Wednesday, June 29, 2011

4th of July Cook-Out Goodies

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays because it reminds me of camping, going to the lake, hot sunny days (sometimes snowy in Montana) and really good food!

Here are some great food that would be great for your holiday weekend BBQ's and parties!


Main Course

Side Dishes


I hope this gives you some ideas for what to make for the 4th of July holiday weekend!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sauteed Radishes & Sugar Snap Peas

Tonight I made a delicious dinner #2 out of my new cookbook and it had me licking the plate! For the main course I made a goat cheese and basil stuffed chicken breast with a mushroom-wine sauce that was to die for. Unfortunately, I had to work late tonight and was unable to get any pictures of it due to lack of sunlight.

But fortunately for you, I was able to sneak in a picture of the side dish I made to go along with my chicken before the sun disappeared for the night. I've only had radishes once before in my life, which was at a cooking class 2 weeks ago with Chef Cynthia, but this dish made me officially love them! I wish that I had actually made the full recipe of 4 servings instead of 2 because it was so tasty!

Here is what you are going to need for 4 servings:
-1 tbsp Butter
-1 tbsp Olive Oil
-1/2 cup thinly sliced Shallots
-12 oz Sugar Snap Peas, trimmed and strings removed
-2 cups thinly sliced Radishes (about 1 large bunch)
-1/4 cup freshly squeezed Orange Juice
-1 tsp dry Dill Weed

Melt the butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until golden, about 5 minutes. Add sugar snap peas and radishes and saute until cripy-tender, about 5 minutes. Add orange juice and dill weed, stir for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

That's it! This side dish is super simple, fast to make and really good!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Yellow Rice Salad with Roasted Peppers and Spicy Black Beans

I have a new favorite cookbook...The Bon Appetite Cookbook!
1,200 recipes of yumminess and I've been excessively drooling over them ever since I bought it on Saturday. I love to read my cookbooks almost like they are novels. Do you ever do that? I just love to read cookbooks!

To really break in this new cookbook I'm making my whole week of dinners from my new book. I think I might even make my cake from this book for my birthday next week too!
Who wouldn't want a Lemon-Blueberry Cake with White Chocolate Frosting for their birthday???
Can my birthday be tomorrow? I don't think I can wait a week to make it!

The first recipe I made for dinner last night was something totally out of my comfort zone. The combination of spices, peppers, beans and rice is so different from what I normally cook, I had to give it a try! I was really worried Dusty wouldn't like it because it does have such unique flavors, but he and I both gobbled it up. I even had some leftovers for lunch was that good!
I think my favorite part of this dish is the vibrant colors!
Absolutely gorgeous!

Here is what you are going to need for 4 servings:
-4 tsp Ground Cumin, divided
-1/4 cup Lime Juice
-2-1/2 tbsp Canola Oil
-1/2 tsp Turmeric
-2 cups Water
-1 cup Long Grain Rice
-1 tsp Kosher Salt
-1/2 cup thinly sliced Green Onions
-1 (15 oz) can of Black Beans, rinsed and drained
-1/2 cup chopped Roasted Red Pepper from a jar
-1/2 cup chopped Green Bell Pepper
-1/3 cup chopped fresh Cilantro
-1-1/2 tsp minced canned Chipotle Chiles

I find it really easy when cooking recipes with a lot of ingredients that require chopping, mincing, measuring, etc. to do the prep work beforehand. It's very convenient and plus it makes you feel like a Food Network Star!

Stir 3 tsp of Cumin in a small dry saucepan over medium heat just until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the lime juice and canola oil. Set the cumin dressing aside.

Stir the turmeric and remaining 1 tsp cumin in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rice and 1 tsp of salt; bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool rice.

Once the rice has cooled, mix in the green onions and half of the cumin dressing into the rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The Yellow Rice Salad is complete!

Now it is time for Part 2...The Roasted Peppers and Spicy Black Beans :)

In a mixing bowl, combine the black beans, roasted red peppers, green peppers, cilantro, chipotle chiles and remaining cumin dressing. Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Totally easy and tasty!

For gorgeous presentation when serving this dish, mound the black bean mixture in the center of the platter and surround it with the yellow rice salad. Serve with warm tortillas and drizzle some warmed sour cream.
If any of the dishes in my new book are as good as this one, Dusty and I are in for some really good food! I'll be sharing the recipes that I make for dinner this week, so you will be too!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Graham Cracker Cookies

These graham cracker cookie bars are one of the first desserts Dusty and I made together when we first started dating about 4 years ago. I'm actually surprised that I haven't posted this recipe before because it's one of my favorite treats to make and eat! This dessert is great for beginnners, like I was because it is no-bake and super simple. Dusty and I love this dessert so much and it is perfect for hot summer days!

Here is what you are going to need:
-1 box of Honey Graham Crackers
-1-1/2 sticks of Butter
-1 cup Sugar
-1 Egg
-1/2 cup Milk
-1 cup chopped Walnuts or Pecans
-1 cup shredded Coconut

-2 cups Powdered Sugar
-1 tsp Vanilla
-1/2 stick Butter
-3 tbsp Milk

Line a 9x13 casserole dish with graham crackers. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add sugar. Beat the egg and milk together and add to butter/sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and stir constantly to incorporate. Remove from heat and add nuts, coconut and 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs. Pour the mixture over the graham crackers in the pan and spread evenly. Cover the gooey mixture with another layer of graham crackers.

Topping: Add all ingredients together in a bowl and spread over top layer of crackers.

Chill the dish of cookies in the freezer and then cut into squares. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cooking Camp: Iron Chef

Back in April during Spring break, Dusty and I took a trip to Billings to investigate where we would be moving this June. We stayed with his grandpa Gordie and enjoyed many meals eating out with him around Billings and had a great time. The first night we were there we ate at my new favorite restaurant Jakes and when driving to the restaurant, I noticed a store called The Copper Colander. I told Dusty he had to take me there so I could check out the store because I love anything and everything to do with kitchen supplies and gourmet foods.

The moment I stepped into The Copper Colander I knew that I had to work there. I knew it would be the greatest part-time job I would ever have. Who wouldn't want to be surrounded by the things they love? When we were walking out of the store I noticed a "now hiring" sign in the door. I was so disappointed that they were looking to fill a position in March because I wouldn't be moving until June and I knew there would be no way I could get a job then. The likelihood of them having a job opening would be slim to none.

So our trip ended and Dusty and I traveled back to Missoula to continue our lives at the UM with school. One day, for some reason, I got a wild hair and decided to just put my resume out there and mail it to The Copper Colander in some small chance that they might be looking to hire in June. I was not very optimistic, but still wanted to try. Sending out a resume and cover letter never hurt anyone, did it?

To my overwhelming surprise, about a week later I received a call from the manager, Stacy, asking me if I'd like to come in for an interview when I came back to Billings in May for apartment searching. They were actually going to have someone leave in June and were looking to fill a position by the time I got there! How crazy is that?

It just shows you that taking a chance never hurt a person and now I have the best job I could ask for right now! I love working at The Copper Colander and the people that work there have made me feel more than welcome to my new home of Billings. My favorite part about my job is that I get to assist teaching culinary classes at the store and it is a real treat. It doesn't even feel like work!

This week was the Junior High Culinary Camp themed "Iron Chef." Each day there was a featured ingredient that we focused on to make 3 different types of dishes per ingredient. On Wednesday, the ingredient was "Sweet Potatoes," so we made Chicken Satay with a Sweet Potato/Peanut Sauce, Sweet Potato Fries and Sweet Potato Scones.

On Thursday, the featured ingredient was "Spices" and the kids made Jerk Chicken, Herb Dip with Veggies and Snickerdoodles.

In the background you can see Kristinna. She is the one actually teaching the class and I assist her. She has been absolutely wonderful to me and she so much fun to hang out with!
We laugh because we love Vera Bradley and the same three foods: Cream Cheese, Bacon and Cheese.
Does anybody not love those three foods?

On the last day of Iron Chef Camp, the featured ingredient was "Quick Oats." The kids made Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp, Oatmeal Cake with a Toffee Topping and No-Bake Cookies. To have some real fun in the kitchen, let loose and kick it up a notch, I split the 4 kids in 2 groups: Team Baking and Team Cooking. This is because two of the kids loved cooking more than baking, and vice versa.

I gave them the recipe for the No-Bake Cookies and told them they had 30 minutes in the kitchen alone without any of my help to create fun and creative No-Bake Cookies. After the cookies were complete, I would judge them on Creativity, Taste and Presentation. This is what they presented me with after 30 minutes....
On the right is Team Baking. They won the "Presentation" portion of the Iron Chef Challenge.
Team Cooking won the "Creativity" portion with the heart shaped cookie and Mickey Mouse cookie. But they both won in the "Taste" portion, so it was a tie!

We had such a blast at this weeks cooking camp with the kids! It amazed me how much these kids love food. I think they watch Food Network as much as me, which is a lot! I can't wait for next months cooking camp of "Cupcake Wars." It's gonna be a blast!
Man I love my job!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pig-Out Cookies

These cookies are naughty, delicious and truly sinful! Is there anything better than the combination of chocolate, peanut butter and bacon? I think not. I can't really give much more of an introduction than that because these cookies speak for themselves!

Here is what you are going to need for 1 dozen cookies:
-1-1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
-1/4 tsp Baking Soda
-1/4 tsp Baking Powder
-1/8 tsp Cinnamon
-Pinch of Chile Powder
-1/4 tsp Kosher salt
-5 strips of cooked Bacon-crumbled
-2 tbsp reserved Bacon Fat Drippings
-4 tbsp Butter (room temperature)
-1/2 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
-1/2 cup White Sugar
-1/2 cup Brown Sugar
-1 Egg
-1 tsp Vanilla Extract
-1/3 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F) and line a baking sheet (or 2) with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, chile powder and salt. With a stand mixer, beat the butter and reserved bacon fat drippings on medium-high until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the white and brown sugar until creamy, about 4 minutes. Then add the egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy for about 2 minutes.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add the flour. Mix until just combined and then add in the chocolate chips and crispy bacon.

For the cookie dough into 12 even sized balls and arrange them on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Flatten the cookie balls with your fingers and then bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Let the cookies cool for about 2 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack. Pour yourself a giant glass of milk and enjoy yourself a seriously sinful cookie!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Zoo Montana

Today I had the day off, so Dusty took me on a really fun date to the Zoo! It's a small zoo, but it was so much fun to walk through the park looking at the different animals with Dusty.

When we first got to the zoo I was so excited to see Peacocks just casually walking around and hanging out with everyone. They were every where!
The Peacocks were trying to grab some lunch...

Hanging out with the Clydesdale horses in their pasture...

And showing off for us!

The peacocks were beautiful, but my favorite was this guy...the Red Panda!
Can I take you home with me???
What are you?
 Cat? Bear? Raccoon?
I don't care. I love you.
How about a hug?
Okay. Maybe next time.

After leaving my new best friend, Mr. Red Panda, Dusty and I headed over to the Grizzly Bear exhibit. The bear was so adorable and active with the crowd, I loved it!
I think I was more excited than the preschoolers standing next to me because he was so cute!

The people who work at the zoo had hidden snacks around various parts of his area for him to find.
I found you!

Then the grizzly bear saw us and wanted us as a snack!

Ahhh! I was so excited to see him up close!
What a gorgeous bear!

He wanted to show off for us, so he went for a dip in his pool...

And I gobbled up every moment of it!
It was sooo cute!
And it was so hot, I wanted to join him!

By 2:00 this afternoon it started getting really hot, so Dusty and I left the zoo and headed to our favorite place for lunch, Red Robin! It was a perfect date and a really great day off!  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Best Chicken Salad EVER!

Last night was truly a treat and an honor because I got to assist a cooking class with Chef Cynthia at work last night. Chef Cynthia is an instructor at the Fortin Culinary Center here in Billings and teaches often at the Copper Colander and her classes I've heard are always really educational and incredible. So you wouldn't believe how excited I was when the culinary class coordinator asked me assist her last night for the class, "Cooking for a Crowd."

This chicken salad is a revelation when it comes to chicken salad. Would you believe me if I told you there was no mayonnaise in this chicken salad???
That's mayo!

The bright flavors, colors and freshness of this salad are unbelievable and the dressing is so light and delicious! The best part of the class last night was that there were leftovers and I got to take them home. SCORE! And if it could get any better, this chicken salad tastes better today than it did last night. Is this love? I hope so.

Here is Chef Cynthia's recipe for "New Age Chicken Salad"...
-Meat from 1 Roasted Chicken
-1 small can of Pineapple Chunks, drained and finely diced (1/4")
-1 Red Bell Pepper, finely diced (1/4")
-1/2 small Red Onion, finely diced (1/4")
-Scallion washed and cut into 1/4" slices, greens only

Fresh Tarragon Vinaigrette
-1/4 cup Cider or Red Wine Vinegar
-2 tsp Dijon Mustard
-Zest and juice from 1/2 Lemon
-1 cup Olive Oil
-Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh Tarragon, chopped
-Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Dice chicken into bite-size pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add diced pineapple, red pepper, red onion and scallion.

2. Prepare vinaigrette. Whisk together vinegar, mustard, lemon zest and juice. Add olive oil in a slow steady stream, whisking continuously. Add tarragon and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add vinaigrette to salad contents and toss to blend. Salad may be preapared to this point a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shanghai Pasta

I have learned 2 new things about my kitchen....

#1 My apartment has absolutely zero natural lighting.
None. Nada. Nothing. Zip.
Which means I have to take the picture of my final dish next to window sill in the dining room or outside. This also means that you and I are going to have to accept some of my nasty photos with my fluorescent lighting. I hope you still love me!

#2 My kitchen has this...
A pull out, built in cutting board next to my stove.
Can you say convenient???
I think it's pretty awesome if I do say so myself ;)

You wanna know what else is awesome? This pasta dish I'm about to make before your eyes....Shanghai Pasta!

Here is what you are going to need for 2 servings:
-4 oz of Linguine Pasta
-1-1/2 tbsp Soy Sauce
-1/2 tbsp Plum Sauce
-1/2 tbsp Sesame Oil
-1/2 Green Bell Pepper (chopped)
-1/2 cup trimmed Snow Peas
-1 tbsp Cooking Oil
-6 oz of peeled/deveined large Shrimp (without tails)
-1/8 tsp dried Ginger or 1/2 tsp fresh grated Ginger
-1/8 tsp Pepper
-1 clove of minced Garlic
-1 Green Onion-cut into 1" pieces on the bias
-1 tsp of Sesame Seeds

First start the prep work by peeling, deveining and removing the tails of the shrimp.
I don't know about you, but whenever I cook with shrimp, I always take off the tails. They just get in the way and are annoying when you are trying to eat them in your dish.

Get your pasta cooking at this point.

Then grab the 3 amigos: Plum Sauce, Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce.

Combine them in a small dish and stir to combine. Set aside for later.

In a large skillet, stir-fry the bell pepper and snow peas at medium-high heat in hot canola oil for 5 minutes. Add shrimp, ginger, black pepper and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until shrimp are opaque.
Did I not tell you the lighting in my kitchen is absolutely horrible???
I warned you!

Stir in the sauce and drained pasta. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until all the ingredient are heated through.
Serve with green onions and sesame seeds.

*On a side note*
Thank you for all your prayers and support for my Grandpa with his Quadruple Bypass surgery today. He did fantastic! When he came out of anesthesia and they removed his breathing tube he said, "I'm one tough shit!" He's a hero and a total bad ass! I'm so proud of my Grandpa for being such a champ with his surgery. My family is just glad that it's over with!
Love you Grandpa!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Raspberry-Mango Upside Down Cake

I've done it again! I used another ingredient I've never tried before....Mango!

Lately, I've been venturing out and trying new ingredients that I've never used before and trying them for the first time. It's been a blast!  After the recent success with Rhubarb, I knew I had to give Mangos a try. I don't have a phobia or weird thoughts toward Mangos, I've just never thought to grab them!

After searching around on my favorite foodie website, Tasty Kitchen, I discovered this great recipe for a fun and gorgeous Raspberry-Mango Upside Down Cake from  sweetebakes.

Here is what you are going to need for Raspberry-Mango Upside Down Cake...

For the Cake:
-2/3 cup cold Butter (cut into cubes)
-1-1/2 cups Sugar
-3 Large Eggs
-2 tsp Vanilla Extract
-1 cup Milk
-2 cups All-Purpose Flour
-2 tsp Baking Powder
-1/2 tsp Salt

For the Raspberry-Mango Topping:
-1 cup of diced Mango
-1/2 cup Raspberry
-1 tbsp Lemon Juice
-1 tbsp Sugar
-4 tbsp Brown Sugar
-3 tbsp melted Butter

First start out by preheating the oven to 350 degrees (F) and grease a 9in cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Don't use the Flour+Oil spray, it could give a funky taste to the cake. I just used regular PAM Canola Oil Spray.

In a small saucepan, melt 3 tbsp of Butter. Once the butter is melted, add in the brown sugar and stir until the brown sugar is smooth and not grainy anymore. Pour this brown sugar/butter into the bottom of the cake pan. Add the diced Mangos and spread them around evenly. In a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup of raspberries with 1 tbsp of sugar and mash them together with a fork. Drizzle the raspberries over and around the Mangos in the cake pan. Since we are talking about "drizzling" right now, why don't you also drizzle the 1 tbsp of Lemon Juice over the Mangos and raspberries too while your are at it! ;)

Now for the cake!
In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, blend the cold butter cubes with the sugar until combined. Add the 3 large eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract. At a slow mixer speed, pour in the milk and add in the flour, baking powder and salt. Continue mixing until the ingredients are completely combined and pour the batter over the Mangos and Raspberries on the bottom of the cake pan.

*There was definitely some extra batter, so don't pour it all into the cake pan, otherwise you will have messy overflow!*

Bake the cake for 40 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and the center is no longer wet. It might take a couple minutes longer, depending on your oven. After the cake is done, place it on a cooling rack until it is completely cooled. Then invert the cake onto a serving dish or large plate.

Absolutely beautiful!!!

Now go and enjoy yourself a gorgeous summer dessert!

Print Recipe Here!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Introduction to Rhubarb

I've got a little bit of a confession. I have never had Rhubarb ever in my life...until tonight.
Please don't judge me!

Dusty and I went grocery shopping this week to stock up our empty fridge for the new apartment and when we got to the produce section, he grabbed some Rhubarb, bagged it and threw it in the cart.
"Oooh! I love Rhubarb! Will you me something delicious with Rhubarb?"

Ummm, what?

I've had this lifelong phobia of Rhubarb for some reason. My neighbors use to grow it in their beautiful garden when I was growing up and for some reason I always thought that Rhubarb was poisonous or something like that....who knows. I don't know. My brain thinks weird things.

And how did I not know after almost 4 years of dating Dusty that he likes Rhubarb???

So now that my fridge has been housing this Rhubarb for the past couple days, I needed to find something to do with it. Luckily for me, Two Peas & Their Pod just posted a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake, and I had to give it a try.
I trust this blog and their recipes are always good. They weren't going to let me down now!
(I hope)

After making the Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake, I have to say that I am a new fan of Rhubarb and this recipe is absolutely delicious! This dessert takes Strawberry Shortcake to a whole new level with the Rhubarb and Orange Zest in the biscuit.

 I loved it.
Dusty loved it.
I know you will love it!

If you have never tried Rhubarb either and need a great introduction to this interesting ingredient, check out the recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake.....HERE!
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