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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Italian · Recipes

Pasta y Fagioli soup

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This version of Pasta y Fagioli is simple and hearty. My secret weapon was my cousin’s Italian herb mix (she grows her own herbs and dries them for Christmas presents). Instead of using spicy Italian sausage, you can opt for pancetta (if you want to live it up), mild italian sausage, or even chicken sausage. I like it best with a combination of spicy and mild sausage. I serve it with warm Italian bread for dipping in the soup. You can also assemble the soup and cooked it in a crockpot for 4-6 hours. I often do this during the work week, so I have a great meal to come home to.

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound mild or spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth (I used reduced sodium. If you use regular, adjust your salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste. I also add 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper if I am using mild sausage.
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Cooked pasta to add to the soup (i.e. macaroni, ruffles, fusilli)

Slow cooker Instructions:

  • On the stovetop, Cook pasta according to package instructions in salted water; drain well and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and put in the slow cooker.
  • Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the stockpot. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add to the slow cooker.
  • In the slow cooker, add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, beans, 1/2 cup water; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for 4 hours.
  • Top with parmesan cheese and serve over a cup of pasta.

Stove top Instructions:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot or over medium heat. Add Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and set aside.
  • Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the stockpot. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, drained Italian sausage and 1/2 cup water; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Allow the soup to simmer for longer, so the flavor will deepen and improve – around an hour.
  • On the stovetop, Cook pasta according to package instructions in salted water; drain well and set aside.
  • Top with parmesan cheese and serve over a cup of pasta.
Italian · Recipes

Classic Risotto with Chicken

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Risotto is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. For a long time I was scared to make it homemade because I heard it wasvery labor intensive. But I find if you prepare correctly, it’s really not that bad and very much worth it. The recipe below makes enough for 6 people. I served it with some crusty French bread because we love our carbs and it’s perfect for sopping up extra grains.

You can make this vegetarian or throw in a variety of protein.

You will need:

  • Arborio rice – 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup minced white onion
  • Olive oil, 2-3 tbs
  • Unsalted butter , 5-6 tbs
  • Garlic – 1-2 cloves, minced
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup Dry white wine or vermouth
  • 6 cups Chicken broth
  • Sea salt and pepper – to taste
  • Chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • Shrimp
  • One link – Italian chicken sausage (regular Italian sausage or pancetta will do)
  • Frozen peas – handful
  • Fresh grated Parmesan-about a 1/4 cup
  • *fresh herbs, if available
  • Large pan (I prefer my cast iron skillet)
  • Saucepan for broth
  • Pan for cooking the protein

Mincing the onions

Steps:

  1. Important! Heat chicken broth in a saucepan and have a ladle ready. As you cook the risotto, you will need to spoon hot chicken broth into the rice. Keep it on low to maintain the heat
  2. heat 1-2 tsp of oil in a pan. Add the proteins of your choice and season with garlic, pepper and salt. Add the peas during the last few minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, Melt 2-tbs of butter and 2 tbs of olive oil.
  4. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until they are translucent.
  5. Add the rice and coat the grains with oil for about one minute or so until they are clear.
  6. Add the wine, stirring the grains around until the liquid disappears.
  7. For about 15 to 20 minutes, add one ladle full of broth at a time stirring the grains around until the liquid evaporates. The rice will become starchy and creamy. Season with salt and pepper
  8. Use a taste test to determine the doneness. Most Italians prefer to have a tiny bit of bite.
  9. In the end, add the Parmesan and several tablespoons of butter to the Risotto without stirring it in. Put a lid on the pan and let it sit for 3 to 4 minutes. Then lift the lid and stir in the melted butter and cheese. Add in the proteins that you want at this time. You can also sprinkle in a little bit of fresh parsley or another herb of your choice for color. Enjoy!

Italian

Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes

You will need:

  • 8 boneless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more, to taste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves,
  1. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and sear both sides until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes per side; set aside.

4. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in the skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan, thyme, oregano and basil.

5. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet. Cook for 15 minutes or so until cooked through and sauce is slightly reduced.

7. Serve immediately, garnished with basil, if desired. I chose to serve this dish with pasta, and it worked out very well. Enjoy:)

Source: damndelicious.net (adapted with some modifications)

Central American · Recipes

Tomatillo Chicken Stew

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I have been on a tomatillo kick lately.  I served this with a little sour cream and cilantro, and I made some cornbread to go along with it – a perfect fall dish after a long day at work. If you choose to buy salsa verde, this becomes a very quick, economical meal, as well. If you use one complete beer or 1-1.5 cups of chicken broth the consistency will be more soupy. Reducing the liquid gives you more of a chili consistency. Either way works well.

Simply assemble the ingredients and cook on a low and slow setting – 6-8 hours.

Serving suggestions: fresh cilantro, avocado, sour cream, Mexican cheese, cornbread as a side dish, corn tortillas.

You will need:

  1. 2 lbs chicken breast or thighs
  2. 2 cups Salsa Verde/tomatillo salsa* – you can buy this (use a 16 oz jar) or make it. see recipe below
  3. half white onion, sliced thinly
  4. 1 bell pepper, diced (I used a yellow one for this recipe)
  5. 1 can pinto beans
  6. 1 can cannelini beans
  7. 1 cup chicken broth or a little less than one beer
  8. 2 tsp cumin
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. fresh cilantro
  11. jalapenos (de-seeded) if you want to add spice

Homemade Tomatillo salsa:

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh tomatillos
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 jalapeños, stems removed and deseeded (for extra heat use serranos instead)
  • juice and zest from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
Holiday

Rompope (Costa Rican Style)

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After experimenting with several styles of Rompope over the years, we have settled on this version, which calls for generous amounts of orange and cinnamon.

Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Around 2 pints

You will need:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-5 orange peels
  • 8 yolks
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup condensed milk
  • 4-5 cinnamon sticks

Step one:

Blend milk, sugar, vanilla, orange peels and cinnamon in a medium sized-sauce pan and bring to a low boil for 25 minutes.

Step two:

Add the egg yolks and condensed milk. Stir. Add the cream, do not allow it to boil.

Step three:

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably 24. It will be thick when it is chilled, but will become more liquid as it warms from room temperature. However, if you would prefer a thinner consistency, add a bit more milk until it is the desired thickness.

 

Garnish with grated cinnamon, if desired.

Central American · Recipes

Chicken & Black Bean Quesadillas

You will need:

  1. Large tortillas
  2. 2-3 cups Mexican blend cheese
  3. 2 large chicken breasts
  4. 1/2 white onion, sliced thin
  5. 1 red bell pepper
  6. 1 can Black beans, rinsed
  7. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 2 tsp cumin
  9. 1-2 tbs olive oil
  10. Salt and pepper to taste
  11. 1-2 tbs butter

1.Prepare your veggies. Slice your onions and peppers, and mince your garlic.

2. Sauté onion, peppers, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, salt and pepper in 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat for 6-8 minutes until browned.

3. Season chicken with 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté chicken breast in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat until cooked. Stir in 1/4 cup black beans and heat. Set aside.

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4. In a non stick skillet or griddle, melt 1 tbs butter. Add one tortilla and sprinkle one half of it with cheese.

5. Add chicken, peppers, black beans and onions.

6. Fold over and cook on both sides, until browned and the cheese is melted.

7. Cut up, serve and enjoy:)

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Recipes

Apple Cider Donuts

These were inspired by a recent trip to Carter Mountain Apple Orchard with the family where we fell in love with their apple cider donuts. I found an excellent recipe here: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/11/07/apple-cider-donuts/ and tried it out. Soooo Delicious. We chose to make donut holes instead of donuts.

Ingredients:

Donuts

  • 1 and 1/4 cups  apple cider
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature1
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup  packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • orange slices* optional
  • cinnamon sticks* optional

Topping

  • 3/4 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 60g) unsalted butter, melted

Directions

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  1. Simmer apple cider over low-medium heat in a small saucepan on the stove for 15-20 minutes. Add cinnamon sticks, spices, and/or orange slices for flavor if desired. In this step you are reducing the apple cider for a stronger flavor. You will need 1/2 cup from this reduced cider. Allow it to cool in the refrigerator as you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a mini muffin pan or donut pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  3. Toss the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of concentrated apple cider.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and very gently mix together with a whisk. Be very gentle as overmixing will develop the gluten and result in a tough textured donut. Whisk until all ingredients are *just combined.* Some small lumps may remain, but not many.                                                   IMG_0892  IMG_0893
  5. Pour the batter into the mini muffin pan, filling 3/4 of the way full. You’ll only need a couple teaspoons of batter for each. Or, if making donuts, follow my instructions in the post above about filling the donut pan. Bake the donut holes for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The donuts will take the same amount of time.                                    IMG_0894
  6. Make the topping by mixing the granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Dip the top of the donut holes or donuts lightly into the melted butter. Then dunk them all the way into the cinnamon sugar, using your hands to mix it around so the entire donut hole (or donut) is coated generously. Repeat with all the donuts. You may need more cinnamon-sugar. Donuts taste best on the same day, though they may be covered tightly and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. IMG_0897   IMG_0895
  7. Make ahead tip: Prepared donuts freeze well up to 2-3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and heat up in the microwave if desired.
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.

Appetizer · Holiday · Recipes

Holiday Treat: White chocolate peppermint popcorn

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This is another great holiday treat that is very simple to make. This does not seem like much, but it is irresistible. Whenever I set this out, people cannot stop eating it:)

All you need:

  • Air popped popcorn (ten cups)
  • 12 oz white chocolate, melted
  • crushed peppermints, a few handfuls

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Step one: Pop the popcorn in a very large bowl. Crush peppermints in a ziploc bag.

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Step two: melt the white chocolate. Melting white chocolate can be very problematic, especially in the microwave. If that is your only option, Sally’s Baking Addiction has good advice on how to do it.I recommend a double boiler, or you can rig one with a sauce pan and a pyrex bowl, like this:

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Step three: Drizzle the melted white chocolate and blend with the popcorn. It will be a gooey mess. Toss in the crushed mint.  Store in an airtight container.

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Delicious and addicting