Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pumpkin Cake Pops

Let me start off by saying...as cute as these little babies are, they were a pain. And I mean a major pain in the neck. These were without a doubt the most frustrating thing I've made since I've started cooking and baking. I spent the entire evening on these, and I can count the number of cute ones on one hand. I put too much icing in the cake, the candy melts were not melting like they should, the cake balls were defrosting way quicker than I could dip them in the chocolate, the edible marker I just bought today was not writing well on the chocolate at all, and well...that's just to name a few things that went wrong. I ended up wiping the edible marker off several times on some of them before they dried and tried again. Some of them turned out very ugly. But some of them did turn out pretty cute.

I will definitely be trying to make cake pops again, because they are so darn cute and there are so many things to make them into. I really hope that the phrase, "practice makes perfect," proves to be true when it comes to cake pops, because I don't know how many more times I can handle making them like I did tonight. I only used half of the cake/icing mix before I got tired of it. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow because I have some more bags of candy melts too.


Pumpkin Cake Pops
from Bakerella, written as I made them

Ingredients:
1 box of cake mix + ingredients from box to make 13x9 cake (I used white cake)
3/4 of a 16 oz. can of icing (I used vanilla)
2- 14 oz. bags of orange candy melts
~20 green Mike and Ike candies, cut in half
edible ink pen (black)
~40 lollipop sticks
styrofoam block

Make the cake using the directions on the box. Let cool completely. Working in large chunks, crumble cake into a large bowl. Mix in icing; stir until mixed well. Using a cookie dough scooper, scoop balls, then roll in hand until they are perfectly round. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Melt a few candy melts, stick about 1/2" of a lollipop stick into the chocolate, then push halfway into the cake ball. Continue with the rest of the cake balls. Stick back into the freezer for about an hour, or until they are pretty firm.

Melt about 1/2 a package of candy melts at a time (so it doesn't harden too quickly). Dip cake pops into the chocolate, then swirl/tap excess chocolate off. Before the chocolate dries, stick a Mike and Ike on the top. Stick into the styrofoam block and let chocolate dry completely. Draw on faces with edible markers.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chicken and Bacon Ranch Pizza

I've always been a big fan of Subway. One of my favorite subs there is the Chicken and Bacon Ranch, except that it can become pretty full of calories pretty quick. I have been thinking about making chicken and bacon ranch subs at home for a few weeks now and it actually sounded really good for dinner tonight. But, sadly enough, I had already planned on having Buffalo Chicken Pizza, with a pizza dough ball and 8 oz. of chicken defrosting. Dinner kept getting closer and closer, and my beloved Buffalo Chicken Pizza was still not sounding so good, so I tried thinking of other options. My mind just kept going back to the Chicken and Bacon Ranch subs, and then I thought, "Why not a Chicken and Bacon Ranch Pizza?!"

Well, this pizza was great! I'm not going to lie and say that this will keep me away from the subs from Subway (loaded with ranch dressing and cheese!), but maybe make my trips a little less frequent. I will definitely be making this pizza again!


Chicken and Bacon Ranch Pizza
Original Recipe

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. chicken breast, chopped into small pieces
1 lb. ball of pizza dough
1/4 c. ranch dressing
2 pcs. bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces
8 oz. Italian blend shredded cheese

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until just done. Let cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough ball into a circle. Spread with ranch dressing, leaving about 1/2" around the edges. Top with chicken and bacon. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the pizza. Bake on pizza stone for about 30 minutes, or until cheese starts to brown and get bubbly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vietnamese Style Caramel Chicken and Coconut Lime Rice

Mr. Z and I eat a lot of chicken...and I do mean a lot! We eat chicken probably five times a week, which means if I am not constantly on the lookout for new chicken recipes, we get bored very quickly. I usually lean toward something buffalo style or something I've at least heard of before. But, lately I've tried to get out of that comfort zone, and I've ended up finding so many new things that I like! Not that you can really tell by my blog, but I am a very picky eater, so this is a big feat for me!

This meal was excellent. I was pretty nervous about using fish sauce, because I've only used it once before. In fact, when Mr. Z walked in the door from work as a was starting the chicken, he said, "What is that smell!?" It smelled like fish sauce and nothing else for the first little while, so that made me even more nervous, but I am glad I finished cooking it and tried it, because it was delicious! I served this with Coconut Lime Rice after seeing a comment on the recipe on Joelen's blog.


Vietnamese Style Caramel Chicken with Coconut Lime Rice

chicken recipe from Joelen's Culinary Adventures, written as I made it
rice recipe from MyRecipes.com, written as I made it

Vietnamese Style Caramel Chicken
Ingredients:
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. water, separated
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 clove of garlic, minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces

Heat brown sugar and 1/4 c. water in a large pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until mixture is bubbling.

Stir in the remaining 1/4 c. water, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper and stir well. Add chicken. Cook until chicken is cooked through and sauce starts to thicken. Turn heat up to medium-high and cook until sauce gets very thick and sticky.

Coconut Lime Rice
Ingredients:
1 c. light coconut milk
1 1/4 c. water
1 tsp. lime zest
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 c. instant rice

Bring coconut milk and water to a boil. Add rice and cook according to package instructions. In the last minute of cooking, add lime zest and lime juice.

Bang Bang Shrimp

We've had a Bonefish Grill in town for about 3 years now. I had never been there, though, until about a month ago when we were invited to dinner there. I was under the assumption that it was very expensive, food that was just okay, and overall very "chain"-y. Boy, was I wrong! The first thing that I loved about the restaurant was when we walked in and had a 20 minute wait, they had servers walking around with samples of their most popular appetizers, including Ahi Tuna Sashimi and Bang Bang Shrimp. I am not a fan at all of anything mayonnaise based, but I absolutely loved the Bang Bang Shrimp, and they definitely convinced me to order it as an appetizer for our table.

By the time dinner was over, if I wasn't already convinced that I would be returning, on our receipt there was a coupon for a free Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer for our next visit. Mr. Z and I returned the next week and got our free appetizer. Yum!

While we will continue to go back from time to time, I really wanted to find something similar to make at home. That way, I could try to make it a little healthier (Ha! It's still not healthy, but I bet a lot better than Bonefish Grill's version!), as well as being able to have that delicious dish without having to spend $75 on dinner for the two of us. I struck gold when I found this recipe- with a few small tweaks that I made, it tastes very similar to the original version (I made double the sauce because Mr. Z likes a lot of sauce on food). I served it over jasmine rice, because that's what I had on hand- delicious!


Bang Bang Shrimp
from FoodNetwork.com, written as I made it

Ingredients:
1 c. mayonnaise
3 tbsp. chili garlic sauce
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. rice vinegar
vegetable oil (enough to cover about 1/2" of the pan)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. flour
1/2 plain breadcrumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Mix mayonnaise, chili sauce, honey, and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat vegetable oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Mix flour, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. Working in two batches, dip half the shrimp into the flour mixture, then in the beaten eggs, then back into the flour mixture, making sure to coat completely. Place shrimp in the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel to let the oil drip off. Repeat with remaining shrimp. Put shrimp into a large bowl, then pour sauce on top and toss to coat completely.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pudding Pops

I've had this recipe saved since I first saw it on my Google Reader, which was oh...only about 6 weeks ago! And, believe it or not, I bought pudding mix to make this oh...only about 6 weeks ago. But, with everything going on, I kept forgetting about it.

Well, when I looked at the calendar and realized summer (and the season for popsicles!) is almost over, I decided I needed to make these ASAP! I pulled out my new popsicle molds and two packages of banana cream pie pudding mix and got to work. These were so good- I'd even venture to say they were better than store bought popsicles- and even better was the fact that they are so customizable. I liked these so much that I might even be a rebel and make them in other flavors well into fall!


Pudding Pops
from Proceed with Caution, written as I made it

Ingredients:
2 3.4 oz. pkgs. instant pudding (I used banana cream pie flavor)
3 c. cold milk

In a large bowl, mix pudding and milk together until smooth. Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to instructions on ice cream maker. Transfer to popsicle molds and freeze until popsicles are completely frozen.

Chicken Parmesan

I think chicken parmesan is very hard to mess up. I mean, it's pretty great no matter where you get it or who made it. However, that said, there are some places that are much, much better than others. Mr. Z and I both especially love homemade chicken parmesan. Mr. Z loves when I make it, and I love when Mr. Z makes it from time to time.

We don't really use a recipe per se. It is so simple to make, that we just kind of made up the recipe as we went along the first time we made it, using many different recipes as inspiration. I wasn't sure if I should post a recipe for this dish because of the fact that it is so easy and simple. But I figured, what the heck? I may help someone make a delicious meal if they don't already have a good recipe!


Chicken Parmesan
Original Recipe

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 c. Italian style breadcrumbs
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied then cut in half
1/2 c. flour
1 egg, beaten
mozzarella cheese for topping
1 lb. spaghetti
16 oz. spaghetti sauce

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Mix breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese together in a shallow bowl. Dip chicken in flour, covering completely. Dip into beaten egg, then in breadcrumb mixture.

Put chicken into the oil, and cook for about 6 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked and the outside starts to brown. Take chicken out of the oil, and set aside for several minutes to let the oil drip off. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put chicken on cookie sheet and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 8 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble.

Cook spaghetti according to directions on box. Mix in sauce. Serve chicken over spaghetti.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cashew Chicken

After a long day yesterday, I did not feel like spending an hour making dinner. But, I had already taken chicken breasts out for dinner, so I wanted to make something instead of going out. I did what I do every time I need to find something to make for dinner...searched my Google Reader!

Luckily for me, last weekend I went through all my starred recipes and labeled them so it's much easier for me to find what I need. I was really looking for a recipe using ingredients I already had on hand, and this one fit the bill. I had everything at home already, except for the green onions, which is why I left them out. I also didn't feel like waiting around for the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes like the recipe says, so I didn't. This meal was great served with rice. I've never actually tried cashew chicken at a Chinese restaurant, so I don't have anything to compare it to. But now that I have this recipe, I won't even need to get it at a restaurant!


Cashew Chicken

from Milk & Honey, written as I made it

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
2 tbsp. dry sherry
1 tsp. ground ginger
3 1/2 tsp. cornstarch, separated
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil, separated
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 c. cashews

Mix sherry, ginger, 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Toss chicken with the mixture and set aside. In another bowl, mix chicken broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and 2 tsp. cornstarch.

Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until it starts to brown, or about 8 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside. Add 1 tsp. oil, garlic, and cashews to the pan. Cook until garlic softens, or about 1 minute. Add chicken back to the pan, whisk the chicken broth mixture, and add sauce to pan. Cook until sauce starts to bubble and thicken (about 3 minutes). Serve over rice.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mini Caramel Apples

Okay, so these probably don't technically count as a recipe, but they were so cute, I had to share! These were so easy to make! I made them tonight at someone else's house for a small family get together, and they were devoured. I forgot my camera, so I was hoping to bring a couple home to take pictures of, but I had no such luck...by time I went back in to grab a few, they were gone! Luckily, I took a couple pictures with Mr. Z's phone beforehand, just in case. I would like to apologize for them being pretty crappy pictures, though.

I made these just to eat by themselves and just because I thought they were adorable, but I just know I will come up with some other cute ideas for them and make them again very soon!


Mini Caramel Apples
from From Glitter to Gumdrops, written as I made it

Ingredients:
4 medium sized apples (I used Golden Delicious)
1-11 oz. bag of caramel bits (or you could use the individually wrapped caramels)
toothpicks

Using a melon baller, scoop balls out of the apple (I got about 8 balls out of each apple).
Stick toothpicks into the top (skin) side of each apple. Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper. Melt caramel according to the package. Dip apple pieces into the caramel and let excess drip off the bottom. Place upright on the wax paper. Refrigerate until caramel starts to firm.

Note: I would definitely suggest adding water little by little to melt the caramel. The package called for 2 tbsp. of water for the whole bag of caramel, which I used. The caramel ended up being way too watery and most of the caramel slipped off the apples.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chicken Piccata

I never actually tried chicken piccata until about two and a half years ago. Mr. Z and I went to a meeting with a potential caterer to do a taste test, and they prepared samples of their most popular foods. We ended up using them to cater our wedding. To me, the decision was made after I tasted the chicken piccata. I wondered why I waited 20-something years to try this amazing dish. Honestly, I don't think anyone's rendition could ever measure up to the one at our wedding, but this one comes pretty darn close.

I have been making this since right after our wedding on a pretty regular basis, but I just checked back and realized I never blogged about it. We like to serve this with pasta to make a full meal. I could definitely eat this a couple times a month with no complaints.


Chicken Piccata
from SimplyRecipes.com, written as I made it

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied then cut in half
salt and pepper
1/4 c. flour + 2 tbsp. flour, separated
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter, separated
1/2 c. chicken broth
splash of white wine
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge in 1/4 c. flour. Heat olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts to the pan and cook about 6 minutes on each side, or until browned. Set chicken breasts aside.

Add 2 tbsp. flour, 1 tbsp. butter, chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, and capers, and deglaze the pan. Cook until sauce starts to bubble. Add chicken breasts back to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Serve immediately over pasta.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Yoplait Whips Giveaway Winner

The winner of the Yoplait Whips Giveaway, as chosen by random.org is was entry #3, Tyler from Tyler's Taste Tests!

Tyler, you have been contacted via e-mail. Congratulations and thank you all for entering!