Sunday, June 23, 2013

Barbecue Jack Burgers & Baked Fries

On Friday night, we planned on taking my parents to Waikiki to see the Friday fireworks and drink lava flows on the beach. However, it was rainy so we ended up staying in, grilling out, and playing Setters of Catan, which was just fine by all of us. After the trade winds blew out the grill a few times, we finally got it lit and got going.

2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 cup BBQ sauce - I used Jack Daniel's original
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
sea salt
garlic salt

2 large Russet potatoes, sliced in 1/3 inch fries
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt
garlic salt

This ended up making 8 burgers, so I froze 4 for later. For the fries, just coat the potatoes with oil and salt, and baking them at 450 for 25 minutes. Turn them and bake them for 25 more minutes. This was good with Jack and Coke :)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

I made this one for another friend's birthday, and it was so, so, so delicious. It was soft and gooey and literally melted in my mouth. I used Emeril's recipe, so no surprise that it was awesome. The 2 sticks of butter probably didn't hurt.

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars together, and then all one egg at a time. Add the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Add the vanilla extract, and then fold in the chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough on a greased circular pan and bake it at 375 for about 20 minutes. Mine ran over the sides of the pan a little bit, so I put a large cookie sheet underneath to catch it.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

I tried a new recipe for a friend's birthday cake, and it was so awesome! I found this in an old church cookbook. Southern church ladies really never disappoint when it comes to baked goods, and this will definitely be replacing my old go-to red velvet recipe.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups cugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz red food coloring
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
1/2 cup prepared plain hot coffee

2 8-oz packs of cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 stick butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and vegetable oil. Add in the eggs one at a time, followed by the buttermilk, vanilla extract, red food coloring, vinegar, and coffee. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into greased and floured round cake pans, and bake it at 325 for 30-40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on a cooling rack until the pans are warm to the touch. Take the cakes out of the pans and cool them completely before icing.

To make the icing, mix the cream cheese, milk, butter, and vanilla with a hand mixer until smooth. Mix in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Peach Ice Cream

For the past week or so, I have really been missing Georgia. Hawaii is incredible, beautiful, and serene, but as the saying goes, there's no place like home. While we mostly miss our friends and family, we aren't ashamed to have a weekly conversation about a longed-for Chickfila milkshake. I decided to give this peach ice cream a go, and I was so glad I did! It's really awesome, and it made a lot, so I dropped it off at Luke's office so we wouldn't eat the whole batch by ourselves.

3 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups sugar
5 peaches, pitted and pureed
2 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Mix it all together and blend it in the ice cream maker! Easy and  sweet.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cinnamon Coffee Ice Cream Cake

This was a doozy but so worth every second put into it. There are 5 layers to this ice cream cake, and all of them tasted amazing individually and together. I sampled each one a few times just to make sure.

2 rows of Oreos
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Coffee Ice Cream:
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans (decaf)
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp finely ground coffee
1 tbps ground cinnamon

Fudgy Center:
1 row of Oreos
1 jar hot fudge ice cream topping
3.4 oz instant chocolate pudding

Cinnamon Ice Cream:
1 can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp vanilla
4 tbsp chocolate syrup
2 cups half & half

Chocolate Cream Topping:
2 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tbps unsweetened cocoa powder

I made the coffee ice cream first. It was pretty involved, but not too difficult. Heat the milk, sugar, coffee beans, salt, and cream in a meduim saucepan until it's warm and steaming but not boiling. Remove it from heat, cover, and let it sit for an hour. Then, reheat the mixture on medium heat until it's steaming but boiling again.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks together. Slowly pour the heated milk and sugar mixture over the eggs, whisking constantly. Put the whole mixture back into the sauce pan.

Stir this mixture over medium heat with a flat-bottomed spatula so you can scrape the bottom on the sauce pan - you don't want the eggs to cook and end up in scrambled egg pieces. Continue stirring constantly until this thickens and coats the spatula without being runny.

Pour the mixture through a strainer into another bowl. I let it sit in the strainer for a while because it was so thick that it was taking a long time to make it into the bowl. When it has strained, throw away the beans, and add the vanilla, ground coffee, and cinnamon to the mixture.  Chill this mixture in the refrigerator. Finally, run it through an ice cream maker to thicken it up. Put it back into the freezer.

While that ice cream was freezing, I made the crust, which was just ground up oreos and melted butter. Put it in the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan. Put the pan in the freezer until the crust hardens.

For the cinnamon ice cream, simply combine all of the ingredients and run it through the ice cream maker. Freeze it for about 6 hours afterward.

The fudgy center is just a mixture of the hot fudge, crushed Oreos, and pudding.

The topping is made by combining the whipping cream and vanilla and then sifting the powdered sugar and cocoa into it, whisking constantly.

When I put it all together, I spread the coffee ice cream on the crust and topped it with the fudgey center. Then I spread the cinnamon ice cream and topped it with the chocolate whipped topping.  I froze it overnight and it was ready to cut right when I took it out of the freezer to serve. This is seriously delicious. Here's a picture of the semi-melted leftover piece that doesn't do it any justice.

3 Bean Salad

This was another cool side that required no cooking and thus did not heat up my kitchen. It was good as a side and also good on tortilla chips!

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 package frozen corn, thawed
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder

Combine the beans, peppers, onion, and corn. In another bowl, combine all other ingredients. Pour the dressing over the bean mixture. I made this a day ahead as well.

Easy Pasta Salad

When lots of people come over, it tends to get hot in our house, so I decided on sides that didn't have to be cooked to reduce oven and stove top time. I made this a day ahead, and it's a really easy, cool option.

1 box rotini pasta, cooked
1 cucumber, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 bottle fat free Italian dressing (I used about 3/4 of the bottle)

Vodka Strawberry Lemonade

This was my alcoholic contribution to the coffee. I originally planned to make some sangria, but after    Luke's wet down, we had a ridiculous amount of vodka leftover, so I gave this a shot. It's very sugary - not sure how it would compare to using lemonade from concentrate, but it's probably pretty similar.

1 3/4 cups sugar
8 cups water
1 pint strawberries
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
3 cups vodka

In a deep skillet, heat the sugar and 1 cup of water, stirring it until the sugar dissolves. This is really sticky. Let it cool to room temperature. Blend the strawberries in a food processor or blender until they're smooth. Combine the strawberries, lemon juice, vodka, and remaining 7 cups of water. When the sugar water mixture is cool, mix it in. It goes down easy - maybe a little too easy : )

Being as there is a good chance there will always be a pregnant person present, I also made some plain lemonade.

1 3/4 cups sugar
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups lemon juice

Again, heat the sugar and one cup of water until the sugar dissolves. Combine it all after the sugar water cools.

Chicken and Steak Kebabs

At every place we've been with the Marine Corps so far, the wives get together for "coffees." Imagine my surprise when I went to my first wives coffee in Lawton, OK and there was no coffee to be found. I quickly realized this is just the antiquated name for monthly get togethers that may or may not involve wine depending on the duty station. So far, I like the Hawaii "coffees" best because there is always wine, or alcohol of some variety. I hosted the June coffee this week and made some of my favorite summer foods. I thought I was going to have my very own grill-master home from the rifle range to grill up some kebabs for me, but he ended up spending the night in the field, so the griddle was an acceptable substitute.

For the steak marinade, I used
olive oil
red cooking wine - don't waste the real stuff!
a little vinegar
minced garlic
sea salt
a little cumin

I made about 25 steak kebabs with 2 pieces of steak on each, so the amount of marinade is really just dependent on that. I coated the meat and let it sit overnight.

For the chicken marinade, I used
olive oil
a little vinegar
lime juice

I blended all of this in the food processor, coated the chicken, and let it sit overnight. I used squash, zucchini, and mushrooms on the kebabs.I only stabbed my finger about 4 times in the process of making 50 kebabs, so I consider this to be successful. I cooked them on the griddle, rotating them every couple of minutes or so. I kept them warm in the oven at 170 degrees for about 15 minutes until I was ready to serve them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I can't believe it's been 2 years since Luke graduated/commissioned. In some ways, it seems like USNA was so long ago just in that it was a different season of life, but in other ways, it feels like this time has flown by, probably because we've hopped around so much from  TAD to school to school. Luke was promoted last week and had his wetting down over the weekend with 6 other LTs who promoted at the same time. I made these cookies along with some other party snacks. I loved them so much that I made another 1/2 batch on Monday for the Bachelorette viewing party.

2 sticks butter (all great recipes start with this ingredient...)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar together until it's fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients one at a time until incorporated. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Sausage and Spinach Gnocchi

I always say that I am going to meal plan. I know I should meal plan. Of course it makes life easier and saves money, but I just never seem to get around to doing it to the full extent. Now that school is out for the summer, I am in the office all day with very little to do. It turns out that when kids are not at school, the behavioral health specialist has very little to do! So I used some time to meal plan last week, and we ate pretty delicious food all week long. We even had enough leftovers to get us through most of this week too. I'm hoping to be able to keep it up once summer school starts and I get a little busier because it really did make life easier. So last Friday, after a fun afternoon at the O Club with Luke's CO guest-bartending, we went home for sausage and spinach gnocchi. I wish I could say I made the gnocchi myself, but that's a feat for another day.

1 package pre-made gnocchi
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1/2 lb Italian sausage (I bought Johnsonville sausage. This won't come as a surprise to many, but it's pretty difficult to find real food/quality sausage at the Commissary)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp butter
sea salt

Bring a pot to a rolling boil and add gnocchi. Don't let the gnocchi return to a rolling boil, but let it simmer heavily until the gnocchi is floating - this doesn't take long.  Add a little salt to the water. Drain the gnocchi, but reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid.

In a skillet, cook the onions until they're soft and then add the garlic and sausage. I cut the sausage into bite sized pieces to speed along the cooking. Cook it until it browned and add the spinach, salt, and pepper. Toss it frequently until the spinach starts to wilt . Add the gnocchi and the reserved cooking liquid and toss it with the spinach and sausage. Top with some Parmesan.