Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thin Mint Brownies

I have been wanting to make thin mint brownies for awhile now and since I bought a box (ok...I bought like 3 boxes girl scout cookies) not too long ago outside the local Petsmart.  Normally I see the girl scouts sell cookies outside the local grocery stores, but not this time!   

I have to confess that I did use a boxed brownie mix but you could use your favorite basic brownie recipe instead.   I've seen several different recipes for thin mint brownies and most chop up the thin mints, but I decided to leave them whole.  Minty, fudgy, caramelly, and chocolatey thin mint brownies!  Make them now, you won't regret it, I promise :P



Ingredients
1 package of brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli’s Caramel Turtle brownie mix.)
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup water
14 thin mint cookies (I used 1 sleeve of cookies with 1 extra to eat!)
 
Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.   Grease a baking pan with cooking spray.  I used a 9”x9” baking pan.  Combine egg, oil, and water in a mixing bowl and blend well.   Add in brownie mix.  Pour half the brownie batter into prepared pan.  Place thin mint cookies in rows over the brownie batter in the pan.   Pour remaining half of brownie batter over the rows of cookies.  Spread evenly.  Since my brownie mix came with a pouch of caramel, I cut a corner of the pouch and squeezed lines of caramel over the top of the brownie batter.   I created a caramel patter by pulling a knife gently through the surface of the batter and caramel.  Bake 30 to 40 minutes.  Cool completely in pan before cutting. 
Yields 16  brownies.

Jazzed Up Jiffy Cornbread Muffins


I love cornbread and I always have atleast 1 or 2 boxes of "Jiffy" corn muffin mix in my kitchen.  Cornbread would go great with yesterday's leftover chili for dinner tonight.  I decided to jazz up the mix with some scallions and cheese.  They smelled delicious baking in the oven and are great served warm.

 
Ingredients
1 package of “Jiffy” corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend of cheddar, montery jack, colby and mozzarella cheeses.)

 
Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray.  Slice scallions thinly.  Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well.   Let batter stand for 3-4 minutes and stir again.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake 15 minutes.   



Yielded 11 muffins.

 This was my dinner tonight, leftover chili, topped with cheese and fritos, and cornbread :)  Delish!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chili Rotini


Where did spring go???  It was in the high 70s last week here in DC and today its in the low 60s!  So I wanted something to warm me up tonight.  Chili is the answer!  Chili can be easily made on a weeknight and is such a flexible meal to make.  You can add almost whatever you want to chili.  You could make it more spicy depending on your taste.  I have even made chili in a slow cooker.  I love how versatile chili is and I wanted to share with you this basic chili recipe.  You also can serve this chili alone, without the pasta.


 
Ingredients
½  pound dry pasta (I used whole wheat rotini.)
½ to ¾ pound lean ground beef (You may use ground turkey instead.)
28 ounces  can crushed tomatoes
10 ounces can diced tomatoes & green chilies
15.5 ounces can black beans
15.25 ounces can whole kernel sweet corn
1 small onion
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon chili powder
1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil


Optional Toppings
1 avocado, diced
shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend of cheddar, montery jack, colby and mozzarella cheeses.)
sour cream
corn chips
scallions, chopped
cilantro, chopped
black olives, sliced

Directions

For the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain pasta.

For the chili:
Dice the onion into bite sized pieces.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet/pan/pot on medium high heat.  Add diced onion and sauté until soft.  Next, add ground beef with salt, black pepper, cumin and 1 teaspoon chili powder.   Stir onions and beef while cooking until no longer pink. 



Add diced tomatoes & green chilies.  Add crushed tomatoes.  Drain corn and black beans and add to chili.   Stir in 1 tablespoon chili powder. 

Reduce heat to medium-low heat and simmer for 30 minutes.


You can add the cooked pasta into the chili and stir to mix or you can just serve the pasta topped with chili.  Top with cheese and/or any topping(s) you would like.


Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dinner at Seasons 52

Congratulations to my brother, Stephen, and his wife, Crystal!  This past weekend was my brother's wedding and I am so happy to have a great sister-in-law!  On Friday, we had the rehearsal dinner at Seasons 52 (http://www.seasons52.com/) and I had never been there before.  We went to their Tysons Corner location inside the mall and had a private dining room for our group.  We had 4 tables of 12 in our room!  The restaurant has a nice upscale vibe despite being inside a shopping mall.  Their menu is really interesting, since nothing on their menu (http://www.seasons52.com/menu/default.asp) is over 475 calories.

I took pictures of the food with my iphone and had posted on my twitter, you can check them out here.
 
Here are more details of our private group dinner menu.

Signature Flatbread Appetizers:
Garlic Chicken Flatbread
Steak & Crimini Mushroom Flatbread

Salad:
Organic Mixed Greens Salad

Dinner Entrees, served family-style:
Wood-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Cedar Plank Salmon
Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon

Sides:
Vegetable Bouquetiere - This came with roasted sweet carrots and asparagus.  I love any vegetable that is roasted!

Dessert:
Season 52's Award-Winning Mini Indulgences - individual servings of classic desserts, some examples were:  Key Lime Pie, Old Fashioned Carrot Cake, Rocky Road, Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse, Mocha Macchiato, Raspberry-Mango Cheesecake, Red Velvet Cake, and Pecan Pie.

Their signature flatbreads were amazing!  Our table devoured the two types of flatbreads that were offered to us.  The Grilled Steak and Cremini Mushroom Flatbread had spinach and blue cheese, and it was warm and crispy.  The Garlic Chicken Flatbread had balsamic red onions, roasted red peppers and Mozzarella cheese and had a nice flavor.  If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the steak and crimini flatbread.  Only because I don't normally love blue cheese, but I loved it in this dish.  I can't wait to try some of their other flatbreads next time I visit Seasons 52.

The organic mixed greens salad came with toasted sunflower seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers and a white balsamic vinaigrette.  I didn't love the salad but I enjoyed it.  I really liked the toasted sunflower seeds.  Maybe if the salad had more dressing, I would have liked it better.

The dinner entrees were served family-style, so we had large portions of everything.  Everyone at my table must have enjoyed the cedar plank salmon because we had to order another one!  It was served with roasted  potatoes.  The salmon was cooked perfectly and the potatoes were nice and crispy.


The oak-grilled filet mignon was served over a Yukon gold garlic mashed potatoes and roasted mushrooms.  The filet mignon was cooked medium-rare and it was tender, juicy, and delicious.

The wood-roasted pork tenderloin was served over a herb polenta with cremini mushrooms and a shallot-Dijon glaze.  The pork tenderloin was also cooked medium-rare, but I tend to favor pork cooked medium-well.  I loved the polenta, it was creamy and light.


When the waiter brought the plate of mini desserts, we were all in heaven!   Since my table was so awesome, we shared our mini desserts with each other so everyone can try each flavor.  Basically everyone took a bite and passed it down to the person sitting next to them.  Some of my favorites were the Key Lime Pie, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Mocha Macchiato and Pecan Pie.  We might have ordered a few extra desserts still :)

Overall, Seasons 52 was a great restaurant for a celebration!  The staff provided excellent service, they were attentive and constantly refilled our drinks.  I can't wait to go back to Seasons 52 again!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One Ingredient Ice Cream


I got really excited when I read theKitchn post on how to make creamy ice cream with just one ingredient.  I couldn't believe it was just frozen bananas and that it would even taste good, so of course I had to try it.  It was surprisingly good and its healthy!  I've been making this at least once a week since I read about it and now it gives me an excuse to buy extra bananas when grocery shopping!

 
Ingredients
2 or 3 bananas, frozen


Directions

For the ice cream:
You will need a food processor (or a blender).  I already had a few whole bananas frozen in the freezer.  I just peel the frozen bananas under running hot water and cut into pieces.  You could make it even easier for yourself if you peel and cut up the banana(s) and freeze them overnight. 




Just place the cut up frozen banana pieces in the food processor (or blender) and process (or blend).   You may need to scrape down the sides and pulse.  When it looks creamy, it’s ready!

You can add some “extras” if you want, like a spoonful of peanut butter, honey, or chocolate chips.  My favorite is just a spoonful of peanut butter!  Yum :)  Serve immediately.





Serves 1 or 2.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Salad with Roasted Vegetables (Asparagus and Cauliflower) and Poached Egg

I felt like eating a lighter dinner tonight and figured a salad would be good.  I love the flavor of roasted vegetables and I already had asparagus and cauliflower in the fridge.  I decided a poached egg would add a little protein to the salad.  This dinner is so simple and delicious!
Ingredients
1 pound asparagus
1 head cauliflower
salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
eggs
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used rice vinegar.)
mixed baby greens (I used a prepacked salad mix.)
cherry tomatoes
salad dressing of your choice (I used Annie’s organic shiitake & sesame vinaigrette)
Directions
For the asparagus:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the asparagus spears in a single layer.  (The foil will make clean up easier!)  Drizzle olive oil over the asparagus and turn to coat so the oil is evenly distributed.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Depending on how thick your asparagus spears are, it may take a little longer. 
 
For the cauliflower:
Cut the cauliflower into florets.  Place in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle olive oil over the cauliflower and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the over for about 15-20 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown.  You can cook both in the oven at the same time or even on the same baking sheet, just remove the asparagus first and leave the cauliflower in the oven longer.
For the poached egg:
In a small saucepan, bring water to a low simmer.  Do not let the water boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the water.  The vinegar helps the egg whites congeal better.  Crack an egg into a small bowl or cup.  Place the cup near the surface of the hot water and slowly drop the egg into the water.  Cover the saucepan with a lid.  Cook for 2 to 4 minutes.  Lift the egg out of the pan with a slotted spoon.  If you are unfamiliar, here is a great online video demonstrating how to poach eggs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxvxwk3TFPQ
For the salad:
Cut asparagus spears into bite-sized pieces.  Toss together with mixed baby greens, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, and salad dressing.  Top with a poached egg.   Enjoy!
 
You can even just serve the roasted asparagus with just a poached egg.  Drizzle some salad dressing or a sauce like hollandaise.  Another simple meal!
Serves 2.