Dec 30, 2010

A Few Ideas to Ring in the New Year!

Here are just a few ideas that you might want to add to your New Year's Eve menu. Since Caitlin was down from Oregon, we were able to work on this blog together in the same location which was great (that's why the last couple of posts have looked a little different). We also received a great drink suggestion from Janelle Bucklin, called the "Gingertini" - we varied it ever so slightly and are sharing it with you too. Thank you Janelle! Happy New Year everyone!!! We hope to bring you even more exciting and delicious things in 2011 -we really appreciate all of you who have been following our blog over these last couple of months as it continues to evolve.

The Moska

Caitlin & Monica: Ok, we just came up with the name, not to be confused with mosca (which is Spanish for "fly"). If you are looking for something other than a bubbly drink or wondering what you are going to do with that bottle of Moscato you received over the holidays, this might be a good option for you. The addition of vodka and freshly squeezed lemon juice helps cut the sweetness of the Moscato perfectly.  Cheers!

Ingredient List
4 oz. Moscato
1 oz. Vodka (we prefer Kettle One)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Lemon wedge or twist

Combine vodka, Moscato, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into chilled glasses, garnish with lemon wedge or twist.  Enjoy!

The Gingertini

Caitlin & Monica: As we mentioned before, this recipe was given to us courtesy of Janelle Bucklin. We changed the recipe a tad, instead of adding Goldschläger we decided to add Brandy. Either idea would be fabulous. If you want that extra spicy kick - go for the Goldschläger!

Ingredient List
1 oz Brandy 
4 oz Ginger Ale
Cinnamon Sugar for the rim

Wet rim of martini glass with apple slice (which you can use to garnish, if you like).  Roll to coat rim in cinnamon-sugar.  In a cocktail shaker, combine brandy and ginger ale.  Strain and pour into a martini glass.  Drink up!

Artichoke Dip

Caitlin & Monica: This is super easy and super tasty.  The tanginess from the canned artichokes sets off the creaminess of the mayo and parmesan cheese in a perfect way.  It is easy to whip up and stick in the oven while you prepare your other nibbles and cocktails.  When you take it out of the oven it is bubbly and golden to perfection.  You can choose to serve this dip with crackers of your choice, sliced baguette or Cuban bread (which is a personal favorite), or pita chips/tortilla chips (homemade are best, but good quality store bought chips work too).  

Ingredient List
2 cans of artichokes, roughly chopped
3/4 cup low-fat or regular mayo
3/4 cup grated parmesan (more for sprinkling on top to golden)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and combine well.  Place in a baking dish, we used an oval dish. Sprinkle parmesan on top.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the dip is golden and bubbling.  

Remove, and let cool for a few minutes. It is best to serve warm,however, it tastes great at room temperature too.  

Chocolate Lollipops

Caitlin & Monica: These lollipops were inspired by Ina Garten's (aka: The Barefoot Contessa's) 2010 holiday special "Barefoot in London."  She made white chocolate lollipops with dried cherries & salted cashews for a Christmas lunch she was hosting.  Since New Year's Eve is usually about small bites, we thought that these would be perfect to serve and guests could easily walk around with their dessert on a stick.  We took her basic idea and incorporated our personal touch. The great thing about these pops is that you can personalize them with your own toppings and if you dare, you can infuse the chocolate.  Have fun!

Ingredient List
1 lb. chocolate (white, milk, dark), finely chopped  - we chose milk chocolate
dried cherries
pistachio pieces
small pretzels
crushed pepppermint (something to do with the candy canes lying around)
lollipop sticks, about 20

Place a sheet of wax paper on 2 sheet pans/baking sheets.

Place 12 oz of the chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl and  microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula, return it to the microwave for another 30 seconds, then stir again. Continue this until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately stir in the remaining 4 oz of chocolate, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. 
Using a tablespoon, pour the melted chocolate in rounds onto the wax paper and place lollipop sticks in the middle of each chocolate round, giving the stick a little twist. Work fast, because some chocolate hardens quickly. 
Sprinkle the tops of the lollipops evenly with the toppings you choose.  We made three variations:  dried cherries & salted pistachios; pretzel; and crushed peppermint.  If you find that your chocolate isn't setting quickly enough, place chocolate lollipops in fridge until set. 
You can wrap these up in individual small cello bags or you can place them standing in a short vase on your table.  They look festive and taste great!
For the Gingertini you can use 1 oz of Goldschläger, which was originally suggested.  If you opt for the Goldschläger you could add a cinnamon stick as a stirrer or just for looks.

For more creaminess, you can add cream cheese to the Artichoke Dip (about 4 oz).

If opting to use crushed peppermint on your Chocolate Lollipops you can infuse the chocolate (after it is melted) with some peppermint extract.

New Year's Eve is about festive fun (forgive us, we had to include Enrique Iglesias' huge hit from 2010 - it's a tad cheesy, but rather catchy).  Here are a few song suggestions to add to your playlist:
1)  Fight for Your Right - Beastie Boys
2)  I Wanna Be Sedated - Ramones
3)  Wanna Be Starting Something - Michael Jackson
4)  I Like It - Enrique Iglesias 
5)  Auld Lang Syne - Aretha Franklin & Billy Preston 

Dec 23, 2010

Gooey Chocolate Chip Filled Cookies, Peanut Butter Kisses, & Iced Sugar Cookies

Christmastime is here. Now for some traditional recipes to fill your cookie tray.  We decided to pick three of our favorite cookie recipes and share them with you.  They are traditional recipes with a bit of a twist (for example, in our Peanut Butter Kisses recipe, there is no shortening...yay!). Luckily, we were able to get together and bake this week, since Caitlin is visiting family in the OC and LA area. Enjoy these recipes - we think they are worthy contenders to add to Santa's plate.

Caitlin & Monica: Who doesn't love traditional holiday cookies?  We chose our top three favorites to share with you and we hope you enjoy them.  The chocolate chip cookies are so decadent and would be fantastic served warmed with a scoop of ice cream.  The peanut butter kisses taste like a Reese's peanut butter cup in cookie form (what's better than that?!).  And, if you are looking to bake with family, specifically with the little ones, the iced sugar cookies are a  perfect option.  The cookie dough rolls out easily, allowing you to use your favorite holiday cookie cutters.  Merry Christmas!

Gooey Chocolate Chip Filled Cookies
Ingredient List
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened (for about 30 minutes)
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large cold eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chocolate chips

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter and brown sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until blended.  The mixture may look slightly curdled. On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.  Mix in 2 cups of chocolate chips.

Roll 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball, flatten slightly to make a disc. Place on baking sheet, and continue making approximately 20 discs.  Make sure to place the disks 3 inches apart.  Leaving a 1/4 inch edge, lightly press 1 tbs of remaining chocolate chips onto each disk. Using the remaining cookie dough, make 20 more disks and place one on top of each chocolate chip topped disk. Press the dough disks gently so it covers any of the chocolate chip filling.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are slightly browned approximately 15 minutes.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 10 minutes,then with a wide spatula, transfer them to a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an even more decadent treat!

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.  But, they probably won't last that long!

Peanut Butter Kisses
Ingredient List
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1 large egg
  • 40 chocolate kisses

  • Method
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat peanut butter and butter with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add sugars, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients, and mix until combined.

    Scoop level tablespoons of dough, and form into balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar, and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.

    Bake until cookies are puffy, about 12 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and gently place a chocolate kiss in the center of each cookie. Transfer sheets to wire racks, and let cool completely.

    Iced Sugar Cookies
    Ingredient List
    2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup cornstarch
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    1 large egg
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    Powdered Sugar Frosting (recipe follows) or Decorating Icing
    Sprinkles & Sparkles
    Crushed Peppermint

    In a medium bowl, stir the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter, and sugar until smooth and slightly lightened in color, about 1 minute.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well blended. On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing it just to incorporate. The dough will be soft and smooth.

    Divide the dough in half and form into 2 smooth disks about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll without sticking, but not so hard that it is difficult to roll out, about 1 hour in the fridge.

    Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Lightly flour the rolling surface and rolling pin.  Unwrap one piece of dough and roll it out to about a 12-inch circle that is roughly 3/16 inch thick.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out cookies.  Use a thin metal spatula to transfer cookies to the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Continue the process for each cookie.  Should make about 24 cookies.

    Bake one sheet at a time until the edges and bottoms of the cookies are lightly browned, about 14 minutes.  Cool the cookies for 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

    To decorate use your favorite decorating icing.  Here is one we recommend:
    Powdered Sugar Frosting
    1 cup powdered sugar
    2 tbs heavy whipping cream, plus up to 2 tbs if needed
    In a small bowl, stir the powdered sugar together with enough cream to form a thick, firm frosting.  Spoon the frosting or use a pastry bag to make a design. Add your favorite decorating sprinkles or goodies and have fun!

    You can infuse your powdered sugar frosting with peppermint oil to make it even more festive.

    Caitlin & Monica:  Some of our favorite holiday songs were playing while we baked.
    1)  White Christmas - Otis Redding
    2)  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love
    3)  Baby it's Cold Outside - Willie Nelson & Norah Jones
    4)  O Holy Night - Al Green
    5)  Greensleeves - John Coltrane

    Drink of Choice
    Caitlin & Monica:  Milk and cookies are a classic combination...or possibly a vanilla chai latte.

    A Recipe to Remember?
    Of course, how can you mess with tradition?!

    Dec 17, 2010

    Chicken Scallopini with Sage Butter Sauce

    This meal is great for a busy weeknight when you don't have much time to prepare or make a complex dish but still want something tasty. Most of the ingredients are probably in your kitchen and it takes all of 30 minutes to prep and cook. What's better than that?

    Caitlin: I love the taste of sage butter sauce; in the past I've had it with mushroom stuffed ravioli, but I thought it would also taste great with a chicken scallopini. I added sauteed pancetta to my sauce for extra flavor and it was fantastic - a great combination with the sage, butter and white wine. I ended up sprinkling some fresh Parmesan cheese over the top for extra flavor, and it was even better.
    Caitlin's version with pancetta
    Monica: If you are looking to make a quick and delicious meal, then this is definitely a recipe for you. I know that we are all busy this time of year - holiday parties, shopping, decorating, wrapping, etc... and we sometimes don't have the time to spend hours in the kitchen, so for a satisfying meal, I recommend this recipe. It also encompasses the holiday flavors we crave at this time with the sage butter sauce; and you can also substitute the chicken for fish (I would recommend tilapia). I also substituted the shallot for one clove of garlic. I served mine with steamed broccoli and boiled golden potatoes. My entire meal was prepared in less than thirty minutes, perfect for Tuesday evening dinner!
    Monica's Version with garlic
    Ingredient List 
    4 Boneless chicken breasts
    2 ½ tbsp butter
    1 shallot – minced
    Fresh sage, 3-4 sprigs, finely chopped
    2 tbsp white wine
    1 cup chicken broth
    2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
    * if using pancetta, chop a few pieces
    *if using garlic instead of the shallot, finely chop 1 clove

    Pound out chicken until thin (about ¾ inch or thinner). Lightly coat with flour. Heat oil and fry chicken 5-7 minutes – remove from pan and keep warm. 

    Heat butter in skillet, add shallots and sage – cook for 2 minutes, add white wine and reduce for about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to boil, add 1-2 tbsp of flour and whisk. Add lemon juice and stir – simmer until thickened – about a minute or so. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

    **If using pancetta – fry until crispy, then add it with the shallots and sage. It adds salt to the sauce, so if using, make sure not to over salt.
    Also, you may want to add more chicken broth as it reduces. Add the chicken back to the pan and turn to coat. Serve chicken and pour sauce over.

    You can substitute garlic for the shallot. 

    Also, you can add pancetta to the sauce for the saltiness and flavor.

    Since it's such a versatile sauce, any poultry or fish would taste great, as would a stuffed ravioli. 

    Caitlin: I listened to the Velvet Underground and Nico.
    Monica: An eclectic mix accompanied my meal.
    1) Trouble Man - Marvin Gaye
    2) Como Te Extrano - Cafe Tacuba
    3) Home Sweet Home - Motley Crue
    4) The Shining - Badly Drawn Boy
    5) Eleanor Rigby - Aretha Franklin 

    Drink of Choice 
    Caitlin: I used a Sauvignon Blanc for the sauce, so I had a glass with the meal.
    Monica: Pinot Grigio is a perfect choice. 

    A Recipe to Remember? 
    Yes, it is a versatile, delicious recipe.