Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

This is a simple side dish that goes well with roasted meats. I like to serve this with my Roasted Chickens because it’s just as easy and can be put in the oven about 45 minutes before the chickens are done.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes #sidedish #potatoes

Ingredients:

2 pounds of fingerling potatoes, any color

2-3 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Wash potatoes thoroughly to remove dirt/sand. Pat dry.
  2. Place potatoes on a heaving baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Shake pan to coat.
  3. Sprinkle with sea salt and cook until tender, up to 45 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.

Notes:

  • My local store carries several varieties of fingerlings in ready to grab bags like the one shown below.
  • To jazz it up a bit, add freshly chopped herbs like parsley, rosemary or thyme to the potatoes before cooking.
  • You could also use a flavor-infused olive oil, such as garlic olive oil.

 

bagged fingerling potatoes #sidedish #potatoes

These grab and go bags make it easy to pick the right size potatoes and come in fun color combinations!

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Rice Pilaf

Did you know that you can make rice pilaf at home without a box of Rice a Roni? Yep, it’s actually very easy. I had never made it before but had an idea of what the process would be. I was very pleased with how it turned out and it was a hit with my husband who is a pilaf fan!

Homemade Rice Pilaf

That’s one more prepackaged food gone from my pantry! I’ve already done away with pancake and biscuit mixes. I try not to use boxed cake mix unless I’m in a real time crunch. I’m finding that keeping a well stocked pantry makes it easy to make most everything from scratch.

Ingredients:

1 cup long grain white rice (I used Basmati)

3 TBSP  orzo pasta

1 TBSP butter

1 TBSP vegetable oil

1/4 cup minced onion

1 bay leaf

2 cups water

1 TBSP chicken bouillon paste

1 TBSP dried parsley flakes

Directions:

  1. Heat butter and oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add rice and orzo and cook until lightly browned.
  2. Add onion and bay leaf, stir until onion is translucent.
  3. Add water, bouillon and parsley; stir until well combined.
  4. Allow to come to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover.
  5. Cook for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Notes:

  • I think I will add a little minced fresh garlic next time, when adding the onion.
  • If you don’t have Better Than Bouillon paste, a cube of bouillon would work fine.
  • You could use chicken broth instead of water for a stronger chicken flavor.

Herbed Chicken Salad

20130314_183818

This is a great twist on a basic chicken salad. The herbs give the chicken more flavor and it goes well with a light Italian or vinegar and oil dressing. This salad works well as a lunch or complete dinner meal.

Yield: 6 Servings 

Ingredients:

3-4 chicken breasts, boneless-skinless

1 TBSP finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 TBSP olive oil

2 packages salad mix – hearts of romaine or Italian salad blend

1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced

thinly sliced red onion, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a small prep bowl mix chopped herbs, salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Apply herb seasoning evenly to chicken breasts. Cook for 5 minutes on each side.
  4. Transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet and bake until done (internal temp reaches 165°).
  5. While chicken cooking in oven assemble salads in individual large plates or bowls.
  6. Removed cooked chicken from the oven, chop and top salads.
  7. Serve with Italian dressing or simple side of oil and red wine vinegar.
Herbed Chicken Salad

Searing in the pan gives the chicken great color and flavor.

Herbed Chicken for salad

Finishing in the oven ensures thick chicken breasts such as these are thoroughly cooked.

Costco Margaritas!

Golden Margarita at CostcoI found this Kirkland Golden Margarita at Costco and it’s my new favorite drink! I’m usually not a big margarita fan, but this drink has a great balance of flavors and plenty of tequila kick without an overpowering tequila flavor. It’s a big bottle (1.75 Liters) sold for $10 at the Costco here, and was on sale recently for $8. It doesn’t get much easier than pouring some of this over ice and serving at a party.

This is not a sponsored post, I just really like this stuff and thought it’s worth mentioning. It’s a fun alternative to a glass of wine in the evening and will be a summer staple at my house this year!

Have you seen this at your Costco? If you’ve tried it, what did you think?

Chocolate Cake with Real Buttercream Frosting

This is an awesome chocolate cake! I had been eyeing this recipe in my copy of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook for a while, waiting for the right occasion to make it. Sean’s 6th birthday party seemed like the perfect time!

We were having between 30-40 people so I decided to make a double batch to fill a large 11 x 15″ cake pan. I carefully calculated the double amount of each ingredient and wrote them out ahead of time. That helps me avoid mistakes when making the recipe and make sure I buy enough ingredients to make the recipe!

chocolate cake batter

This batter is so thick and rich!

The cake batter includes buttermilk and sour cream so I knew it would be fantastic. And it was. The batter was the most delicious chocolate cake batter I have ever tasted!

chocolate buttercream spread on chocolate cake

It was so smooth and creamy and tasted delicious too!

I was a little intimidated by the buttercream frosting. I’d never made it before, and this was a real buttercream from a meringue base, not vegetable shortening. It took a while to make–melting the chopped chocolate, separating and whipping the egg whites, mixing in the butter one tablespoon at a time, but it was definitely worth the trouble! This buttercream is smooth and rich and spreads like a dream.

With the cake being so much work I kept the decorations at a minimum. We had a Lego Pirates of the Caribbean theme so I decided to make a pirate treasure map. The palm trees are plastic by the way, I wasn’t feeling that crafty at 11 pm! (They came from Michael’s craft store in the California Missions supply area.) I used some Milk Duds for rocks, blue sprinkles for the water and Wilton Turtle Brownie Crunch sprinkles for the sand.

treasure map cake

My little pirate had a great birthday!

Here is the recipe for Ina Garten’s Chocolate Buttercream Cake. It is found in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (and I found it listed online as well). I can’t say enough good things about this cookbook. I’ve made almost all of the dessert recipes and several of the others. Ina uses simple quality ingredients and most recipes are very easy. This chocolate cake and buttercream frosting is a lot more involved than other recipes in the book.

Ingredients:

For the cake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons milk

For the frosting

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup egg white, at room temperature (from 3 extra-large eggs)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
2 Tablespoons dark rum (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, butter the paper, and dust the pans with flour, knocking out any excess. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light, approximately 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix the batter only until blended.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, remove from the pans, and allow to finish cooling.

To make the frosting, chop the chocolates and melt in a bowl over simmering water until smooth. Allow to cool.

Mix the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Heat the egg whites in the bowl over simmering water until they are warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Whisk on high speed for 5 minutes or until the meringue is cool and holds a stiff peak.

Add the butter, 1 tablespoons at a time, while beating on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl, add the chocolate, vanilla, and espresso and mix for 1 minute or until the chocolate is completely blended inches If the buttercream seems very soft, allow it to cool and beat it again.

To frost the cake, place one cake layer on a serving plate, flat side up. Frost the top of that layer with buttercream. Place the second layer on top, also flat side up and frost the top and sides.

Notes:

  • I used the brewed coffee in the cake, but left out the espresso and rum in the frosting. I was afraid the coffee flavor would be too strong for the kids.
  • I made a double batch of the buttercream but it wasn’t necessary. A single batch would have been plenty since I didn’t have multiple layers to frost.
  • If you make this cake ahead be sure to refrigerate it, just to be safe. Unlike buttercream make with margarine, this will not have moisture bead up on it from refrigeration. And I just didn’t like the idea of having an uncooked meringue based frosting sitting out for 12 hours.
  • Pull the cake out of the fridge a few hours before serving so the frosting can soften. Think butter in the fridge vs butter on the counter. That stuff was hard as a rock when it first came out!

Quick Tip: Doubling (or Tripling or Halving) Recipes

Hi there, I just wanted to share a suggestion that might come in handy when you need to alter a recipe to make it larger (or smaller). If the recipe is only a few ingredients this probably isn’t necessary, but if you are making something complex take the time to do it: calculate and rewrite the recipe amounts ahead of time, in the order listed in the original recipe.

doubling recipes

I wrote out the ingredients for the cake batter and the frosting on post-its and stuck them to the cookbook.

Yes, this is a very simple tip, but it can save you so much time and keep errors from occurring during the actual cooking. If you are constantly referring back to the ingredient list and mentally doubling the ingredients as you go there is a good chance you could forget to double one or more items. It’s even more likely to happen if it is a recipe that uses a cooking technique you are not familiar with. While you are carefully reading the instructions for what to do next you may fail to do the mental math correctly on the ingredients. This also helps make sure you have enough of the ingredients on hand for the recipe!

I put this advice into practice this weekend as I made my son’s birthday cake. I decided to make a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I needed enough cake to fill an 11″x 15″ cake pan (half-sheet) so I had to double the recipe. The cake itself had a lot of steps but the buttercream frosting was more difficult because I had never made real buttercream before. I wanted to minimized the chance of error by writing out the doubled ingredients so I could concentrate on the steps. I couldn’t have a flop cake for my son’s party with 30 people coming over!

King’s Hawaiian Slider Burgers

Slider burgers are a fun twist on a family favorite. I used King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls for the buns and it was a hit with the kids and my husband. The soft sweet rolls are just the right size for sliders. I made one for each of the kids and two for us (adults).

 

Kings Hawaiian Slider Burgers

A fun and easy weeknight dinner for the family!

8-10 Slider Burgers

Ingredients:

1 package (12 count) King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

Salt, pepper

Lettuce, tomato, sliced onions, pickles

Sliced cheddar cheese

Mayo, mustard, ketchup or thousand island dressing

Directions:

  1. Slice rolls in half and set aside. Try not to eat too many as you are making dinner!
  2. Form beef into patties 3″ in diameter, 1/2″ thick. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Fry hamburgers until beef is medium-well done.
  4. Server with oven baked French fries, potato chips, potato salad, green salad or beans.