Friday, August 27, 2010

Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

This is one of my all-time favorite desserts. Whenever we go to Chili's, I try to talk Corey into getting this (it's not too hard to convince him, he loves it too). Since I know that I'll probably be full after eating my dinner, we get it as an appetizer instead. It's a whole lot easier to bring home the rest of my meal as leftovers than it is to bring this home! I adapted this recipe from one I found online and it is absolutely divine. I can't get enough of it!

Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

4 Tb. Butter, melted
2 Tb. sugar
1 cup cinnamon graham crackers, finely crushed (or 1 cup regular graham crackers, crushed plus 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For serving:
vanilla ice cream
chocolate syrup
caramel syrup
chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 9 x 9 inch baking pan. Prepare crust by mixing 4 Tb. melted butter and 2 Tb. sugar. Add graham crackers and press into baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
2. Prepare cookie layer by creaming 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add flour, soda, powder, and salt and mix until blended. Stir in coconut. Press cookie mixture over the chocolate chips. Sprinkle with 1/2 cups walnuts and press into cookie layer.
3. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until light golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, chocolate, caramel, and additional chopped walnuts.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cafe Rio-Style Burritos

Have you been to Cafe Rio? It is a Mexican restaurant here in Utah that I absolutely love. Their burritos and salads are both wildly addicting. Since I could pretty much eat it every week for the rest of my life, I figured I better figure out how to make it at home so I don't spend all of my money there. Here is a recipe for a delicious, smothered burrito a la Cafe Rio. You can really do this burrito any way you want to. Don't like green sauce? Use a can of red enchilada sauce instead. Not too crazy about black beans? Use refried. You really can't go wrong here. It's a delicious meal (one that we love having when we have friends over) and everyone seems to love it. The recipes for each of the main ingredients in this recipe have already been posted, so I've included the links below (just click on the name of each component to view the recipe). Enjoy!

Cafe Rio-Style Burritos

Sweet Mexican Rice
Honey Chipotle Black Beans (I only use 1 chipotle pepper in the whole batch and it is plenty spicy for me)
Fajita Chicken
Salsa Verde
Shredded Chedder or Monterey Jack Cheese
Pico de Gallo
Sour Cream

For each burrito, layer about 1/4 cup each of rice, beans, and chicken. Top with 2 Tb. cheese. Roll up burrito-style and place in a baking pan. Cover each burrito with 1/4 cup salsa verde and sprinkle with 1 - 2 Tb. cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, or until sauce is warm and cheese is melted. Top with pico de gallo and sour cream.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Salsa Verde

This is a recipe I got from my parents' neighbor. Her husband is from Mexico and is a professional chef, so he definitely knows what he is doing when it comes to this stuff! I use it both as a dip for chips, and also as enchilada sauce, or to smother burritos with. This makes a lot, but can be easily halved. It also freezes great, so I would recommend making the full batch and freezing half for the next time you want it. Enjoy!

Salsa Verde (Green Enchilada Sauce)

2 lbs. tomatillos, husks removed
2 cloves garlic
2 jalapenos, halved and seeded
1 medium onion, quartered
3 chicken bullion cubes
3 cups water
1 Tb. sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse tomatillos to remove the stickiness. Pound each garlic clove to open (don't chop). Place tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos, onion, bullion, and water in large pot. Boil until tomatillos and onion are tender, about 10 minutes. Add sugar, if desired, and stir to dissolve (this cuts down the acidity from the tomatillos).
2. Drain tomatillo mixture (reserving the juices) and place the tomatillo mixture and 1/2 cup of juices in a blender. Add cumin, chilies and cilantro. Blend until smooth, adding more liquid as needed to reach your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sweet Mexican Rice

This is a perfect Mexican side dish, or perfect wrapped up in a delicious burrito. I made a big batch of this last week and used it as a side for quesadillas, inside a hugely delicious burrito, and on top of a yummy salad. It's quick and simple, but full of flavor--a nice change from your average white rice.

Sweet Mexican Rice
serves 6 - 8

2 Tb. butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups white rice
3 cubes chicken bullion
3 cups water
2 Tb. sugar
juice of 1 lime
2 Tb. cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

1. Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic. Saute until translucent. Add rice and cook until lightly browned. Add chicken bullion and water, cover and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes or until water is completely cooked out. Let stand 5 minutes.
2. Mix lime juice with sugar, pour over rice and fluff with a fork. Top with cilantro if desired.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pico de Gallo

I love Mexican food. Corey and I probably eat Mexican food more than any other cuisine. Something about the freshness and spiciness just entices me every time. With so many tomatoes, peppers, and even a few onions from our garden, it's the perfect time to make a big batch of Pico de Gallo to go with any of your favorite Mexican foods (I had it with this amazing Bajio Chicken Green Chile Salad, and it is also great with my favorite Enchiladas, Taquitos, Southwestern Beef Wraps, or a delicious Cafe-Rio Style Burrito...I'll be posting that recipe later this week). Enjoy!

Pico de Gallo

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (I like to use seeded Roma tomatoes because they are nice and firm, you'll need about 5 medium)
1/2 cup diced red onion
3 Tb. chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 - 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (depending on how spicy you like it)
1/4 cup diced green pepper (optional, I throw this is if I have it on hand but it won't make or break the salsa)
garlic salt
fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and season with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 3 days. Eat with chips and dip or serve with your favorite Mexican dish, you really can't go wrong with this stuff, it is delicious!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pickled Cucumber Salad

I love this salad: let me just get that out in the open right now. This is a salad that my sister Mica has made for several family get-togethers. Every time she makes it, I savor it and love every bite, then beg for the recipe...and then she promptly forgets to give it to me. I was finally able to get the recipe from her (because I needed to bring this to her birthday dinner!) and I am thrilled to be able to make it any time I want to now.

It's super simple (only 5 ingredients) and even quicker if you use a food processor to slice the cucumbers. This is a great way to use up extra cucumbers from your garden (and shallots and jalapenos if you grow those too--our jalapenos died but our shallots did great!). It tastes fresh and delicious, just perfect for enjoying during these last weeks of summer (can you tell I'm going through summer-is-ending denial? I keep posting all sorts of summery recipes because I want to hang on to summer just as long as I can). We served this with Thai chicken, rice, and Matt's Thai Chicken soup (how do we not have a picture of that? It is amazing)! I had the leftovers the next day with a BLT. Pretty much, it's good with just about anything, and makes for a very refreshing side dish!

Pickled Cucumber Salad

2 English (hot house) cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 Tb. salt
4 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 Tb. granulated sugar

1. Toss sliced cucumber with salt (the salt draws the excess liquid out of the cucumber, this is important so that the salad is not waterery). Let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature, discard liquid, and pat cucumber dry with paper towels.
2. Toss together cucumbers, shallots, and jalapenos. Combine vinegar and sugar in small bowl and mix well. Pour over cucumber mixture and stir to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 24 hours. (I think this is best about 2 hours after it is made, that way the cucumber has time to soak up the vinegar but it doesn't get mushy).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perfect Vanilla Ice Cream

Nothing says summer like cold, creamy, homemade vanilla ice cream. This is a super-simple ice cream recipe with no eggs in it, but it still manages to be extra creamy. I've already made this twice in the last week--first on top of warm peach cobbler, then on top of warm cookie bars, then on top of my mom's homemade chocolate sheet cake (recipe to come soon), and finally just by itself as a just-before-bed snack. It is perfectly delicious any way you eat it. Hurry and enjoy this as you soak up these last few weeks of summer!

Perfect Vanilla Ice Cream
adapted from Alton Brown

1 2/3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/3 cups milk
3/4 cup + 2 Tb. granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 tsp. vanilla extract
dash salt

In large pot, scrape vanilla bean into sugar. Rub until well combined. Stir in whipping cream milk, vanilla, and salt. Add vanilla bean pod. Cook over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved (do not boil). Remove from heat and cool completely in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Freeze according to ice cream maker instructions. Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monterey Chicken

Not only does this look delicious (it's one of my favorites to make when we have company over) but it is super tasty! Really, how can you go wrong with grilled marinated chicken topped with barbecue sauce, cheese, and bacon? Garnish with some fresh chives or scallions and you've got yourself a showstopper! This is a great recipe to enjoy before the end of summer and the end of grilling season.

Monterey Chicken

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup water
2 Tb. canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tb. vinegar
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder (I like to use half regular and half chipotle)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
dash onion powder
1/2 of a 12 oz. can Sprite or 7-up

4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)
4 slices bacon, cooked crisply and sliced in half horizontally
1/4 cup barbecue sauce (I prefer bulls-eye)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or colby-jack cheese
sliced chives or scallions and/or diced tomatoes for garnish (optional)

1. Combine all marinade ingredients in gallon-size ziploc bag. Add chicken and shake to cover chicken completely. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Grill chicken over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes per side or until cooked through. Immediately top each piece with 1 Tb. barbecue sauce, 2 Tb. cheese, and 2 bacon pieces (1 slice, halved). Sprinkled with chives, scallions and/or diced tomatoes to taste. Serve immediately!

This is also my favorite fajitas recipe, see the recipe here, so you can grill up double the amount of chicken you need and make fajitas or quesadillas with the extra chicken the next night!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cookie Bars

My 10 year old nephew Jonathan made these on Sunday and brought them to my in-laws to share with everyone. I took one bite and was head-over-heels in love. I've (literally) been thinking about them ever since. It took every ounce of will power I possess (and a little willpower I borrowed from my husband) to not immediately make them when we walked in the door that night. I managed to hold out another 20 hours (mostly because I had a screaming baby to take care of), but the minute I had a chance to whip them up, I did. And proceeded to gobble down three. The rest are currently sitting downstairs taunting me, begging me to come and eat them (masochists). I'm pretty sure they won't survive the rest of the day.

The best part about these? There is only 4 ingredients, and if you're like me you probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard right now. It takes only 20 minutes to make and bake them, so you're only a few minutes away from a sweet, chocolately fix. But the real kicker is that they taste like a combination of cake batter and chocolate chip cookies. Crispy and chewy like cookies, but with a cake-like flavor. These are sooo addicting! I used white cake mix and milk chocolate chips. Jonathan used funfetti cake mix and milk chocolate chips. I hear that chocolate cake and peanut butter chips is great too. All I know is I'm going to be trying many, many varieties in the next little while because I can't get enough!

Thanks for sharing Jonathan! I had him write down the recipe for me and he knew it off the top of his head. If that doesn't spell easy, I don't know what does!

Cookie Bars
by Jonathan

P.S. I greased the pan with non-stick spray so that they would be easier to get out, and I recommend you do the same. Isn't

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Classic No-Bake Cookies

I'm pretty sure that everyone has had these at least once in their lives. I grew up on these babies and loved making them all the time when I was younger. They were also the first recipe I made in my foods class in 7th grade...which should tell you that they're quick and pretty much fool proof if a bunch of 12 year olds can make them. And I don't have to tell you that they're a crowd-please. Chocolate. Peanut Butter. Oatmeal. You really can't go wrong with ingredients like that. I brought these to a picnic with some friends recently and everyone was thrilled, and the tray was empty in no time. These are perfect for hot summer days when you're craving something sweet but don't want to turn on the oven or take a lot of time making something. I spruced mine up by drizzling them with semi-sweet and white chocolate, but even without it, they taste wonderful.

Classic No-Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 cup milk (preferably not skim)
1/2 cup butter (I use unsalted, if you use salted butter omit the additional salt)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky, I prefer smooth)
4 cups quick cooking oatmeal

1. Combine sugar, salt, cocoa, milk and butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
2. Remove from heat and cool for one minute. Add vanilla, peanut butter and oatmeal and stir until peanut butter is completely melted and mixture is well combined.
3. Immediately drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper, and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon or your fingers. Cool completely before serving. Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Grilled Chicken Gyros

One of my favorite food bloggers, Annie, calls this her all-time favorite meal. If you've seen the things Annie makes, you'll know that everything she makes looks amazing, so if it's her favorite, it must be amazing. I made this for dinner last week and I was not disappointed. I wouldn't go so far as to call it my favorite meal by any means, but all in all it was a great meal and nice to have something a little different. I would definitely make it again (only next time I'd make twice as much chicken and save half for another night to eat with rice and grilled veggies, that chicken was incredible).

Grilled Chicken Gyros
adapted slightly from Annie's Eats

2 heaping Tb. plain Greek yogurt (Yoplait makes this now and I was able to find it at Wal-Mart, or you can use regular plain yogurt but it is not as thick)
4 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 Tb. dried oregano
2 Tb. olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (breasts, tenders, or thighs)

Tzatziki Sauce:
8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 hot house (English) cucumber, shredded, or 1 regular cucumber, peeled, seeded, and shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tb. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tb. olive oil

4 pitas (I recommend whole wheat)
2 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 hot house cucumber, sliced
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1. Combine all chicken ingredients in large ziploc bag. Marinade in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and not more than 4 hours.
2. Prepare tzatziki sauce by first squeezing excess water from cucumbers. Place shredded cucumbers in papers towels and twist until the excess moisture is removed. Combine all tzatziki ingredients except olive oil. Drizzle tzatziki with olive oil, cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill chicken until completely cooked (about 5 minutes per side, depending on the type of chicken pieces you have). Let rest for 5 minutes after cooking, then cut into slices.
4. Heat pita bread (either in the oven or on the grill). Assemble pitas by layering 1/4 of the chicken, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers on each of the 4 pitas. Top with desired amount of tzatziki sauce and serve immediately.
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