) and the review looked good too.

Verdict: Absolutely delicious

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For the shortbread layer

  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  3. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  4. 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

For the cheesecake layer

  1. 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 cup milk
  4. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the pecan pie layer

  1. 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  2. 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  3. 1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  4. 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 1/2 cups pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. For the shortbread layer: In a medium bowl, combine flour and 3/4 cup brown sugar.

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  1. Although the original link says to use a pastry blender, I used a hand mixer and it worked just fine. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans.                                                                  FullSizeRender(10)
  2. Press mixture evenly into bottom of a greased 9×13″ baking pan. FullSizeRender(9)
  3. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven, and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  4. For the cheesecake layer: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, and beat at medium speed until smooth. Beat in sugar. Add milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla, and beat until combined. FullSizeRender(6)
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled shortbread layer. Bake for 15 minutes; remove from oven and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.FullSizeRender(8)
  6. For the pecan pie layer: In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Gently stir in the eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in 1 1/2 cups pecans.FullSizeRender(7)
  7. Pour pecan mixture over cooled cheesecake layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until center is set and pecan pie layer is a rich brown color. IMG_2337

Here is the end result in various shots:

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Holiday · Recipes · Side dish

Cranberries with Dried Cherries

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My father has an obsession with cranberries during the holidays. Rather than have him resort to cranberries out of the can, I decided to experiment with a new recipe a few years; this was such a big hit at the table that it is now an essential during the holidays. Even if you are not the biggest cranberry fan, I guarantee this will change your mind.

Serves: 6-8 people

Time: 30 minutes (cooking), 1 hour, 30 min (total, with chilling).

You will need:

  • 1 package fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water

Step one: In a large sauce pan, combine the ingredients and bring to a boil.

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Step two: Simmer for 20-25 minutes until most of the berries have burst and the liquid is syrupy.

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Step three: Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

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Holiday · Recipes · Side dish

Maple Sweet Potatoes with Cherries & Walnuts

This is a great side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any winter meal. I cannot emphasize to you how delicious and easy this is. I planned to have leftovers, but not a single piece was left in the bowl despite making two batches.

Serves: 5-6 people

Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

You will need:

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbs butter, melted
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries

Step one: Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Step two: Arrange potatoes in an even layer in a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish.

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Step three: Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Step four: Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook for 30 minutes. Add walnuts and cherries and stir. Cook for 15-20 more minutes.


Mexican · Recipes · Side dish

Cilantro Lime Rice

You will need:

  • 2 1/4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh cilantro leaves, as well as 2 tbs. minced
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion or shallot, chopped fine
  • 1/2 lime, cut into wedges for juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 c long grain white rice, rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step one:

process broth and cilantro leaves in a blender until the cilantro is chopped, 30 seconds. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot/onion and cook until softened (5 minutes). Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice & cook, stirring often until the edges become translucent (2 minutes). Add broth mixture, squeezed lime and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed (17-20 minutes).

Step two:

Take pot off the heat, let the rice sit for 10 minutes. Add in cilantro and fluff. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

*Source: America’s Test Kitchen

Italian · Mediterranean · Recipes · Side dish

Orzo & Feta Salad

This is a very refreshing salad to bring to a party or serve at lunchtime. We used to have a grocery store that made an excellent version of this, and the recipe that follows is the inspiration. I also borrowed heavily from a version that Gia DeLaurentis makes. The beauty is you can add or sub in any ingredients you want. For example, there are versions with fresh tomatoes or garbanzo beans – whatever inspires you.

Recipe level: easy

Serves: 6

Time: 20 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 c. orzo
  • 4 c. Chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 3/4 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup sweet pepper, chopped fine
  • Sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, quartered

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 c. Red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 c. Virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil
  • 1/4 c. Fresh mint

Step one:

Boil the chicken broth and add the orzo. Make sure to stir, because orzo can get starchy. Cook for about seven minutes and then drain and set aside.

Step two:

Assemble the dressing and then toss with drained orzo.

Step three:

Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.