Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Triple Citrus Margarita


Ok so as some of you may have noticed, V&B is now on Twitter.

Which is probably no big deal to you, but for me... huge.

You see, I don't tweet.  Or at least I didn't until last week.  Because I know nothing about it. 

And to be honest, I still don't really get it.  But I'm learning.

I signed up and then I was like.... ok now what?

I had to actually utilize the help section to see what I was supposed to even be doing.

I had to actually Google things like "RT" and "#FF" to see what those abbreviations meant.

Sad, I know.

My husband has a running comment about my blogging habits, where if I am on the computer for a while he'll ask if I'm 'vittling and bitting.'

Well last week I think I spent more time twittling than vittling.

Maybe it's karma for making fun of my dad, who for many years did not understand how to text message.

(FYI, he got over it, and now he goes crazy with the texts - "Enjoy ur weekendz, love 2 u both" was a text he sent to me & Mr. V last week.  Umm... what?)

Or maybe it's karma for laughing hysterically at my grandmother Yaya Vittles, who was about to open a large box from her children at Christmas and actually prayed "Please, Lord, don't let it be a computer - I'm too old to learn anything new."  (It was a CD player, not a computer).

And here I am...puzzled over Twitter.

Karma's a b*#$@^ isn't it?

At times like these, what really helps soothe the nerves is a nice adult beverage.

I'm actually not much of a drinker, however I am a sucker for margaritas.  One night a few weeks ago we were out with some friends and the margarita I ordered came with an orange slice in it.

It was delicious.

So when I found a margarita recipe a few days later that had not only a splash of OJ but also limoncello in it (why do you think I had limoncello available to make my strawberry shortcakes??) I was definitely intrigued.

I had to pick up a few items from the store, but I couldn't wait to make it.  And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. 

I tweaked the recipe to my taste, but the limoncello & orange juice are definitely a nice twist.  And although Mr. V doesn't typically like mixed drinks, he was surprised at how good this was.

A couple of these and... Twitter who?

Triple Citrus Margarita

  • 3 oz. fresh lime juice (about 3 medium limes)
  • 2 oz. limoncello
  • 3 oz. triple sec
  • 1/2 C. 100% agave tequila
  • splash orange juice
  • 1 to 2 t. agave nectar (optional)
  • salt & lime zest of 1 lime, for garnishing rim of glasses (optional)

Set out two serving glasses.  If using zest, zest one of the limes and mix zest with salt on a small plate.  Cut a slice from the lime, and slit segment horizontally- place over rim of one of the glasses, and run around the edge.  Dip rim of glass into salt & zest mixture.  Repeat with other glass.

Place ice in cocktail shaker.  Add fresh lime juice, limoncello, triple sec, tequila, agave nectar (if using) and orange juice and shake to combine.   Serve in glasses straight up (or on the rocks), garnished with orange and/or lime slices if desired.  Serves 2.

Recipe Inspired by Gourmantine

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ricotta Pie


I've been a busy little bee in the kitchen today, but I wanted to take a moment to share with you all a holiday recipe that is special to me - Ricotta Pie, a dessert my family makes for Easter.  

Ricotta pie is one of those treats that every Italian grandmother probably has her own recipe for (I'm sure you can find many variations on the internet) but this one comes from my dad's mother, Yaya Vittles.  

Traditionally, ricotta pie is made with either lemon or orange zest - if you don't care for citrus feel free to leave it out for a 'vanilla' flavor.   (See my notes at the bottom of the recipe).

I happen to like it both ways :)

Happy Easter!!

Ricotta Pie
  • 2 C. part-skim ricotta cheese
  • ½ C. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 t. orange zest (see note below)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 C. heavy cream
  • 1 unbaked 9” pie shell (you can use store-bought or your favorite recipe)
  • cinnamon, to taste

Prepare pie shell in 9” pie pan, and preheat oven 350 degrees.  Place ricotta in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat 2 minutes on medium-high until fluffy.  Add sugar, vanilla, and orange zest, and beat an additional 30 seconds at same speed. 

Reduce speed to low, and while mixer is running add eggs one at a time – beat gently until incorporated, scraping down sides as necessary.  Add heavy cream and beat on medium until incorporated well.

Pour filling into prepared pie shell and sprinkle top with cinnamon to taste.  Bake pie 45-55 minutes on middle rack or until filling is mostly set but the very center still jiggles a bit when you gently shake the pan.  (Do not pick up pie, just wiggle gently on rack.)  It's important that you watch the pie carefully around 45 minutes- you don't want the pie to be underbaked, but if it cooks too much it will start to poof up and the surface will crack everywhere. 

Turn off oven and prop open door slightly (use a wooden spoon if door won’t do this on its own).  Leave pie in oven for another 30 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.
Serve at room temperature or cold.  Refrigerate any leftovers.  Makes one 9-inch pie.

Note: Traditional ricotta pie is made with orange or lemon zest.  If you don’t want the pie to have a citrus taste, simply leave it out.  My grandmother sometimes sprinkles chocolate chips over the top of the pie before putting it in the oven (they sink to the bottom during baking) but this is a matter of preference.

Family Recipe

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Limoncello & Sour Cream Strawberry Shortcakes


The past few days have been rain free and sunny here at the Jersey Shore and I couldn't be happier!  It's been cloudy or raining so much lately, it was starting to get depressing.

But yesterday I was actually able to take a nice long walk after work, up to the beach and on the boardwalk.

Yep, you read that right.  The new house that we moved to is like 6 blocks from the beach!

Man, I can't wait for summer to get here.  Seriously.

That is, until it gets really hot and really crowded everywhere, and I get really cranky and say "Man, I can't wait for fall to get here."

See the little baby games my mind likes to play with me?

(P.S. One thing you will never hear me say is, "Man, I can't wait for winter to get here.")

But for now, I'm giddy for summer.  Besides the beach, one of the top things I look forward to when the weather gets warm is strawberries.

What could be better than fresh strawberries and whipped cream?

Well, actually.... strawberries and limoncello whipped cream with lemon sour cream shortcakes is pretty freakin' scrumptious.

What do you love about summer?

Limoncello & Sour Cream Strawberry Shortcakes

Biscuits:
  • 1 T. + 1 t. sugar
  • 1 t. lemon zest
  • 1 C. all purpose or cake flour
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 T. cold butter, cut in 4 pieces
  • 1/4 C. sour cream
  • 2 T. milk
  • 1 T. limoncello
  • coarse granulated sugar (optional)

Filling:
  • 2 C. sliced strawberries
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 t. limoncello
  • 1 T. + 1 t. sugar, divided
  • 1 t. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and mix with your fingers, rubbing the zest into the sugar, until blended.

Add sugar mixture to remaining dry ingredients (flour thru baking soda) in the bowl of a food processor and place butter on top - pulse until evenly distributed.  (This is the easiest way, but if you do not have a food processor, you can cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or two knives, then pick up fingerfuls of the mixture and rub it between your fingers to thoroughly blend the butter into the flour).

Add the milk, sour cream, and limoncello.  Pulse a couple of times to stir (or use a wooden spoon) until mixture forms a ball.  Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and knead only ten times - do not overwork dough.

Flatten dough into a 3/4 inch rectangle and use a biscuit cutter or glass to cut out 2 1/2 inch rounds.  Sprinkle with coarse granulated sugar if desired.  Place biscuits on ungreased baking sheet, and bake 6-8 minutes, or until biscuits are golden. 

Meanwhile, slice strawberries and toss with 1 t. sugar.  Refrigerate until ready for use.

When biscuits have cooled, make the limoncello whipped cream.  In a large bowl, combine heavy cream, 1 1/2 t. limoncello, 1 T. sugar (use more or less to taste) and 1 t. lemon zest.  Using a hand or stand-mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip until peaks form.

Cut each biscuit in half.  Fill with whipped cream and strawberries as desired and serve.  Makes 4-5 shortcakes.

Biscuit Recipe Adapted from  How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oven-Crisp Garlic Potato Wedges


Some nights you run out of time to cook something nice, and out of convenience you're forced to have hot dogs.

Other nights you want to have hot dogs... because there's just something about weird meat scraps shaped into a log that's downright delicious.

In college, I did an "off-campus study" my junior year at New York University, and my friends discovered this nearby hole-in-the-wall cafe called Westville that served the best hot dogs.

There were plenty of other things on the menu but we would go there and order two Hebrew Nationals and french fries... and sometimes snow peas & carrots to share too.

If we were feeling crazy we'd get mac & cheese to share.  But always hot dogs.

The best part was that in the winter Westville had a huge velvet curtain up by the door to block the cold air from coming in... like a nightclub or something.  So my friend nicknamed it 'Club Frank.'

(Get it, Club Frank? Because hot dogs are called franks?  Ok, just making sure :)) 

The second best part was that they sprinkled parsley on the fries so it made it seem like you were eating something much more sophisticated than hot dogs & french fries.

I googled the place for kicks today, and I saw that they've opened up not only a second location on the other side of town, but also a third... which is literally a block from my old office in Chelsea.

Umm thank goodness that wasn't there five years ago, otherwise I would have consumed enough nitrates by now to last me a lifetime.

Anyhow, my point in all this is - when you want hot dogs for dinner, you need something sassy to go with them.

Enter oven-crisp garlic potato wedges.

Over the years I have tried sooo many different recipes for baked french fries, and they just never come out well.  They're always edible, but rarely can they hold a candle to deep-fried, restaurant-style fries.

But these bad boys are a happy medium between fried and baked - you cook them in a little bit of oil that's been pre-heated in a very hot oven, so the outside gets crispy but the inside stays fluffy.

Mmm... crispy yet fluffy.  Potato wedge perfection.


Mr. Vittles really liked them too... although he asked if they were St. Patty's Day fries because of the parsley on top.

Ah well.  It seems the sophistication of Club Frank has been lost on my husband.

Oven-Crisp Garlic Potato Wedges

  • 2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 6 T. canola oil, divided
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 t. chili powder
  • 3/4 t. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Prepare heavy-duty rimmed metal baking sheet with 1/4 C. oil, tilting to coat pan, and set aside. 

Place potato wedges in a medium microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave 3-5 minutes until translucent around edges, shaking bowl to redistribute potatoes halfway through. 

Line a large cutting board or your countertop with paper towels.  Remove potatoes from microwave and place on paper towels.  Blot dry with additional paper towels.  (If the wedges are wet, they won't crisp well, so try to get rid of as much moisture as you can.)

Meanwhile, place baking sheet with oil into preheated oven, for 5-7 minutes until just smoking.  In large bowl, whisk remaining 2 T. oil with cornstarch, salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder.  Add potatoes and toss with rubber spatula to coat. 
 
Remove oiled pan from oven and place potatoes on sheet in single layer, with flat sides down.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy,  flipping to other flat side halfway through.  Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and blot with additional towels.  Serve warm.
 
Recipe Adapted from Cook's Country

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Snickers Cookies


If you're a regular reader, you know that our shower was leaking through the ceiling and had to be fixed.


And since it's an old house that hasn't been updated much since it was built, our landlords decided it was probably best to re-do the shower, two of the bathroom walls, and also the floor.

This means we've had a contractor here every day this past week, working on the bathroom (which, by the way, was apparently fortified to withstand a nuclear attack - the walls consisted of not only plaster but also wire mesh, steel bars, and 2 inches of concrete!)

The contractor was here while I was making the chocolate mousse, and one of his workers caught me out in the back of our house taking photographs.  I know how odd this must have looked, so I explained that I have a food blog and was taking pictures for a post.

Then later I was talking to them all, and he brought up the blog to his co-workers.  "This girl has the luckiest husband in the world," he said.  "She has a food blog."

This was met with a murmur of excitement, and prompted comments about food they had smelled in the house previously (namely slow-cooker pulled pork - more on that soon!) so I offered to make them something.  

I knew I had to find something extra delicious, so I went to one of my go-to baking blogs - Brown Eyed Baker.  I'm sure a lot of you are already familiar with it, but if you haven't checked it out you must.  She has the most mouth-watering desserts!

I found these cookies and knew I had a winner.  What's not to like about soft, sugary peanut butter cookies with chunks of Snickers and milk chocolate chips?

I saved a few for Mr. Vittles and I, and left the rest in a ziploc bag in the bathroom.  The next day, I never saw the contractor and his guys but the entire bag was gone so... I guess they weren't too bad.  :)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Snickers Cookies

  • 1¼ C. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ t. baking soda
  • ½ t. baking powder
  • ¼ t. salt
  • ½ C. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C. creamy peanut butter
  • ¾ C. granulated sugar
  • ½ C. light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. milk
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1½ C. chopped Snickers candy bars (about 4 regular size bars)
  • 3/4 C. milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the milk and the vanilla extract and mix again.

Add the flour mixture and beat until flour disappears. Stir in the chopped Snickers and chocolate chips.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets.  Gently flatten each cookie ball with the palm of your hand. Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until cookies are slightly brown on the edges.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 to 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Makes 24.

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stir-Fried Chicken & Snow Peas


"Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now & then."

This was Mr. Vittles' comment when I told him I made rice tonight without burning it to the bottom of the pan.

Hmph.  Jerk.

But alas, it's true.  I. CAN'T. MAKE. RICE.

I do alright with the oven rice.  On the stove... not so much.

I know it's a very simple thing.   But for some reason I just can never get it right.

Tonight, however, the stars aligned and the food gods smiled down upon my kitchen.

My rice did not stick to the bottom of the pan...


...and I made this yummy stir fry with one of my favorite vegetables - snow peas!

Stir-Fried Chicken & Snow Peas

  • 3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts (tenders or thin sliced recommended)
  • 6 oz. snow peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, as desired
  • 2 T. canola oil 
  • 1/2 t. minced garlic
  • shredded carrots, to taste (optional)
  • 2 C. cooked white rice, for serving
Marinade:
  • 1 T. light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 t. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 t. sesame oil
  • 1/2 t. lime juice
  • 1 1/2 t. cornstarch
Sauce:
  • 2 T. water
  • 1 T. light soy sauce
  • 1 t. lime juice
  • 1 1/2 t. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 t. granulated sugar
  • 1 t. cornstarch

Cut the chicken into strips. In a medium bowl, combine the marinade ingredients, adding the cornstarch last. Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the sauce and ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients, whisking in the cornstarch. String the snow peas, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 2 T. oil.   When the oil is hot, add the chicken strips. Sautee, turning as necessary, until strips are cooked through.

Using tongs or a fork, remove chicken strips to a bowl or plate and set aside. Add garlic & salt to the skillet. Add the snow peas and stir-fry until the they turn bright green (about 2 minutes).

Add the chicken back into the pan.  Briefly whisk sauce and add to the middle of the skillet, stirring quickly to thicken. When the sauce thickens, stir all together to distribute evenly. Heat through and serve hot with rice.  Serves 2.

Recipe Adapted from About.com

Monday, April 11, 2011

Low-Fat Dark Chocolate Mousse


I don't know about you guys, but I love me some chocolate mousse.

My thighs on the other hand... not so much.

It was gorgeous outside today (for a change) which served as a reminder that it won't be long now before I have to put on a bathing suit.

!!

Which is something I dread every year, but I can assure you that sitting around after my foot surgery has not helped my physique in the least.

Now I know I make a lot of recipes on this blog that are not diet-friendly...

Ok, some of them are perfectly dreadful for you.

But honestly, chocolate mousse could be one of the worst offenders.  

You know, the Sweet-Jesus-Now-I-Have-To-Undo-The-Top-Button-Of-My-Pants type of offender.

And that's low, even for me.

But anything made of more than 50% heavy cream is probably going to account for 90% of your recommended fat & calorie intake for the day. 

(I pulled that statistic out of nowhere, by the way, but I'm gonna go ahead and say it's dead-on accurate).

Soooo... when I opened up my email yesterday and saw a recipe for "Chocolate Ricotta Mousse," I was excited but also a bit skeptical.


Sure, a chocolate mousse without heavy cream is going to drastically reduce the calories... but won't the flavor go right down with it?

I mean, some things are just better left alone.  If I can't have the unbutton-my-pants version, then I'd rather skip it.

But the Italian in me also knows that ricotta can be amazing in desserts, so I figured what the heck.


Easter is coming up, which (in my family) means it's time for ricotta pie - so I'd be buying the stuff anyway.

And I must say - this chocolate mousse did not disappoint. 

Much like my disclaimer about the baked donuts, I won't tell you it's just as good as the full-fat & calorie version.  But it's a darn good substitute, especially for under 200 calories a serving.

I think I just heard your bikini thank me.

Low-Fat Dark Chocolate Mousse


  • 3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (I used 2 oz. semisweet & 1 oz. bittersweet)
  • 1 C. part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 T. nonfat greek yogurt
  • 2 T. fat-free half-and-half
  • 1/4 t. vanilla

In glass measuring cup or small microwave-safe bowl, place chopped chocolate. Microwave in 15-second increments, stirring after each, until melted & smooth. 
Place ricotta, yogurt, half-and-half, and vanilla in bowl of food processor.  Cover and process until smooth.  With food processor running, pour in melted chocolate until well combined (mixture will stiffen up).  Spoon into ramekins and serve, or refrigerate up to 24 hours.  Serves 4.

Recipe Slightly Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens' Heart-Healthy Living

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Baked Mini Apple Cider Donuts


Ok so I finally got with the times and bought myself a donut pan

Not that it takes up much space, but with our smaller kitchen before I felt like I didn't need to keep adding 'one more thing.'  Especially a thing that's so specialized.

The angel on my shoulder would say "Silly Maggie... how often are you really going to make donuts? You don't need a pan for that."

But last week the same mind-controlling grocery store that was selling french toast lattes had a whole huge display of fun baking items - including mini donut pans.

I lingered by the display, and the angel piped up "I don't think tha-"...

Luckily the devil on my other shoulder interrupted and said, "Put a cork in it, Angel.  Mags, you've got a huge kitchen now - you need to buy that pan." 

And I did. 

But before we go any further, let's get a few things straight.

Fried donuts are delicious. They are decadent.  They are satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and soft and cakey on the inside.

They are FRIED IN OIL, for goodness sakes.  They better be all that and a side of fries.

These, however, are baked.

They are light and airy. 

And they are delicious in their own right - but if you are looking for fried, crunchy goodness, then look elsewhere!  You will not find it in this recipe!

Just because some batter is baked in the shape of a donut does not mean it will taste like one from your local donut shop, ok???

Phew!  I just want to make sure you understand what you're making before I get complaints that these don't taste like donuts.

Now back to our scheduled programming.

As you'll see in my recipe note below, the first two batches I made were just finished with powdered sugar & cinnamon.  They were light and sweet.  (Mr. Vittles commented that they didn't really taste like donuts, but gobbled them up nonetheless - if that gives you any indication of how good or bad they are.)

The last batch I put in the toaster oven to brown the tops, dipped them in melted butter, and then dipped in a mixture of granulated sugar & cinnamon.


Mr. V and I both preferred the second batch because they were more like fried (but still with far less calories - I melted 1 T. butter for the pan of 12, and didn't even use the whole amount).

And after that batch it just so happens our landlords also came over to take a look at the shower/leaky ceiling with their contractor, and commented on how 'amazing' it smelled in the house.

I explained that I had made donuts and (with the same warnings I gave you above) offered them some.

Not only did they have one each, they specifically asked a few minutes later if they could have more.

I'd call that a success :)

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

  • 1 1/4 C. cake flour
  • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 C. apple cider
  • 1/2 C. buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • extra cinnamon & powdered or granulated sugar, for finishing
Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease mini-donut pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Place apple cider in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, then simmer about 5-7 minutes until liquid is reduced by half.  Remove pan from heat & set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add buttermilk, egg, reduced cider, and butter.  Stir until just combined.  Fill a plastic baggie with batter, then cut a small hole in the corner of the bag.  Pipe batter into each donut cup approximately one-half full.

Bake 4–6 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched. Let cool in pan for 4–5 minutes before removing.

Finish donuts with powdered/granulated sugar & cinnamon.*  Makes about 3 dozen.

*Note: I finished my donuts two ways - for the first 2 batches, I combined 1 C. powdered sugar with 1 t. cinnamon in a ziplock bag.  I then placed the donuts inside and shook the bag.  The resulting donuts were very light and spongy, and sweet.  For the last batch, I placed the donuts on a small rack, sprayed them with canola oil, then put them on a small pan & toasted them in the toaster oven until browned on top.  I then dipped the tops in melted butter, then dipped them in a mixture of granulated sugar and cinnamon.  The second batch was definitely crunchier and a bit more like fried donuts.

Recipe Adapted from Wilton

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Smoky Restaurant-Style Salsa


In addition to being a brownie snob, I'm also kind of a salsa snob. 

I rarely eat salsa out of a jar, and when I do it's only IN recipes, and only certain brands.

To be honest, I didn't even really eat salsa until I was older because I had only had the likes of Pace and Tostitos.  I'm sorry to knock those brands but... ugh!  Not good.

Then in high school my mom started making her own salsa and oh my - I can remember Lauren Vittles and I coming back to my house after a night out and devouring a huge bowl of it.

Like... 3 to 4 times a week.

For a month straight.

Yeah.  It was that addicting.

Although come to think of it,  we actually had to take a breather from it for a while because we ate so much of it we could barely stand the sight of it.

That is... until a few weeks later, when we were back off the wagon again.  Ha!

Anyway, I know I already shared with you a recipe for fresh pico de gallo & salsa verde.  But I realized on my blogoversary last week that I never shared a basic restaurant-style recipe!

I have been on a kick of using fire-roasted tomatoes in recipes though, so I decided to change things up a bit and use those in place of whole canned tomatoes.  I also used a touch of chipotle to add to the smoky flavor.

Considering all the ingredients just get thrown into the food processor, there is no excuse not to make your own delicious, fresh salsa at home.


The beauty of a salsa like this is that you can change anything to your taste.

Don't like your salsa to be spicy?  Use less jalapeno.  (The recipe below makes what I would consider a medium salsa, in regard to the level of heat).

Can't fathom the thought of using tomatoes out of a can?  Use fresh ones (and if you're really feeling frisky, you can oven-roast them yourself first.)

Love chipotle?  Double the amount below, or to taste.

You get the idea.  You're a smart cookie.

Now make it happen :)


Smoky Restaurant Style Salsa
  • 1 can (14.5 Ounce) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced tomatoes And green chilies)
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1/8 t. Sugar
  • 1/8 t. Salt
  • 1/8 t. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/4 C. cilantro (more to taste)
  • 2 t. lime juice

Combine roasted tomatoes, Rotel, red onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, chipotle, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.  Let sit in refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.  Serves 6.

Recipe Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Friday, April 1, 2011

Salted Caramel Nutella Brownies


Is it just me or has something been a little off the last few days?

I can't put my finger on it but I have just been getting a weird vibe, and odd things have been happening.

Work has been totally insane - or more specifically, the people I encounter at work have been insane.  I don't even want to get into it, so you'll just have to trust me on that.

But even at home, it's been a bit strange...

For instance, I came home from work a couple days ago to find the police parked in front of my house, "helping" a very old & very inebriated gentleman remove himself from my neighbor's lawn.

Nothing like getting sassy on a random Wednesday afternoon, and stopping for a little nap in the grass on your walk home!

Then yesterday evening, our living room ceiling started leaking water out of nowhere.  A huge patch of ceiling became saturated & discolored in a matter of minutes, and was dripping from all different parts.

Our landlords have a plumber coming to fix it and I'm sure it will be totally fine but... ahh!

Probably weirdest of all though is that my husband has not been sleeping.

Now I know a lot of people have this problem - but for Mr. V, it's like the cosmos have come to a screeching halt and turned his life upside down.

Typically, he sleeps like a rock... on tranquilizers... that's been hit over the head with a frying pan.

However, the house we recently moved to is on a bit of a busy street, and he's been having trouble sleeping with the sound of the passing cars.  So the slightest movement from me now wakes him up. 

Like... the sound of the lightswitch on the lamp.

??

Seriously.  I don't even know this man.  For years, not only could I turn off the light, I could probably unscrew the lightbulb and throw it at his head without him noticing a thing.

So now with his newfound problem, he's been setting up a sleeping bag in the only room in our house where you can't hear traffic driving by outside - our (large) closet

Which means I get to step over 7 layers of sleeping bags & random blankets in order to get to my clothes in the morning.

Crazy, I tell you.  Just crazy.

What's also crazy is that I have never put together Nutella, brownies, and salted caramel before this week.

On Monday I bought a fresh jar of Nutella at the store and was contemplating what to make with it.  I decided on brownies, and I found a good recipe on Noble Pig for Peanut Butter-Nutella Brownies.

But I was shooting for a more Nutella-y brownie, so I replaced the peanut butter with more Nutella.

Because I can.

Surprisingly, though, the Nutella flavor is still fairly subtle.  Maybe it's overpowered by the salted caramel (that was a complete afterthought)?

But who cares.  They're fudgy, rich, gooey, and absolutely delicious.

I need something to keep me sane in this mad, mad world!

Salted Caramel Nutella Brownies

  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1/2 C. unsweeteend cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter, melted
  • 3/4 C. + 2 T. sugar
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C. Nutella spread

Caramel Glaze

  • 1/4 C. heavy cream
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1/4 C. water
  • 2 T. butter, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt, divided

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 square pan (or you may line with foil & grease, if desired - will make it easier to serve later after glazed).  In small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In large microwavable bowl, melt butter in 20 second intervals, stirring after each until smooth.  Add sugar & vanilla, and whisk until well-combined.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Add cocoa mixture and whisk until fully combined. 

In glass measuring cup or other microwave-safe bowl, melt Nutella in 20-second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth and pourable consistency.  Stir into batter.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 27-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Allow to cool completely, then make glaze: in small saucepan over low heat, warm heavy cream - do not boil.  In separate medium saucepan, combine sugar & water but DO NOT STIR.  Place over medium-high heat & bring to a boil.  Cook until mixture turns an amber color, but not too dark that it looks like the sugar is burning.  (For me this took 5-7 minutes, but keep an eye on it.) 

Remove from heat and add warm cream, butter, and 1/2 t. kosher salt.  Stir gently until smooth & well combined.  Pour over cooked brownies, tilting the pan to coat.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 t. kosher salt.  Allow glaze to set before cutting/serving.

Brownie Recipe Adapted from Noble Pig; Caramel Glaze Slightly Adapted from Pioneer Woman
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