Slow Cooker Sunday: Scalloped Potatoes

In my last Slow Cooker Sunday recipe you may recall that I mentioned purchasing a new booking filled with recipes tailored for 2 people. Well, I was beginning to lose hope that the recipes in the book were good. I had two fails, well, they weren’t really fails, I just didn’t like the way they tasted in the end so that’s sort of a fail, but, more so due to my taste buds than the recipe itself I should say. But then I tried another recipe and my faith was restored. Sounds kind of funny to say about a cookbook, but, I am sure some of you will understand. No one likes buying a cookbook only to discover that a majority of the recipes you try aren’t appealing. So, what was this recipe…? Scalloped Potatoes. You might be scratching your heads wondering what could be so special about them since you could easily make them in the oven – which I have. But, the few times I have made them I ended up with overcooked and undercooked potatoes in the same dish. No Bueno! Following this slow cooker recipe I ended up with perfectly cooked potatoes that held their shape and didn’t fall apart easily… YAY!

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture to share with you. The one picture I did take didn’t make the dish look all that appetizing. I was planning on baking a cake and wanted to move my slow cooker out of the way to pull out my stand mixer so I transferred the potatoes to a dish without taking a picture of them in the slow cooker and when I transferred them, even with my best effort, I wasn’t able to transfer them as one dish and then ended up breaking apart a little. Oops!

I began by slicing three russet potatoes into thin slices. They were roughly 1/8-inch thick. In a medium bowl I combined a chopped yellow onion, minced garlic, grated Havarti & white Cheddar cheese, dried basil, salt and pepper. After spraying the insert of my slow cooker with cooking spray I placed a layer of potatoes and then sprinkled the cheese mixture over it. I did this a few more times ending with a layer of potatoes.

In a small saucepan I heated heavy cream and butter over high heat until the butter melted. I then poured this mixture over the potatoes and sprinkled the top with grated parmesan cheese.

After covering and cooking it on low for 7 hours I had the best scalloped potatoes I have ever made.

 

Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients:

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup grated Havarti cheese

1 cup grated white cheddar cheese

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Directions:

Spray the insert of the slow cooker with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine the onion, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and Havarti & Cheddar cheeses. Stir to combine.

Begin by placing a layer of potatoes in the bottom the slow cooker, top with the cheese mixture. Continue this layering pattern finishing with the potatoes.

In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream and butter on high heat until the butter melts. Pour this over the potatoes and then top with the Parmesan cheese.

Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

Recipe slightly adapted from The Complete Slow Cooking for Two Cookbook

Teriyaki Barbecue Pineapple Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner

Sheet Pan Dinners… They are pretty ingenious. You combine all of your ingredients on a pan, cook it in the oven and dinner is ready. It switches the idea of one pot cooking to a pan and lends itself to an easy and quick clean-up. You can’t beat that. Recently during a lull at work I clicked on a link for 50 sheet pan dinner recipes and came across a few that caught my eye. One is for gnocchi that included a variation to use Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi which I currently have a bag of in my freezer. It took me a few trips to Trader Joe’s to finally find it since it’s apparently so popular. On a side note, I normally shy away from making frozen meals or snacks, but I am coming to love some of the frozen food in Trader Joe’s. Some of my faves, their mozzarella sticks, chicken and cilantro wontons, and Mandarin Orange Chicken. Back to the recipe for today though… a Teriyaki Barbecue Pineapple Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner. That’s a mouthful of a recipe title for sure, but, one that turns out a delicious end product.

I began by chopping some of my ingredients into bite-sized pieces: chicken breasts, a green and yellow bell pepper, and a sweet onion. I combined them with broccoli florets – I purchased a bag of these in the produce section – and a can of drained pineapple chunks in a large zip-top bag. In a medium bowl I whisked together the ingredients for the marinade: soy sauce, barbecue sauce, minced garlic, pineapple juice (from the can of pineapple chunks), honey and pepper. I poured some of the marinade into the bag, reserving a cup, and then sealed it and shook and massaged the bag to make sure the marinade was evenly distributed throughout it. I then placed it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. You could leave it in longer if you have the time.

After the 30 minutes I preheated my oven to 400 F and using a slotted spoon I transferred the chicken and vegetables to a large baking sheet. You want to transfer as little as the marinade from the bag to the pan as possible as the chicken and vegetables will create more liquid as they cook. I then placed it in the oven and cooked it for 20 minutes. The recipe stated 10 minutes but when I checked the chicken at that point it looked way to underdone for my taste so I left it in for another 10 minutes. While the chicken and vegetables were in the oven, I poured the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and simmered it over medium-low heat until it was thickened.

Once chicken was done I removed the pan from the oven and switched it to the broiler setting. Using paper towels I soaked up some of the excess liquid on the pan and then poured the thickened marinade over the chicken and vegetables and stirred it all together. I placed the pan back in the oven and broiled it for about 6 minutes. To go along with this I made rice and had the perfect dinner (and leftovers.)

And there you have it… My first sheet pan dinner that I am sure I will be making again.

 

Teriyaki Barbecue Pineapple Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner

Ingredients:

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 orange bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 sweet onion, cut into bite-sized pieces

20 oz. can pineapple chunks in pineapple juice, drained and the juice reserved

 

For the marinade:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 cup barbecue sauce

1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

Directions:

Combine the chicken, peppers, onion and pineapple in a large zip top bag.

In a medium bowl combine the ingredients for the marinade and whisk them together. Reserve 1 cup of the marinade and pour the rest into the zip top bag.

Seal the bag and shake and massage the marinade into the meat until it’s evenly distributed. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Using a slotted spoon (or tongs) transfer the contents from the zip top bag to a sheet pan in a single layer. You don’t want to transfer too much of the marinade since the chicken and vegetables will let off their own liquid as it cooks. Discard the leftover marinade.

Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Until the chicken is just about done.

Meanwhile, pour the reserved cup of marinade in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue simmering until the sauce is thickened and has reduced by half.

Remove the pan from the oven and switch the oven to the broiler setting.

Use paper towels to remove any liquid from the pan. Pour the thickened sauce over the chicken and vegetables and lightly toss to coat.

Return the pan to the oven and broil for 5-7 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the chicken and vegetables are browned.

Serve with rice or noodles.

Recipe from Yellow Bliss Road

Chocolate Cheesecake with a Mint Cookie Crust

I got the idea for this cheesecake after watching a So Yummy video post on Instagram. It had a layer of melted chocolate mint cookies serving as the crust to a chocolate cheesecake. After searching for their recipe I decided it might be a little too sweet for my taste – it involved 4 cans of sweetened condensed milk. Yikes! So, I decided to improvise a bit.

I began by processing about 25 thin mint cookies (I used Keebler’s Grasshopper Cookies) in my food processor into fine crumbs. I then added in 3 tablespoons of melted butter and pulsed the mixture until it was combined. Next, I pressed the crumbs into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

In a microwave safe bowl I combined a 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips with milk and microwaved it until the chocolate chips began melting. I heated the mixture two times at 40 seconds. I stirred the mixture until the chocolate chips had completed melted and the mixture was smooth.

Next I made the cream cheese mixture. In a large bowl I beat together cream cheese and sugar using a handheld mixer on low speed. Once the two ingredients were thoroughly combined I added in 4 large eggs, one at a time. Beating well after each addition. Finally, I stirred in vanilla extract and flour.

After combining the cooled chocolate and cream cheese mixture I then poured it into my prepared crust. I placed the pan on a baking sheet and then baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about an hour. Once the cheesecake was done I turned off the oven and open the door a bit and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for an additional hour. After the hour, I removed the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool completely before covering it and placing it in the refrigerator overnight.

I topped it with a few mint leaves…

And then sliced myself a piece. The cheesecake was perfectly creamy and not overly sweet and the crust had the perfect hint of mint.

Chocolate Cheesecake with a Mint Chocolate Crust

Ingredients:

Crust:

25 chocolate mint cookies

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 

Cheesecake:

1/2 cup milk*

1 12oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 8oz. packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons flour

 

*I used whole milk, but, you could use 2% or skim

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Make the crust: Using a food processor process the cookies until they become fine crumbs. Add in the melted butter and continue mixing until the mixture is combined. Press the crumbs along the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  Place the pan on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a microwave proof bowl combine the chocolate chips and the milk. Heat in the microwave in 30-second intervals. Stirring between each time. Once the chocolate chips have begun to melt continue to stir until the chocolate chips are completed melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and sugar together using a handheld mixer on low speed until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine well after each addition. Add in the vanilla and flour.

Stir the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture. Stir the mixture well so that the two are well incorporated.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pie crust and place in the oven on top of the baking sheet.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the cake 1-inch from the edge comes out clean. The center of the cheesecake may not look set, but that is okay.

Turn the oven off and open the door a few inches and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour to cool. After the hour, transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, cover the cheesecake and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

 

Margarita Cheesecake

Instead of drinking a margarita this past Sunday for Cinco de Mayo I opted to bake one instead in the form of a cheesecake. While this was a great dessert to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the light lime flavor also makes it perfect for the upcoming warmer months of the summer.

I began by making the crust. I crushed Nilla Wafers into crumbs and then combined it with melted butter and then pressed it into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. I then placed it in the refrigerator until the cheesecake mixture was ready. While I used Nilla Wafers for my crust, you could opt to get the salty rim of a traditional margarita in the form of a crust made with crushed pretzels instead.

Using a hand mixer I bet three room temperature 8oz. blocks of cream cheese until it was light and fluffy. I then added in sour cream, sugar, Grand Marnier, tequila, freshly squeezed lime juice and lime zest. I continued beating everything on medium speed until it was well combined. I then added in four eggs one at a time. On the off chance you taste the filling and think that it’s too much alcohol don’t worry, the alcohol flavor will burn off while the cheesecake is baking. On the converse side, if you feel like it’s not enough now would be the time to add in more.

I poured the filling into the prepared pan and then placed it on a baking sheet and baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about 50 minutes, or until the center was just set.

A few minutes before removing the cheesecake from the oven I combined sugar, lime juice and sour cream in a small bowl. After removing the cheesecake from the oven I spread this sour cream mixture over the cheesecake and then placed it back in the oven for an additional five minutes.  This gives the cheesecake a nice topping and one other thing I like about it, it hides any cracks.

I then placed the cheesecake on a wire rack to cool and then placed it in the refrigerator for a few hours for it to chill.

Before serving, I removed the ring from the pan and garnished the cheesecake with thin slices of lime.

Margarita Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups vanilla wafer cookie crumbs*

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 8oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups sour cream, divided

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier**

3 tablespoons gold tequila**

4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

2 teaspoons lime zest

4 large eggs

Thin lime slices, for garnish

 

*I used Nilla Wafers

**I used the 5cl/50ml sized bottles. Each had exactly 3 tablespoons. For the tequila, I used Jose Cuervo Gold.

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix the cookie crumbs and butter in a medium bowl until well blended. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and 1-inch up the side of a 9-inch springform pan.  Refrigerate.

In a large bowl beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in 1 cup of sour cream, 1 cup of sugar, Grand Marnier, tequila, 3 tablespoons of the lime juice and the lime zest and beat until well combined. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating until just blended after each addition.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling into the crust. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the center is just set, about 50 minutes. In a small bowl combine the remaining sour cream, sugar and lime juice and stir well to combine. Pour this over of the cheesecake and smooth with an offset spatula. Return the cheesecake to oven for an additional 5 minutes.

Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours prior to serving.

Before serving, remove the ring from the pan and garnish the cheesecake with the lime slices.

Recipe from Food Network

Churro Cake with a Spiced Chocolate Sauce

With Cinco de Mayo just a few days away (and it falling on the weekend this year) you may be searching for some fun and delicious recipes to make. If you’re thinking of making churros but aren’t keen on the idea of having to fry them or just want a fun alternative how about a Churro Cake with a Spiced Chocolate Sauce for drizzling over it. And don’t worry, you will still have the cinnamon sugar coating that makes a churro extra yummy.

I began by combining my dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt – in a medium bowl and setting it aside. In the bowl of my stand mixer I beat butter, sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until it was light and fluffy – about five minutes. I then added in four eggs and two egg yolks, one at a time. And finally I beat in sour cream. With the mixer on low, I added in the flour mixture in three parts alternating with milk. Once the mixtures were combined I poured it into a Bundt pan that I sprayed with baking spray. I tapped the pan down on my counter a few times to release any air bubbles and then baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about 50 minutes. Once the cake was done I let it sit in the pan for about 10 minutes and then inverted it on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake was cool I placed it along with the cooling rack over a large bowl. I combined cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set it aside. In another small bowl I melted three tablespoons of unsalted butter in the microwave. Next, using a pastry brush, I brushed sections of the cake with the melted butter and then sprinkled the cinnamon-sugar mix over the section. Pressing the mixture on to the cake to adhere it. Hence me placing the rack over a large bowl, any excess melted butter and cinnamon sugar mixture simply fell into the bowl, making for an easier clean-up. You want to do this in sections, if you simply brush the entire cake and then tried sprinkling it with the cinnamon sugar it will not adhere to the cake as well (or at all) since the butter will seep into the cake.

Next, I made the chocolate sauce to go along with the cake. I combined half and half, chile powder, dark brown sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract and salt in a small saucepan. I brought it to a simmer over medium heat and then removed it from the heat and added in semi-sweet chocolate chips. I let the mixture stand for a few minutes and then stirred it until it was smooth.

The best way to eat this… With the chocolate sauce drizzled over the cake. YUM! This cake was hit amongst my friends with some of us going back for seconds and practically drenching the cake with the sauce – it’s that GOOD!

Churro Cake with a Spiced Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

2 3/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

3/4 cup whole milk

 

For the Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

For the Spiced Chocolate Sauce:

1 1/4 cups half-and-half

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon chile powder**

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*

 

*original recipe called for 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

**If you want your sauce to have more of a kick add in 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of chile powder

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prep a Bundt pan by spraying it with baking spray (or brushing it with butter and then coating it with flour).

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a handheld mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then the egg yolks. Beat in the sour cream. Reduce the speed to low and add in the flour mixture in three parts alternating with the milk. Beat until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles. Smooth the top of the batter with a spatula and then place in the oven for about 50 – 55 minutes. Until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then loosen the edges with your cake tested or butter knife and invert the cake on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake has cooled make the topping.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Place the cake along with the rack over a large bowl. Working in sections, brush the cake with the melted butter and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the cake, pressing to adhere it to the cake.

To make the spiced chocolate sauce combine all of the ingredients, minus the chocolate chips, in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add in the chocolate chips. Let it sit for 2 minutes and then stir until smooth.

Serve the cake with the spiced chocolate sauce.

Recipe from Food Network

Mess Free Piping

I’ve been seeing people use plastic wrap inside of their piping bags for some time now- on other blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.- especially when piping two or more colors together to create a fun swirl on a cupcake or to pipe flowers. I haven’t had a reason to try it until this past weekend when I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting to go along with the carrot cake I made for Easter. Carrot cake is usually not a hit amongst kids so I decided I should bake something that was more kid friendly and you can you can’t get more kid friendly than a chocolate cupcake with colorful frosting.

After tinting the frosting I placed small amounts of it on a decent sized piece of plastic wrap as below.

Next I folded the plastic wrap in half and then simply rolled the entire thing to create a cylinder shape and tightly wound the ends of the plastic wrap so the frosting couldn’t “escape.” I quickly realized that I may have placed too much frosting on the plastic wrap since I didn’t have too much plastic wrap on the ends to wind together.

I then snipped one of the ends of the plastic wrap off and dropped it into a piping bag that I had already fitting with a Wilton 2D piping tip.

And I simply piped a large rosette on the cupcake to get this beautiful and colorful top.

I used the same technique to decorate the top of my Easter cake, using pastel colors to match the Mini Cadbury Eggs I placed on top of the cake. Instead of rosettes though, I simply decorated the cake with drop flowers, once again using the Wilton 2D piping tip.

In all honesty I think I will be using this plastic wrap method going forward with all of my cake decorating / piping. One of the things I dislike about using piping bag is no matter how tight I wind the top of the bag or use a rubber band to seal it, frosting always seems to seep out. And also, I just find it super messy having to refill the bag with more frosting while I am decorating. With this method I can simply remove the plastic wrap wrapped frosting and drop in another. Yes, I may be using extra plastic wrap doing this, but, it’s worth it.

Bunny Hug Cookies

Still looking for something fun and simple to bake for Easter… These Bunny Hug Cookies are quick, easy and adorable. You’ll need three things to make them – sugar cookie dough (use your favorite recipe or go the short-cut route like I did and use a store bought prepackaged mix), Cadbury Mini Eggs and a gingerbread man cookie cutter. You may be scratching your head on that last one, but, I’ll get to that in a few.

Since I opted to use store bought, more specifically Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Mix, I didn’t have to wait for the dough to chill in the refrigerator as is necessary with most sugar cookie recipes made from scratch. So, once the dough came together I rolled it out on a lightly floured surface and cut out the bunny shape. Here’s the trick to using a gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut out a bunny, hold it upside down. The legs are then the bunny’s ears, while the gingerbread man’s head becomes the bunny’s body and the arms, well, they are still the arms on the bunny.

Once you cut out all of your cookies transfer them to a parchment lined baking sheet and place a Cadbury Mini Egg in the center of the cookie between the arms and gently wrap the arms around the egg, the arms won’t completely wrap around the egg. Lightly press the dough onto the egg so it can stick. Don’t worry if the dough slightly tears when you fold up the arms. Once you bake the cookies it will be fine. Use a toothpick to poke eyes and a nose and then bake the cookies in a 350 F (anything higher and the Cadbury eggs will crack miserably) for about 8 -10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden around the edge. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. If you find that the nose and eyes have disappeared while baking use the toothpick once again to redefine them while the cookies are still warm.

And there you have it… Bunny Hug Cookies!