Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Steak Fajita Nachos

Of course you know how to make nachos!  But what about fajita nachos?  Hmm? 

2 pounds skirt steak
2 teaspoons fajita seasoning (see below)
1 can refried beans
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/4 cup corn oil
12 corn tortillas
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced

1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 (16 ounce) package shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup nacho jalapenos (optional)

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, quartered

Fajita Seasoning:
1 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tbsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander  
(or substitute one store bought seasoning packet)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix seasoning and rub over beef.  Slice into 1 inch strips and set aside.  Heat about 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet.  Core and slice peppers and slice onions and add to oil.  Stir fry for about 5-10 minutes or until soft, then remove from pan and set aside - cover to keep warm.  Dice avocado and also set aside.

Heat oil in another skillet over medium-high heat.  Cut tortillas in half, then cut in half again to make 4 triangular pieces per tortilla. Fry until crisp, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt.  Next, layer the tortilla chips along the bottom of a large baking dish.  Use a butter knife to spread the beans evenly over each chip.  Be sure to stack evenly so that there are no gaps, doubling up the chips if necessary.  Sprinkle cheese over the beans.  Bake in preheated oven until cheese and beans are bubbly, about 15 minutes.

While the nachos are in the oven, return the skillet that the vegetables were cooked in to the stove.  Turn heat to high.  When skillet begins to smoke, add beef and cook quickly to desired temperature.  Cover to retain heat.

When the nachos are ready, remove from the oven.  Time to assemble!  Add the meat, vegetables, and avocado.  Dollop a bit of sour cream on top.  Garnish with jalapenos, cilantro, and lime wedges.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Blueberry Whipped Cream

I made this cake and had extra blueberries left over, so on a whim, I came up with this blueberry whipped cream.  Yum!

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for dusting 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9 inch bundt pan.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, then gently stir in the sour cream and vanilla.  Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the batter just until blended.  Fold in blueberries.

Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan.  In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans.  Sprinkle half of this mixture over the batter in the pan.  Spoon remaining batter over the top, and then sprinkle the remaining pecan mixture over.  Use a knife or thin spatula to swirl the sugar layer into the cake.

Bake for 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool over a wire rack.  Invert onto a serving plate, and dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Blueberry Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups cool whip
1 cup blueberries
5 ounces cream cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip all of the ingredients except the blueberries until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and mix in blueberries with a spoon.  Serve on the side with warm cake.

Chipotle Shrimp with Avocado Salsa

I liked this dish so much, I made it twice in the last month!  I served it as an appetizer both times, but it would also be delicious as a main course.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 tablespoon chipotle salsa (canned)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Avocado Salsa:
1 large avocado, peeled, and cut into chunks
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tomatillos, husked, washed, and chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Directions: Slice the ends off of the garlic cloves, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until soft.  Mix olive oil, chipotle, and seasonings in a large bowl.  Squeeze roasted garlic in and smash into mixture.  Add the shrimp and toss to coat.

Marinate for about 30 minutes.  When ready to cook, heat a stovetop or outdoor grill to medium-high.  Grill the shrimp until translucent and pink, about 2 minutes per side (may be slightly longer if using large shrimp).
For salsa - Place onion, jalapeno, tomatillo, and garlic in a food processor and process until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and add avocado, cilantro, and salt.  Serve with shrimp.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Obviously, I meant to post this in October.

1 package spice cake mix and required ingredients

For Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 package cream cheese (8 oz), room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Food coloring: green and orange
One ice cream cone (for pumpkin stem)

Prepare cake batter according to package directions.  Bake in a bundt cake pan for required time.  Invert cake onto a platter or wire rack and cool cake completely.

While the cake is in the oven, beat the cream cheese and butter until blended.  Gradually beat in sugar.  Mix in maple syrup and vanilla.  Spoon 1/2 cup frosting into a small bowl and stir in green food coloring.  Spread half the green frosting onto the outside of the ice cream cone and place in the refrigerator.  Reserve remaining frosting for later use.

Add the orange food coloring to the remaining white frosting.  Spread on the cake to resemble a pumpkin.  Invert the green ice cream cone into the hole for the pumpkin stem.  Pipe the reserved green frosting in vertical lines down the side of the cake.
Tips: I made this cake twice - once for Halloween, once to bring to a party.  The first time, I didn't reserve enough frosting to pipe enough lines, so it didn't look quite as much like a pumpkin (see above!).  So be sure to reserve enough...

Also, the consistency of the frosting will somewhat depend on the thickness of the maple syrup.  If the frosting is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar; if the frosting is too thick, add a bit of milk.  Enjoy!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup

This is a fun take on candied yams, for the holiday festivities. Also, am I getting better at taking these photos or what?!?

Serves 6-8

3 sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt and pepper, to taste (optional - if you prefer sweet to savory, sprinkle with brown sugar)

Bake the potatoes 400 degrees for about an hour, or until soft.  If you are in a rush, you can boil these without losing too much flavor.

Slice the potatoes open and scoop out the insides.  Place in a bowl and add butter and preferred seasoning(s).  Mash the potatoes in the bowl, or use a hand mixer.
Warm the syrup in the microwave for about 30-60 seconds.  When ready to serve, drizzle warm maple syrup over the top of the potatoes.  If you are using the brown sugar, you can sprinkle a bit over the top for crunch.  I also considered adding a few mini-marshmallows as a garnish but I didn't have any on hand.  Just an idea for you....   Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwich Bites

This is a warm, satisfying lunch for the darkest depths of winter, or you can serve it as an appetizer.

3 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bulbs garlic
1 white onion
1 red bell pepper
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mini Sandwiches:
1 french loaf
8 oz provolone (or cheese of your choice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel onion and cut into quarters.  Slice ends off of garlic bulbs.  Place the vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast until vegetables are slightly charred and tender, or about 20 minutes.

Squeeze garlic out of skin.  Slice bell pepper open and scrape out seeds.  Place roasted vegetables in a food processor and puree.  You can do this with an immersion blender, if you have one.  Transfer vegetable mixer to a pot and add basil, thyme, red pepper and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for about 30 minutes.

While soup is cooking, preheat oven to 350.  Slice bread into crostini sized slices and place on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in the oven for about 5 minutes, just long enough to begin to brown.  Remove from oven and place cheese slice on top of half of the bread slices, then top with another bread slice.  Return to oven and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.

When ready to serve, ladle soup into a bowl and top with a sandwich.  Or, serve it on the side for dipping.

Tips -  You can make this in advance and serve the next day, just make sure to reheat the mini sandwiches in the oven so they stay crispy.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

Mmm... melty.

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
9 regular size peanut butter cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 by 13 baking pan.  In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar, peanut butter, butter, eggs and vanilla extract.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until the ingredients are combined.  Pour batter into baking dish.  Chop the peanut butter cups into 4 pieces each.  Place the chopped peanut butter cups into the blondie batter and press them in.
Bake for 20 minutes or until set.  Cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cruise Ship Party

I can't recall exactly where I came up with this idea, but the thought of Kyle dressed as Captain Stubing was too amazing to resist.  Just look at the resemblance!
I dressed as Julie, the Cruise Director, and two of my brothers who were visiting dressed up as well.  My brother Lee dressed as Isaac the Bartender and my brother Ryan dressed as a sailor, one of my crew.  The fake mustaches really completed their looks.
I got a colorful wreath for the door, and advised everyone to come in their best cruise ship attire.  Kyle had the idea of posing for a picture at the helm of the ship and posting it on the entryway, to welcome the passengers aboard.
In the entryway, I filled vases with assorted fruits and put out some travel books, and some little gummy fish and candies.  And my boarding checklist, which was a very important part of my costume.

Each time someone arrived, I asked to see their boarding pass (which didn't always go over well.... a few people got confused and thought I was serious about that), gave them a lei, and had them take a photo with the captain.
I got a bunch of decorations from Shindigz, my favorite spot to buy excessively large party stuff, like the ship's wheel, and the waves.
The living room was the ship's deck.  I draped fish netting over all the furniture and stuck little blow up fish, sharks and tropical birds in it.
I hung signs for the various parts of the ship (buffet, lounge, disco) and portholes on the wall, so that we could look out at the sea...

Then for the dining room!  I got a great scene setter of a ship's deck.  As you can see, we are headed toward a few islands.
And of course I hung plastic anchors and life savers all around!
I got a really cute bamboo table runner and scattered little sea shells and plastic sea animals around it.  I also found some really great appetizer plates (end of summer sale!) that had lobsters and starfish on them that were perfect for the event.
Also, at the party store they have started doing something that is perfect for someone with OCD like me - color coordinated candy!  They don't really look like candy - the colors are so vivid that people are kind of afraid to eat them.  But they are just blue M&Ms, really, not marbles!
This hula girl is leading the way to the buffet.  I got this blow up cooler-like item online.  The day after I bought it, a friend of mine sent me a link to this very thing!  You fill it with ice and then place any cold food or beverages in it.  I must admit it is intended to be used outside, and it was a bit difficult to empty it at the end of the party without spilling gallons of melted ice water on the floor!
The hula girl and I had a small altercation later in the party...  just a misunderstanding.
The black socks are really the best part of the outfit.
I served a bunch of different tropical foods and beverages.  Here is a link to the menu - Cruise Ship Party Menu

No cruise ship would be complete without an array of drinks with little umbrellas in them!  I made three cocktails, a couple of which were my own concoctions, and then the most incredible jello shots of all time!

Come on... they are adorable!  And delicious!

Here's a fun video of us drinking a few after dinner shots....
The bar was also outfitted in tropical style.
At a certain point, Captain Masterson started drinking.  I don't endorse it, of course, but I have to be honest and let you know that is what happened.  It started with the rum.
Then came the moonshine.
 This is when the ship started to get a little shaky.
For food, I made some seafood and some grilled items.  And beer cheese in the shape of a fish!

Beer Cheese

Yes, I made two appetizers wrapped in bacon.  It seemed like the right thing to do, and no one seemed to have an issue with it.

Don't worry, I did also make a salad!

Crab Papaya Salad
For entrees, I made Kalua Pig, and a few things on the grill.

Pimento Cheese Sliders
By this time, our Captain was a little sloshed, and he performed a bit of a dance for us.

Finally, dessert!  Just a couple of light and fruity items.

Eventually the Captain changed clothes and tried on the afro.
It was a fun party and the next morning, I found a strange gift on the couch.  A single abandoned mustache.  No one has contacted me to retrieve it, but don't worry, I have it in a safe place until I find a good home for it.