Friday, March 29, 2013

Carrot Poke Cake Supreme

Ok so let me tell you all how this started.  You may or may not have heard of the blog thecountrycook.  Well Brandi posted a photo of a Pudding Poke Carrot Cake.  The photo had me drooling and all I have been able to think about for 24 hours is how to recreate it!  I am still on my use up kick and wanted to find things I had in the house to use.  So while they are definitely different, my cake was inspired by this mouth watering recipe!  Thanks Brandie for the inspiration!

Now I don't know how you roll with carrot cake, but I like it plain  No pineapple, no coconut, no nuts, no nothing.  Ok, maybe nuts.  OMGOSH definitely NO RAISINS! BLEH!  If I wanted all that stuff, I would make some kind of fruit cake!  Every time I order carrot cake for dessert I have to interrogate the wait staff on what its IN the carrot cake!  Now don't get me wrong, you can feel free to add any of those things, HOWEVER, it won't be my delicious goodness!  Who started or made this whole pineapple, coconut, raisin rule anyway, I want her number!

Ok, since I made this and hurried up and got this blog written so you could have it for Easter, I won't hold this up any longer.  I made the carrot cake from scratch.  Not difficult, and I am kinda gettin' in that whole cakes from scratch groove thang.   Also, if you use the caramel chips, they are awesome.  They are this very chewy bite here and there.  If you decide to make this cake, plain with just the icing, it will NOT be disappointing, the cake is awesome and SO moist.  But I dare you to change it up and go full wait, full speed ahead and make it like I did!  Mine isn't "poked" as well as Brandie's, but I hear she is a poke cake master!  I coulda, woulda, shoulda poked my holes bigger.  Have you ever tried getting a photo of a poke cake and slicing it in just the right place to find the pokes?!  Yea either, until now.  That cake looks like it was in a car accident now! LOL  Oh also, I poured my pudding on when it was still very liquid so it would get down into my "to small" holes.  Just work that out however you want!  Here is my Carrot Cake Supreme!!!

Carrot Cake
2 cups white granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 tsp vanila extract
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
3 cups finely grated carrots (this took 1lb plus 2 or 3 for me, but they were smallish to medium)
1 1/2 cups walnuts (crushed, smacked, or beat up)
2 small boxes of Vanilla INSTANT pudding

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray and flour it! Set that aside.   Put all ingredients except flour, and carrots, into a bowl.  Mix until completely combined.  Add in flour and mix just until the flour is absorbed.  Fold in carrots.  Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, or just until a toothpick comes out clean!  I used my kitchen aid of course but this can easily be done in a bowl with a whisk and spatuler, I mean a.  When it is done, let it cool completely before moving on. 

Using the round handle of well, anything that has a larger round handle, poke holes all over the cake! Then...prepare instant vanilla pudding according to package directions.  Whisk until combined and pour over the top of the cake.  Refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Now it is time to prepare your frosting.  It is a lightened up traditional cream cheese icing, just cut with some cool whip!

Cream Cheese Icing
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
4 tbsp softened butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 small tub of cool whip

Beat it baby!  I mean, beat with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy!

When you are all done, keep refrigerated.  I would suggest a couple of hours at least in the fridge before serving!

Enjoy a special holiday with family, friends!!

Your "Easter is so special to me" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spicy Asian Green Beans

I love green beans.  I will eat them nearly anyway you make them.  As a kid my mom grew them in her garden and I remember endless summer nights on the front porch snapping green beans so she could can them for use in the winter months.  It used to be the dreaded job, but we all had to do it and let me tell you that woman grew more green beans than I have ever seen!!

As you all know, my husband, the Chinese food master always has us eating it!  I always see these green beans on peoples plates, and on buffets, but, I have never tried them.  I am not sure why, I mean, I do love green beans, but they always seemed to look questionable to me.  I finally sucked it up the other day and tried them.  Now, I could go there, and eat only green beans.  However, as usual, I needed to add a bit more spice to mine.  I don't know how they make them, I have tried swindling other recipes from the waitresses and owner, to absolutely no avail.  Back when I was working on General Tso's Chicken, I tried, and that recipe seems to be locked up like Fort Knox.  That's fine I say, I will make my own dang green beans.  And I did! 

These are easy and quick.  In fact, this recipe is great for 2!  You can always just double it for a bigger batch.  So enjoy this twist on green beans, that I find can sometimes be a bit plain!

You will need:
1/2 lb fresh green beans
2 tsp peanut oil
1 tsp crushed or minced garlic (make that a heaping tsp)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp soy sauce
splash of water (2 tbsp approx)

Snap your green beans, just to get the ends off.  You can snap them in half or smaller pieces if you like, I prefer mine long.  Rinse them and let them drain while you begin preparing your wok.

Heat 2 tsp peanut oil in a wok or high sided skillet.  When the oil is hot, add in garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Stir constantly, do not stop or the garlic will burn.  Stir for 1 minutes and then add in the green beans.  Stir fry them for 3-4 minutes, add in water and soy sauce and stir fry another 1-2 minutes.

The beans will be crisp tender.  This is not for those who enjoy mushy green beans!!  They will have a nice crunch but, be tender.  You can omit the red pepper flakes if you don't groove on the spice!!

I hope you enjoy these delicious green beans!

Your "green beans are like green love"chefwannabe

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fortune Cookies!

I am SO excited about these.  Let me gather myself, or medicate or something before I get started!  The possibilities with these are endless, colors, flavors, fortunes, ACCKK!!

Ok.  Ready.

Only in America can we get this little gem for dessert at a Chinese restaurant, but they don't serve it in China!  HA!

Fortune cookies are as traditional as pumpkin pie in the United States.  They were allegedly created in California, but many different people claim to have made the first ones.  It doesn't really matter to me, what baffles me is how many different ones I have eaten.  Some are sweet, some are not, some taste like paste, some taste like vanilla, some are light golden, some have been brown, but didn't taste of chocolate.  I mean, it is crazy how many versions of these there must be in the world!  And don't even mention that little "add ons".  You know the little words you add on to the end of your fortune?!  I know you know what I am talking about!

If you don't have a buddy to help you, please only make 2 at a time.  They MUST be hot, (I burned my hands) when you form them or you get a cracked mess!  You can purchase white cotton gloves that would make these much easier on your hands. 

I think these would be adorable if you use food coloring, you can tailor them to any occasion or event.  The fortunes could be advice, questions, etc.  I just think they could be adorable for so many events!! I couldn't help be want to try these, it was so fun printing different "fortunes". They take a little fanangling but are so well worth the time!!  Enjoy these sweet, vanilla-ee, crunchy treats!!

Here is what you will need:
-2 large egg whites
-1 tsp vanilla
-3 tbsp vegetable oil
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-1 1/2 tsps cornstarch
-Pinch of salt
-3 tsps water
-1/2 cup sugar
-muffin tin
-cup or bowl
-White cotton gloves (optional) These babies are HOT when you have to handle them, so you have to wear gloves or suck it up!  I sucked it up, of course. HA
-12-14 "fortunes" written or typed out and cut into as small of a strip as possible, you may have to fold them in half, it is no biggie!

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  In a small bowl whip egg whites until frothy. Add in the rest of the ingredients and whisk until a smooth batter forms. 

I sprayed my cookie sheet a few times but, likely didnt NEED to.  You have to work really fast here.  I did 2 cookies at a time, trust me, it is best.  If you have someone to help you, maybe 3 at a time. 

Use a tablespoon worth of batter (approx), using the back of the spoon spread to about a 3 inch circle.  It should be really thin and you can see the pan through it in some parts.  Bake for 10 minutes, the edges will be brown.  Take them out, working like a MADWOMAN or MADMAN, use a spatula to get them up, flip them over and put your fortune in the center, fold in half and then bend in half over a cup. 

If you don't work incredibly fast, they will cool to much and crack on you both ways!  Immediately place in a muffin tin to help it hold the shape until completely cooled.  LIke this.........

Here is where I really messed up.  I forgot to take photos of the process!!! ACK!!  I was able to snap a few after to demonstrate as best as I could! There are many YouTube tutorials on it if you can't figure it out. 

This recipe, I changed up a bit is the only one that I found came out really crispy when completely cooled. These are delish and you could dip them in chocolate, use food coloring to make colored cookies, or use lemon or orange or lime juice instead of water.  The possibilities are endless, I just chose to go with a traditional cookie the first time around!

Your "wants to dip these in chocolate"chefwannabe

Friday, March 22, 2013

Deviled Eggs with Bacon

I am getting this done!  I think I have only missed posting on my regular schedule a couple of times.  I wasn't about to miss it now!  If you are reading this, I was successful!

I rarely get alot of requests for all one thing in particular.  I get a handful here and there, sometimes the same things, most times not.  BUT.  I have gotten so many requests for a basic deviled egg.   I sort of thought it was a rule you had to make them like your mother or grandmother made them?!  It isn't?! HA!  My mom was a member of team paprika.  I like paprika on top, just is nostalgic but I make mine a bit different these days.  While these do have bacon on top, they are my basic deviled egg recipe. 

Deviled eggs are sometimes a source of contention.  I have heard people make these so many different ways it is crazy!  I love hearing and reading variations.  Dill pickle relish, hot sauce, mustard, no mustard, mayo, salad dressing, topped with paprika, chives, I could go on and on.  There are as many ways to make them as there are people!!

Hard boiling your eggs in my opinion, is where a good deviled egg starts.  Here is how I do it, and it has solved my lifelong inability to perfectly peel eggs.  I will explain my method below.  Perfection every time and no nasty green ring around your yolk!

I wanted to share this with you before Easter, as it is a staple on many of your Easter tables!!
Here is what you will need, leave off the toppings if you like, but trust me, these are DEFINITELY better with bacon!

7 eggs  (I know it is an odd number, I made one extra because I always mess one up, but I didn't!)
2-3 tbsps Hellman's (or salad dressing, whichever makes your knees tingly)
1 tsp yellow mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 strip of crispy bacon
1 tbsp green onions

Place your eggs in a pot.  Fill with cold water and bring to a boil.  The SECOND it starts boiling, turn off the burner, and cover with a tight fitting lid.  Set your time for 10 minutes, exactly.  After 10 minutes, dump your water and run cold water over your eggs for a couple of minutes until the pan is cooled down.  Keep the eggs covered in cold water until you are ready to peel them.  They will peel perfecting and easily too!!

Cut your eggs in half, and carefully remove the yolks.  Most often you can just dump them right out.  Put all of the yolks into a bowl and using a fork, mush them until they are fine crumbs.  Add in mayo, mustard, salt and pepper, and mix until creamy.  I use a piping back and a 1M tip to fill my eggs, you can just use a spoon as well, the choice is yours!

When you have them all filled, crunch up your bacon and sprinkle over the top and sprinkle your finely chopped green onions over the top.

I hope you enjoy these and let me know if you try them!  Do you have a way different version?!?  Leave it in the comments below so I can try some new versions!


Your "I LOVE EASTER" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

It has been no secret, I am the number one fan of chicken noodle soup.  Soup in general excites me in ways I can't explain but the overwhelming feeling of joy I get from chicken noodle soup is both awesome, and pathetic.

So many people think of different things when they think of their own personal "classic" version of the soup.  Some think of carrots and celery and onions, others think of just the chicken and just the noodle.  Which are you?  My mom always used to make it with just chicken and just noodles.  She would say, "if I wanted vegetable soup I would make vegetable soup".  Yes, MA'AM!  Over the years I have made it so many ways, I guess, I feel like it just depends on what you like.  Wasn't that spiritual and moving?  I wish I had the secret to the most real, original, perfect chicken noodle soup, but I gotta be honest, I have never met a bowl I didn't love.  Oh wait, yes I did.  It had lima beans in it.  Please tell me WHO makes chicken noodle soup with lima beans in it?  Gross, uncalled for, and down right fraudulent.

This recipe is so easy.  I call it my "Classic Chicken Noodle Soup" because it is just that.  This recipe uses very few ingredients but you get the best payoff.  This doesn't have to be difficult, but I am going to explain each part of this, so that you can make it more homemade, or more, SEMI homemade if you choose.  It doesn't matter to me and I doubt it matters to whoever is eating it, sometimes you have time for more in depth versions and sometimes you are lucky to get anything on the table, I get it, and as long as you own it, that is all that matters!

Stock- You can use stock from the store, I just suggest you buy low sodium and I buy no MSG.  You can make your own and you can learn to do that here.  I don't care if you use bouillon or flavor bases and water.  That is all your decision in your own kitchen.  Just GET the stock people!  You can also cut your stock with some water, do 8 cups of stock and 2 of water if you like.  You made need to add more at the end, again, soupier or lots of guts, the choice is yours

Chicken- You can use boneless skinless breasts, or thighs.  You can roast them first or cut them up raw and let them cook in your stock.  If you are putting them in your stock raw, make sure to cut them small enough that they will cook in the time you are working with! You can roast a chicken which I show you here.  I happened to have half of a roast chicken in the fridge so I took the meat off and used it.  There is no law about how much you can use, if you like alot, use alot.  My recipe is just a basic, general idea!

Veggies- Add them or don't.  If your perfect soup has no veggies leave them out.  If you perfect soup has tons of carrots and that is all, use tons of carrots my friends!  I LOVE celery so I use a bit more of that.  If you don't groove on veggies in your classic chicken noodle, feed them to the rabbits!

Noodles- Here is where my taste gets a bit more precise.  In my perfect soup, I have homemade noodles, like I show you here.  I find making homemade pasta is not at all time consuming or difficult for me, but sometimes I have to use a package of dried noodles.  There are so many kinds.  You can also add in cheese tortellini or any pasta you like really.  I just stuck to the old dare I say, "classic".

Now, let's get on with my recipe:

10 cups chicken stock
1/4 of an onion finely minced
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp pepper
2 stalks of celery, chopped (use the green leafy tops too!)
2-3 cups of chicken (see above for explanation)
1- 12oz package of wide egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (1 tbsp dried)

In a medium-large pot, add in stock.  Bring to a boil and add in all of your veggies, onions, carrots, celery, poultry seasoning and pepper.  Let simmer 2-3 minutes with the lid on and then add in chicken.  Let simmer 15 minutes, with the lid on, you don't want your stock evaporating out!  Bring to a full boil and add in egg noodles.  Cook per the directions on the package.  When it is done, stir in chopped parsley and serve.

Now we all know you need crackers or a buttered roll to eat with this.  Just make sure to put the bowl up to your nose, take in the beautiful smell of the fresh veggies and chicken.  Slowly lift your spoon and lose yourself in the goodness of a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup!

Did that almost sound sexy?  Yea, didn't think so.

Your "CLASSIC" Chefwannabe

Monday, March 18, 2013

Easy Toffee Oatmeal Cookies

Can you really, ever, have to many cookie recipes in your cooking arsenal?  I don't think so either.  Especially, if you have kids, who are in activities, which require cookies, ALL the time!  Bake sales, fundraisers, treats, it is always something!

I have been making these for a long time and today, on this snowy (grrr) Sunday my husband said he was hungry for them.  Well, if my prince wants cookies, he is going to get cookies!  I hadn't made them for so long it was nice to have them again.  They are a one bowl wonder and can be done in no time flat. 

How do you eat your cookies?  Coffee?  Milk?  Are you a dunker?  Dunking grosses me out, let me be honest.  I don't get it.  Of course, I don't like drinking milk either so, perhaps that goes hand in hand.  I also like my cookies soft, and chewy, I don't groove on crunchy, hard cookies!  Shall we talk about ME some more?  Wow, so sorry about my ME tangent!

Anyway, before we get started let me remind you about all the things you can do with cookies besides just eating them!  Crumble them up on ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, put them in shakes,  crumble over fruit (grilled fruit, yum), top your brownies with crumbles of your favorite cookies, the list goes on and on!  Put them in your food processor and make cookie dust to top cakes or cover the sides of an iced cake, or a crust for a pie!

Okay, is the recipe!

1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (can use half wheat flour, 3/4 cup of each)
3 cups quick oats
1 cup toffee bits
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, adding them in the order they are listed.  On a parchment lined cookie sheet (or sprayed with a light coat of nonstick spray), drop cookies 3 to 4 inches apart.  I made larger cookies, about the size of a ping pong ball.  Bake 10-14 minutes, depending on their size.  Let cool 5 minutes on the cookie sheet and move to cooling racks until cooled completely.

HINT: If you like a softer cookie, bake on the low end of the time, if you like a crunchy cookie, bake for the higher amount of time. 

I hope you enjoy these, no matter HOW you eat them!!

Your "do you know where your cookies are?" chefwannabe

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Broken Glass Jello

Hello friends!  Hoping this finds you having a wonderful day and getting ready to enjoy your evening, doing what it is you do to relax!  Reading this blog maybe? :))

The topic tonight, is jello.  If you have been reading or following me on FB awhile you know how I feel about jello.  It is not my favorite and by that, I don't mean taste, I mean texture.  I won't get into my comparisons here but, it takes me a good bit of "talking myself through" to eat jello!  However, I was watching one of my favorite YouTube channels, and could not resist sharing this with you.  Check out the video here, Yoyomax12-Rainbow Broken Glass Jello.  I adore this channel, Tammy makes the most FUN stuff ever!  Check her out!

Like I said, since I also enjoy "fun" food, I had to share this with you all.  So I went and bought my 6 colors of jello, and while I was doing it found some awesome flavors.  Great alternatives for the old regulars, of lemon, orange, strawberry, etc.  I think I used Island Pineapple, Raspberry, and Peach instead.  Just a few examples, but when you don't eat jello on the regular, it is amazing all the cool new (to me) flavors they have!!  Just get your 6, all colors of the rainbow!  I used Blue....somethingberry and grape, lime, and those above.  Fun stuff!

Now where I grew up, jello is part of a meal.  Just as you have meat, potatoes, veggies, etc, you also have jello.  When I moved to the east coast, I would see "jello" listed as a dessert.  I was like, "whaaaaa"?  My husband (boyfriend at the time) informed me, it WAS dessert.  I checked him, before I wrecked him, "Um, NO, jello is part of dinner, not dessert, dinner".  Well, needless to say, different strokes for different folks.  I had made a jello salad for a family meal as an experiment, and I put it on the table during dinner, so I could sit back and observe.  Sure enough, nobody touched it...UNTIL I had cleared dinner from the table.  Strange. 

Anyway, this is a alot of gelatinous fun in one pan.  Jiggle it, wiggle it, or slurp it down.  Just enjoy it!

You will need:
6 colors of jello (I used blue, red, purple, green, orange, yellow)
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 packets unflavored gelatin

Use 6 bowls, of about the same size.  I used square Rubbermaid bowls.  You need one bowl for each color.  Put one box of jello per bowl.  Now, add 1 cup boiling water to each bowl, one at a time, mix thoroughly until the jello is dissolved.  Remember just ONE cup, do not follow the pkg instructions, as it will call for 2 cups of water. When you have mix them all put into the refrigerator to set.  This will take a bit, so be patient. 

When the jello is set, cut it into cubes, in the bowl or you can flop it out and cut into cubes.  Do this with all of them and then put into a 9x13 pan.  Just mix up the colors so there is a little bit of everything, everywhere. Just try to make it sort of evenly distributed.  

Now, in a medium size bowl or large (4 cup) measuring cup add in both packets of unflavored gelatin, 2 cups of boiling water and sweetened condensed milk.  Mix until gelatin is dissolved and condensed milk is combine with the water and.....STOP!!!  Here is where I went a little wrong and got some blurring of colors so to speak in mine.  LET IT COOL a few minutes before pouring over the jello cubes.  Pour over and put into the fridge to set. 

There you have it.  As I was just starting to pour the condensed milk mixture over my jello cubes in my head I was thinking, "self, this is gonna melt the jello and the colors are going to run everywhere".  What I didn't tell myself was to STOP POURING.  My husband said, "Chris, it shows in BIG WHITE LETTERS right on the video to let it cool".  Sorry Tammy.  Missed that boat for sure.  It won't affect your flavor or texture or anything, just the "pretty" factor.  I still think it is pretty and it is really good! 

On that note, I hope you enjoy this fun dish/dessert, whatever you do with it!!

Your "wonders if my butt wiggles like jello when I walk" Chefwannabe

PS.  This is SO incredibly budget friendly and you can use colors that coinside with each holiday, you don't have to always use 6 different colors.  Maybe for St. Patty's Day you would want to use all green, etc...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Irish Cream Fudge

I am part Irish, so, this recipe was not only necessary, it was MANDATORY!  With the subtle but awesome flavor of Irish cream in the background, it will be mandatory for you too!!

This recipe was a complete fail the first time I made it.  Like, big, fat, hairy, FAIL.  Not pretty in the least.  Then as I decided I could salvage it for icing on a cake, BAM the dog literally sticks his paw in it, trying to paw my arm while I was bent over getting the pan out of the fridge.  Yes, I did say "salvage it for icing".  It was sad.

Since St. Patricks Day falls on a Sunday this year, I am guessing many of you will be either celebrating Saturday night OR, calling out of work on Monday?  Green beer people, it does a body good!  So does red beer, which is an entirely different post.

What are your St. Patricks Day traditions?  Isn't it funny how so many of us corned beef and cabbage and that is a completely American "thing" for St. Patty's Day?  I don't care, I LOVE it and you can bet I am picking up a couple of extra's for the freezer to eat later, when I need to relive my corned beef dreams down the road! 

St. Patty's Day, is a special day for our family as well.  My sister..........Patty.....(my parents ROCK don't they?) was born!  Wishing you a wonderful birthday Patty!!  She is older than I am, but that's right, everyone in my family is OLDER than I am.  Just makes me giddy with happiness!  Enjoy your St. patricks Day friends!!

Irish Cream Fudge
2 12oz bags of white chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (you won't use the whole can)
1/3 cup Irish Cream (whatever brand you choose)

Prepare an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper on the bottom, leaving the paper longer than needed so you can lift the fudge easily out of the pan when it is ready to serve.  Spray with a light coat of nonstick cooking spray as well. 
On low heat, add all ingredients into a medium saucepan.  Stir continuously until all of the white chocolate chips are melted.  Pour into the prepared pan, smooth so it is even.  Refrigerate until set and hard.  Use the long sides of the parchment to lift it out and easily cut into serving pieces.

Couldn't be easier could it?!  It will be a hit.  There is just enough Irish cream flavor to rock your socks off but not over powering! 


Your "I always forget to wear green" Chefwannabe

Monday, March 11, 2013

Just For 2 - Pork Medallions In Cream Sauce

Well here we are, the first recipe in a series of "Just For 2" recipes.  Thank you for your overwhelming response to my request on Facebook for recipes you would like to see made just for two!  I know so many of you are single, empty nesters, or just wanted maybe a romantic meal to fix that special someone!

My parents are home alone these days and when I am visiting or when someone is heading to their house I like to send meals made just for 2.  They don't need enough for an army, not even a small army.  I like knowing they have healthy, homemade food in the freezer they can take out and just heat up.  My mom cooked for 12 for about 40 some years, I think she can take a break now!  So if you have parents who are getting older, or don't get around like they used to, this is a great meal idea to make in individual foil containers, and put in their freezer!  Always make sure to give them directions on reheating too!!  As I mention below, I made this in 2 individual size, oven safe dishes I have, but it can easily be put in just a very small casserole dish as well! 

I also think this is a great romantic evening at home meal.  It isn't difficult, even a cooking novice can do it, and do it well.  Light some candles, dim the lights, put on some good soft music and.........EAT!!

This is actually a bit of a figure friendly recipe.  The cream sauce is chicken stock and skim milk.  Nothing heavy about it.  The pork is lean and the breadcrumb topping, well, sorry but it must not be skipped!

Here is what you will need:

2 boneless pork chops (mine were just over 8oz a piece)
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste (be careful especially if your stock isn't low sodium)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp skim milk
1 tbsp cream cheese
1/4-1/2 cup bread crumbs
olive oil (any kind will do)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Thin slice your pork chops into "medallions".  However you choose to do that, go for it!  When both chops are thinly sliced, place in a bowl and sprinkle with onion powder, dried basil, and salt and pepper.  Be careful with the salt, especially if you aren't using low sodium chicken stock.  Use a light hand, remember everyone can salt their own to taste. 

Now heat a medium skillet up with some olive oil, place your pork in the skillet and let it brown.  It will likely cook all the way through depending on how think you cut your pork, but if it doesn't, it will be going in the oven so don't sweat it!  Cook until nicely browned and nearly cooked through.  Place unto a plate and set aside. 

In the same skillet, with all that flavor stuck to the bottom, add in butter and flour, whisk together until butter is melted and flour has cooked about 1 minute.  Add in chicken stock and whisk, scraping up all the good bits of flavor from the bottom of the skillet!  Let simmer for 2 minutes whisking constantly, add in milk and cream cheese and whisk until combined.  Now take your pork, add it back into the gravy and stir to coat.  Place half of the mixture in each individual serving dish.  You can also add to a small 2 serving size casserole dish.  Top with breadcrumbs and drizzle the top with olive oil.  Bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Into the oven they go!
You will have tender meat with a light gravy, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs.  SO delicious!  I served with with a side of egg noodles.  For 2 I used 8 ounces of dried pasta, cooked according to package directions and tossed with fresh parsley, butter, and black pepper. 

I am so glad you all seemed interested in a few of these "Just for 2" meals.  I hope you love this first one and give it a try.  It is a little fancier than plain chops, a few more steps, yet, as easy, and doubly delicious!!

Your "made this just for 2 today" chefwannabe

PS.  This can be also be made for more.  Just double or triple the recipe as needed. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Breaded Mozzarella Sticks

It is such a sunny beautiful day, I can't believe I am inside writing.  The sun is glorious, the sky is blue, oh...oops, I forgot about that snow part.  It is close to gone, maybe this weekend when we are supposed to get thunder storms, it will finish melting away!  This crazy weather out here. UGH.  So I guess the fact that it is 30 degrees outside keeps my flops in the closet and my shorts in the drawer, but soon friends.......very soon, I will be blogging from the patio! WOOHOO!

Last weekend on my husbands Friday which is actually Saturday, he sent me an email from work with a list of things he wanted to cook over his weekend.  He had even listed out the ingredients we needed to pick up.  Is that supportive or what?  He assured me I had his permission to blog any or all of his projects!  Oh what a mess we made, the songs we sang, the dances we made up and the fun we had!  This is one of the recipes we worked on and made.  So good.....devilishly good!

We had considered making our homemade mozz for this recipe but instead took the easy route and purchased a block of mozz.  I get it at Walmart, because I can't find it in block form anywhere else.  I believe (because I admit I threw the pkg away before I checked) it is a 16oz block.  Let's just go with it, OK?

Here is what you need:
16 ounce block of mozzarella cheese cut into 12 equal size "sticks"
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp garlic powder
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup SEASONED breadcrumbs (panko or regular, I used panko)
peanut oil

In one bowl add flour, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste, mix and set aside.  In another bowl add in 3 eggs, and combine.  You can also add a bit of salt and pepper here as well if you like.  In your last bowl place your breadcrumbs.

Dip your mozzarella stick in flour, dust off, dip in egg mixture, back in the flour, back in the egg and then breadcrumbs.  You are double dipping in the egg and flour for extra seal and crunch!  Prepare all cheese in the same manner and place on a platter.  Now, place in the freezer for at least 1 hour, 2 is better but 1 will work.  In a medium pot, add your peanut oil, 2-3 inches high.  Preheat to 350 degrees F.   Fry 2-3 at a time depending on the size of your pot of oil.  It will take approx 2 minutes per side, more or less depending on your temp and frying set up.  When it is golden brown flip that baby and let the other side tan up too!

Remove and drain on paper towels.  Serve with a side of marinara!! (recipe below)

This is our new go to marinara for dipping or sometimes even pizza sauce
In a small pot combine:

28oz can of tomato sauce
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
2 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper
red pepper flake (optional)

Let simmer for 3-4 minutes stirring constantly.  Serve!

These turned out beautiful, crispy and luscious!  I mean, fried cheese, how could that EVER be wrong? 

Your "frying madness"chefwannabe

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pretzels, Sweet, Savory and Stuffed!

Good evening ladies, gents and children of ALL ages!  I hope your day has been wonderful and your evening is off to a relaxing start!!

I have made soft pretzels so many times, for so many years and I realized, though I always share photos with you I have never shared my recipe with you!  How RUDE of me?  These remind my husband of home (Jersey) and my dad of home (Philly) and I enjoy making them a batch every chance I get.  I know what is like to miss the flavors and people of home so I do what I can!  Oh, in fact I have a great photo of the 2 of them enjoying some last Father's Day!!  See these mustard lovin' guys?  I call them my "easties"!

Mustard is the topping of choice in our family although I like to make cinnamon and sugar ones that we dip in caramel sauce or cream cheese icing! Ack!  You can see in the photo some are topped with kosher salt and some are not, those are the sweet ones.  You can also see the pretzel dog bites on the top!

I hope that you enjoy these soft pretzels, they are not hard, just a little time consuming, nah, not even all that time consuming, just make them, you won't regret it!  This is a really basic recipe, I have made just a few changes to.

1 1/2 cups water (110 degrees)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 packet of yeast
2 tbsp melted butter
4 1/2 cups flour

7 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda

1 egg
Kosher salt
Cinnamon Sugar (1 tbsp cinnamon+1/4 cup graulated sugar)

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add in water, sugar, salt and sprinkle yeast over the top.  Let it sit for 5 minutes and become foaming on top before you continue.  Fit your mixer with the dough hook!  Add in melted butter and flour and let it go for 4-6 minutes.  The dough should be nice and uniform in color and texture, it will have cleaned off the entire bowl of all flour and liquid like this....


Turn out into a bowl that has been coated in oil or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Cover and let sit for 1 hour in a warm place.  The dough should double in size.  It will look like this...

In a large, wide pot or a roasting pan, fill with water and baking soda and begin bringing this to a boil.  Preheat oven to 450.  Get 2 cookie sheets ready by laying them with parchment paper and spraying with nonstick spray on top of that, then, set aside.

At this point you will turn the dough out unto a floured surface.  You have  couple of options.  Well I am sure you have way more options than that, I just used these 2 options!

1. Divide into 12 pieces, roll into a snake and shape into a U shape.  Take the ends at the top of each side of the U, criss cross them downward and smoosh into the bottom part of the U. (I now realize I should have double twisted the crisscross, sue me)  Making a pretzel shape.  Do this with all 12 pieces.  OR

2.  Using all beef hot dogs or little smokies, take a small ball of dough 1 inch in diameter and flatten it out.  Lay a piece of all beef hot dog or 1 little smokie in the center and wrap the dough around, sealing on the bottom. 

3.  Do half and half!!  teehee

Now wait for your water to boil, and carefully place 1 pretzel at a time in for 30-40 seconds, then use a spatula/flipper to take them out.  If they are sturdy enough you can use tongs.  Lay them on your sprayed parchment lined cookie sheets.  If you are doing the hot dog bites, do the same thing. 

Now using 1 egg beaten with a splash of milk, brush the tops and sides of the pretzels/bites with it.  Then sprinkle on kosher salt or a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for a sweet pretzel. 

Pretzels 10-12 minutes
Bites 7-10 minutes.

Now as I said before, in my family we dip the savory in mustard or cheese.  We dip the sweet in caramel or cream cheese icing and of course we eat the bites with cheese or ketchup.  You do what you like, just make sure you try one of each!  It is what a GOOD chef would do! :)

Your "soft pretzels make me sweat" chefwannabe

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cheesy Chicken Alfredo Lasagna

When will I learn?  Huh?  Seriously.  When will I learn that when my husband has a request or "idea" that it will turn out amazing and I should have made it weeks ago after the initial sharing of the idea?  This is another one of his ideas, requests, "let's try its". 

He wanted me to try and make a chicken alfredo lasagna, plain and simple.  Then he wanted spinach and now he wishes we had added mushrooms.  This is how we do, folks.   When he has an idea, he emotionally exhausts me about it until I make it.  Well, maybe that is a LITTLE exaggeration but he always knows it is gonna be great and boy was it ever!  I adore my husband, in case you hadn't noticed, we have a fantastic time together.  We tease, and harp, and laugh and enjoy every moment we can, so it was no different when it came to cooking this together.  No matter what you love doing together, (keep it clean holmes) do it often and enjoy it.  We love cooking together and we sing and we dance and we do obscene motions with kitchen utensils, it is a blast!   Some of these photos I can't even post because we started photographing obscene gestures with kitchen utensils and folks, he has some blackmail material on there.  I HAVE to find that memory card!

Ok, let us get started, this seems like a process, but, eh, it isn't really.  Just keep on truckin', it seems wordy and long but it is easy. I won't make a master ingredient list because it will be to confusing so just know that everything in ORANGE are ingredients.   Just follow the directions in the order they are written.  K?  K.

Grilled Chicken
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs cut into strips or small pieces
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

Mix all ingredients together and let sit and marinate as long as possible.  If you have no time that is fine too.  In a large skillet, add in olive oil and butter.  Let the butter melt and add in chicken, saute until completely cooked through and set aside to use later.

Alfredo Sauce
6 tbsp butter
5 tbsp flour
5 cups milk
1 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt your butter most of the way then sprinkle in your flour.  Using a whisk, keep it moving around the pan for 2 minutes, add in milk and continue to whisk.  As it heats it will begin to thicken.  When it starts to thicken you can add in the cheese, keep whisking so the cheese doesn't stick.  When it has simmered until it is as thick as you want it, turn the flame off, and set aside.

1 box Lasagna Noodles

Cook per the package direction.  Drain and run cold water over the top, let drain.

Ricotta Layer
1 15oz container, whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

Mix all ingredient together until smooth and completely combined. 

4 cups grated mozzarella
6 slices provolone cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1-2 cups fresh spinach (plain or baby, but has to be FRESH)
Now, preheat your oven to 375.  Spray the bottom of your 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. 

Now to layer..........

Lasagna noodles
Ricotta (use all)
2 cups shredded mozz
Lasagna noodles
2 cups mozz cheese
Parmesan cheese

Ok, did I do that right?  Yea, I think I did. HA!! You can do it how you want really.  But the funny thing is my husband told me I would forget, and I did! LOL  Bake for approximately 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.  It is a just a matter of everything getting hot, and gooey and delish!

And here is the glorious result!!!

 Enjoy this most delicious, rich, and luxurious dish.  My husband has a foodie brain that usually translates into the real deal pretty well!!  Don't you think?

Your "lasagna dreams" chefwannabe


Friday, March 1, 2013

Peanut Butter and Honey Stuffed French Toast

This is one of my happiest accidents to date.  (Minus the less than stellar photo, my apologies for that).  What you are all being introduced to as Peanut Butter and Honey Struffed French Toast, started out as a fried Pb and J!  It goes something like this...

I wanted to try frying a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just for the heck of it.  I wanted it batter dipped, not breaded though.  I made my sandwich and we only had strawberry jelly.  I wanted grape.  So, having grown up on peanut butter and honey I thought to myself, "Self, how about using honey instead, it will be awesome".  So, sandwich is made.   I decide on my batter dip, and get it all mixed up.  Remember I only made one sandwich so I wanted to get it right the first time.  I put it in my oil, let it work its magic, took it out and waaaa laaaa.  Perfection.  Almost.  It wasn't crispy, I WANTED crispy.  My husband comes walking in and says, "OMGOSH you made stuffed french toast?".  OMGOSH...I DID!  That is how this was born.  The story was amazing, right?  NOT.  But just goes to show, no matter what you do, you can rarely screw up so bad something won't work.  So I made a couple more, we drizzled on a little syrup, dusted on some powdered sugar and here you have it. 

Now, could you bake this?  No, you can't.  Not my version anyway, not with the batter dip.  I think if you used more of a custard, it wouldn't be the same, at all.  They take seconds to fry and heck, why not, right?  If you like peanut butter and honey, this is your sweetest dream come true, I promise!  Oh and see how I cut mine?  In our house, that means love!!! 

For your sandwiches you will need:
Peanut Butter (crunchy or creamy your choice)
Honey (could also use jelly if you feel so inclined)
Bread (plain in a bag sandwich bread, any kind you prefer)

Batter: (enough for 2 sandwiches, or 8 pieces)
1/2 cup flour
1/2-3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Get your oil in a pan and  heat it to 350 degrees.  While that is happening...

Make your peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  Peanut butter on one side and honey on the other.  Use a bit more than you might normally use.  Cut into 4 pieces, however you wish.  You know how we cut a sandwich into 4 pieces at my house!

Dip each quarter into the batter.  Just make sure it is all covered, and let the excess drip off for a second.  Place into your oil and fry.  This will literally take 30-60 seconds per side.  It simply depends on the temperature of your oil.  You have nothing to melt, or cook so when you achieve the level of "brown" you want, flip and repeat!  Drain on paper towels and serve dusted with powdered sugar and maybe a little syrup!!

Enjoy these for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack!!! Kids will love it and so will YOU!
Your "happy accident, is my middle name"'chefwannabe