Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Month of May

I can't believe how fast the month of May has flown by. Jake and I had a super crazy and super fun month. With our schedule, I did very little cooking and when I did cook it was our favorite go-to recipes. I also missed another Tuesday. This week's recipe was Pecan Honey Sticky Buns. Madam Chow was our host. Check out her blog as well as the TWD blog to see the wonderful goodies that were made. I will be making this in the future and I will be returning next week!

Now for a slide show of the fun things we did this month...

Mother's Day weekend we traveled back to Syracuse for oodles of celebrations.
My sister-in-law's bridal shower. We were slightly hesitant about the weather but in the end bad weather held off and we had a beautiful day!

The day of the shower was also my mother-in-law's birthday! It was a milestone birthday for her but a lady never reveals her age! Isn't she beautiful :)

On the same day (yup, 3 events in one day!) my own mom graduated from Syracuse University with her bachelor's degree. She went back to school a couple years ago and she has worked very hard. I'm so proud of her!
I couldn't be at the actual ceremony because of the shower so my husband made sure she didn't take her gown off so I could see her and we could take a picture together as soon as she got home!

Through all the celebrations I managed to sneak in a baseball game to see my little brother in action!

And a weekend back to Syracuse wouldn't be complete without spending time with my sister and my niece! Aren't they beautiful!

The following weekend we had visitors back in NYC. My best friend and her husband made NYC a stop during their vacation. We had a great time.

Taken from the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) with the Empire State building in the back.

Memorial Day weekend we traveled back to Syracuse again!!
The celebration this weekend was the marriage of our wonderful, Beth and her now husband Mike. Jake and Beth (#2) taught at the same school together and co-produced two musicals during their time at the school. And, no Jake is not standing on the wrong side, he was a bridesman. Congrats, Beth and Mike!

We also got a chance to spend time with some other very close friends!
This is us with Colin, son of our friends Sam and Tim. Look at that face!

This is the whole gang minus Sam and Colin (it was his bed time!)

The Lovelies, friends since high school and beyond.

And more time with Braelyn...she loves her Uncle Jake!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TWD: Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

Its Tuesday again!!

I just want to apologize if you came last week looking for a Florida Pie. It just didn't come together for me last week. Our host was Dianne of Dianne's Dishes. Please go check out her Florida Pie!

This week's recipe was actually Madeleines chosen by Tara of Smells Like Home. At some point I will attempt to make these but I couldn't justify another pan for this week's recipe. Also, in preparation for moving this summer, we are trying to be frugal with our budget. Therefore, when the option was presented to chose a recipe from the list of completed recipes, I went looking for one to use ingredients already on my shelf. I was successful!

Apprently, I am a bit addicted to chocolate as I had all five types (or something similar) on my pantry shelf. These brownies were very easy to put together. I thought they were fantastic! As did my husband and friends that were visiting for the weekend. Not a crumb was left behind!

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies
Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours
Photo: my kitchen


For the Brownies:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
(I used semisweet chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons strong coffee
(I omitted)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces premium quality milk chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 cup store bought milk chocolate chips
(I used some leftover Easter candy-Gertrude Hawk candy bars!-1 milk chocolate with almonds bar and 1 dark chocolate bar)
1 cup chopped nuts
(I used a mixture of pecans, walnuts and the almonds from the candy bar)

For the Glaze:
6 ounces premium quality white chocolate, finely chopped or 1 cup store bought white chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
(I poured in a splash of raspberry syrup)

Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-inch
(I used and 8-inch) square baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet.
Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt.

To Make the Brownies
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add, in the following order, the butter, the two chocolates and the coffee. Keeping the pan over low heat, warm just until the butter and chocolates are melted-you don't want the ingredients to get so hot they separate, so keep an eye on the bowl. Stir gently, and when the mixture is smooth, set it aside for 5 minutes.
Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, beat the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Don't beat too vigorously-you don't want to add air to the batter-and don't be concerned about graininess. Next, stir in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. You should have a smooth, glossy batter. If you're not already using a rubber spatula, switch to one now and gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Finally, stir in the milk chocolate chips and the nuts. Scrap the batter into the pan.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out streaked but not thickly coated. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the brownies rest undisturbed for at least 30 minutes. (You can wait longer, if you'd like.)
Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the foil and place it under another rack-the foil becomes the drip catcher for the glaze. Invert the brownies onto the rack and let cool completely.

To Make the Glaze
Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Wait 30 seconds, then, using a rubber spatula, gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth.
Hold a longer metal icing spatula in one hand and the bowl of glaze in the other. Pour the glaze onto the center of the brownies and using the spatula to nudge it evenly over the surface. Don't worry if it dribbles over the edges, you can trim the sides later (or not). Refrigerate the brownies for about 20 minutes to dry the glaze.
Cut into 16 squares, each roughly 2 1/4 inches on a side.

Serve straight up-whipped cream or ice cream is unnecessary with these. Well, a little ice cream is nice-why not?

The brownies can be put back into their baking pan, wrapping (without touching the glaze) and kept at room temperature for about 3 days or frozen-glaze and all-for up to 2 months.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

TWD: Peanut Butter Torte

This week's TWD recipe was chosen by Elizabeth at Ugg Smell Food. Thank you to Elizabeth for selecting a great recipe.

I have to say I was very excited about making this. Of course, the name alone had me trying to think of where I was going to send this baked good. There was no way that the hubs and I were going to eat this by ourselves. My husband later stated, "I would eat the whole thing by myself in one sitting." A very reliable TWD source calculated that the whole torte is 208 WW points!! That left me with only 1 person who could afford to eat 208 WW points and probably not gain a single pound. I will update with reviews later as he doesn't know its coming to his house yet!

In the end I didn't love this recipe. Yes, I would probably make it again but with a few modifications. You see, my husband became very impatient on Sunday while I was making this and even before I started. At one point towards the end, he stood with his hands on his hips asking, "Can't we eat it YET?!" So, he was my kitchen assistant for this recipe.

He chose to for us to use crunchy peanut butter (I would have preferred smooth) and had I been making it alone I would have omitted the espresso powder because I don't like coffee. Truth be told I couldn't taste it in the end which honestly surprised me. The recipe uses bittersweet chocolate for the ganache and I thought it was a little too bitter. The whole torte was just a little too rich for me. However, I am not sorry I made it and neither is my husband!

Check out the other tortes at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Peanut Butter Torte


1 1/4 c. finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender (I think I ended up using a total of 30 cookies)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 c salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural; I use Skippy)
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped

Getting ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Crape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Scrape the mouse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

To Finish the Torte:

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan.

Bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and , working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.

Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.

When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the springform pan; it’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel damped with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Storing: Well covered, the torte will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days; just make sure to keep it away from foods with strong odors.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

VTV: Asparagus

This week's Vindicate the Vegetable is Asparagus! This happens to already be one of our favorites. I don't remember always liking asparagus or maybe I'd never had the opportunity to try it until a couple years ago. It grows wild on my grandma's farm. She steamed it for dinner one night and with some cheese on top, I was hooked. I still love to eat it that way.

Recently, I saw on one of the many blogs I read that someone had roasted asparagus in the oven. This is my new favorite way to eat it. We spray the pan with cooking spray, salt and pepper the asparagus and cook until fork tender.

So, I was excited for this week to find something new to do with asparagus. I found a weight watchers pasta recipe and adapted it. This came out amazing and will most certainly be seen again in my kitchen.

I doubled the sauce part of the recipe and thought it came out great. I also just roasted the asparagus and added it into the pasta with the cream sauce. If you stick to the original weight watchers recipe this recipe makes 6 servings and each serving is only 6 points. Obviously, doubling the cream part and adding asparagus changes that. But, I still felt like it was a healthy meal.

Pasta and Asparagus with Creamy Spinach Sauce
Source: Weight Watchers Recipes (my changes in blue)
Photo: my kitchen


1 lb pasta (penne or ziti) I used a long curly spaghetti like pasta
1 lb fresh spinach, stemmed
1 cup low fat cottage cheese 2 cups
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup
1/4 cup low fat milk 1/2 cup
1 pinch ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon
1-2 garlic cloves (optional) 2 cloves
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 lb roasted asparagus

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Add the spinach and 1 tablespoon salt; cook for about 1 minute.
3. Using a slotted spoon, remove the spinach (reserve the water for the pasta) and transfer it to a bowl of cold water.
4. Drain and squeeze dry the spinach.
5. Chop it coarsely.
6. Bring the spinach water back to a boil. Meanwhile, in food processor fitted with steel blade, mince the garlic (if using).
7. Add the cottage cheese and blend until fairly smooth.
8. Add the cooked spinach and milk, and blend until smooth.
9. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl.
10. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stirring to prevent sticking.
11. Cook the pasta until just tender (about 10 minutes or according to the instructions); drain well.
12. Add the pasta to the bowl with the spinach sauce and asparagus, and toss to coat.
13. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toss again.
14. Serve hot.

Gilled Chicken Caesar Pizza

When Jake and I were dating we used to have movie night. It was one night during the week dedicated to us. On occasion we would shift the night for a commitment but if we could help it, Thursday nights were spent usually having dinner and watching a movie. Ultimately it was quality time for the 2 of us. Now that we're married, we still plan a special date night but since we now live together we feel like we get a lot of quality time together.

This past week presented itself with a need for a special night. One of our movie nights included Jake making Grilled Pizza. We loved it then and haven't made it since. We thought we would try to recreate since we can't remember where the recipe came from.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Pizza
source: us
photo: our kitchen


Pizza dough
Caesar dressing (recipe to follow)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
mozzarella cheese
romaine lettuce


Roll out pizza dough on a well floured surface. Carefully move pizza dough to the rack of a grill. Note: if using an inside grill pan on the stove, be sure to ventilate the area very well as the excess flour from the pizza dough will burn quickly.
Grill the dough on both sides. You'll know when its done by the grill marks but it only takes a few minutes on each side.
Once the dough is done, move to a baking sheet.
Spread on a layer of Caesar dressing. Top with chopped chicken and mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted.
Top with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and additional Caesar dressing.

We wanted to make our own Caesar dressing for this meal and let me just say, I will never buy Caesar dressing again. This is amazing!!

Caesar Dressing


1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove of garlic (minced)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon milk

Mix all ingredients together and shake or whisk until well blended.