Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Spicy BBQ Pork Wontons

Ever since I started my blog and Dusty and I have been living together, he has been trying to convince me that we need a deep-fat fryer. I never bought into the idea because I was worried that if we would have a deep-fat fryer we would go back to the old ways of eating nothing but chicken nuggets and fish sticks, and becoming oily greasy people with extremely high cholesterol.

After 4 years, I finally caved in and asked my mom for a deep-fat fryer for Christmas because I knew how much Dusty would enjoy it. A couple of days ago I took it out of the box and gave my fryer a test run with these Spicy BBQ Pork Wonton and I hate to say it, but I'm in love.

After only two minutes of being in the fryer, these little crispy wontons came out beautifully golden brown and cooked perfectly! Dusty took one bite, looked at me and said, "I bet you are sorry we didn't get one sooner, huh?"

Darn him for being right!

Instead of making a huge mess and struggling with oil temperatures, my fryer does all the work for me! I don't plan on getting out the chicken nuggets and fish sticks anytime soon, but for the occasional homemade eggroll, wonton or doughnut every once in a while, I'll gladly use this bad boy.

These crispy Spicy BBQ Pork Wontons are a fun new variation of my original BBQ Venison Wontons. Dusty hasn't hunted in a few years, so I don't have easy access to venison and I'm guessing many people don't as well. I love the use of the spicy breakfast pork sausage...it adds the right amount of heat and zip without being too much to handle. Serve these as an appetizer at your next party (hint. hint. New Years Eve or Super Bowl!) and everyone will tell you how fabulous you are...I promise!
Spicy BBQ Pork Wontons
{Makes Approximately 16 Wontons}
-14 to 16 Wonton Wrappers
-1/2 pound Spicy Breakfast Pork Sausage
-1/4 cup chopped Green Onion
-2 cloves minced Garlic
-3 tbsp of BBQ Sauce
-1 tsp dried minced Onion
-1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
-1/4 tsp Sugar
-1 tsp Dijon Mustard
-Dash of Salt/Pepper to taste
-1 Egg, lightly beaten
-Canola or Vegetable Oil, for frying
Combine all the ingredients (except the wonton wrappers) in a bowl and stir to combine. Lay the wonton wrappers out, 4 at a time, and brush the edges with the lightly beaten egg. Place a heaping teaspoon of BBQ pork mixture in the center of the wonton wrapper.
Take two opposite corners of the wonton wrapper, bring them together and pinch to seal. Then bring the other two corners of the wonton wrapper to the center, pinch and slightly twist the top. Repeat with the rest of the wonton wrappers.
Once the wontons have been assembled, heat the oil to 350 degrees (F) in a deep-fat fryer or large dutch oven. Place half of the wontons (8) in the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, turning halfway. Drain the wontons on a paper towel. Repeat with the other half of the wontons. Serve with BBQ sauce.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mele Kelikimaka! {Our Honeymoon}

Aloha! Dusty and I are back from our relaxing and fun-filled honeymoon where we spent 10 glorious days in Maui. After having an extremely stressful last semester  finishing up nursing school and having to be apart from one another, this trip was much needed and appreciated.

Our honeymoon was spent staying at the fabulous Grand Wailea resort. A picturesque resort located on the south end of Maui with the most amazing white sand beach and home to two exquisite restaurants that are a foodies dream come true. On our honeymoon, Dusty and I had three goals....1) Relax. 2) Spend as much time on the beach as possible. 3) Eat amazing food.

All three of these goals were easily accomplished and I want to share with you all of our Maui favorites for the ultimate foodie honeymoon vacation....

Hula Cookies
On our second day in Maui, Dusty and I spent the morning hiking the Iao Valley and then touring the Maui Ocean Center. After visiting the aquarium, we stumbled upon Hula Cookies. They had flavors such as "Hula's Delight" which had coconut, mac nut, mango and pineapple in sugar cookie as well as Kona Coffee Chocolate  Chip, Chocolate Chip Mac Nut, Honey Papaya Oatmeal, and Chocolate Coconut Cookies. The cookies were so dang good that Dusty and I might have visited twice!

One of the restaurants at the Grand Wailea is Alan Wong's Amasia. It was voted "Best New Restaurant" on Maui for a reason....it was truly a special culinary experience. Because it was our honeymoon, Dusty and I were given special seating next to a waterfall in the restaurant and given a complimentary bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion. The staff at Amasia went above and beyond to make us feel special and it was a meal I know Dusty and I will never forget.

Along with our champagne, Dusty and I enjoyed an unforgettable 5-course dinner that was out of this world amazing. The best part....it was BOGO as in buy one 5-course meal and get one free. Score! Our 5-course  meal included:
First Course
Chopped Ahi Sashimi, Avocado Salsa Stack, Won Ton, Soy Wasabi

Second Course
"California" - Alaskan King Crab, Avocado, Flying Fish Roe, Cucumber
"Spicy Ahi" - Spicy Ahi, Ko Choo Jang Miso, Crispy Potatoes, Green Onion
"Tiradito," Hanaoka Farms Passion Fruit Ceviche Sauce

Third Course
Beef Tenderloin Skewer, Honey Mustard Foie Gras Coulis, Moromi Miso 

Fourth Course
Soy Braised Short Rib, Ko Choo Jang Sauce 
Seafood Wonton, Black Bean Lemongrass Chili Veloute
Garlic Shrimp

Maui Gold "Pineapple Shave Ice" of Hawaiian Vanilla Panna Cotta, Lilikoi Sauce, Haupia Sorbet, Coconut

This place was actually Dusty and my favorite foodie find in all of Maui. I kept reading on Trip Advisor that this place was ranked #1 and I didn't understand how a shaved ice place could beat out all the high-end restaurants on the island. Once Dusty and I shared our first shaved ice containing the flavors mango, coconut and lilikoi...we were sold. We came back to Ululani's 4 times during our stay and almost filled out our punch-card to get one free. Yes, it is that good! My favorite combination was the combination of mango, passion fruit, coconut with a "snow cap" and coconut ice cream in the base of the shaved ice. INSANELY DELICIOUS and a meal in itself. This is the place I'm going to miss the most in all of Maui. Do you think they would open an Ululani's in Montana???? 

Pita Paradise
One thing Dusty and I quickly learned was that eating at a resort is ridiculously expensive. Therefore we sought out local restaurants to save on cost and experience different cuisines. Located in Wailea just a mile or so from the resort, this Mediterranean themed restaurant was an awesome find. The owner goes fishing each morning and brings his catch-of-the-day to the chef. Since ahi tuna was the fresh catch that day, Dusty enjoyed an ahi tuna sandwich and I had the best ahi tuna greek salad I've ever consumed. It's my mission to recreate the salad dressing!
Tip: If you check in on Yelp, they give you a free appetizer! We got to enjoy pita crisps with some of the best freshly made hummus as an appetizer for free.

Kihei Caffe
The best breakfast in Maui! Located in Kihei in what seems to be some hole-in-the-wall restaurant, this small outdoor cafe packs a lot of punch! Dusty and I spent almost every morning enjoying breakfast here trying as many different menu items as possible. My favorite thing was the French Toast. It was made with hawaiian sweet bread and topped with coconut and fresh pineapple. It was even more delicious with coconut syrup! The other thing Dusty and I both had to eat on our trip was the local favorite: the Loco Moco. Rice with a fried egg, beef patty and gravy will fill you up and make you not need to eat for the entire day. So good. YUM!

Da Kitchen
Another Kihei foodie find! Dusty and I found this local hawaiian food establishment thanks to a tip given to me from one of the nurses I use to work with in Billings. She told me that the food is ah-mazing and they give you so much food you can share one serving between two people and she was right! Teriyaki Chicken, Kalua Pork, Rice and Potato-Mac Salad for $12...heck yes! We ate here twice because we loved the local hawaiian cuisine so much. Absolutely the best teriyaki chicken I've ever had in my entire life!

Mama's Fish House
One of the coolest restaurants we have ever been to ever! Located on it's own private beach, you feel like you are eating inside the Swiss Family Robinson's tree house while having the most insanely fresh and delicious seafood of your life. This place is one of a kind and a must see! The server told us they have to print the menu twice a day because the menu changes so quickly depending on what fish is delivered throughout the day by local fisherman...something I absolutely love about Hawaii! For lunch Dusty and I split Papa's Three Fish Sashimi which included Ono with Haiku orange, olive oil and Molokai pink sea salt; Ahi with ponzu, baby red shiso and Big Island citrus pearls; and Opakapaka with lilikoi, Hawaiian chili pepper and “Hawaii Kai” brand black sea salt. For dessert we had to try the famous Polynesian Black Pearl. I had seen it featured on Food Network and was dying to try it. Possibly the most gorgeous dessert I've ever enjoyed. It was a liliko’i chocolate mousse in a pastry seashell that was so rich, tart and perfect in every way. If you go to Maui, you must go to Mama's Fish House!

Hali'imaile General Store
On one of the last days of our honeymoon Dusty and I made a trip up to Maui's Upcountry. We stumbled upon this spectacular restaurant and enjoyed a fabulous and extremely tasty lunch. We started our lunch off with Bev's Famous Crab Pizza. Rich, crunchy, creamy and oh-so delicious. Fresh crab is insanely good and on top of pizza....YUM! For lunch I had the Sashimi Napoleon which consists of crispy wontons layered between smoked salmon, ahi tartar and sashimi with a wasabi vinaigrette. When the server brought it out to me I couldn't believe how beautiful it was. He said the only way to eat it was to cut it up and mix it all together which is a bummer because it's such a work of culinary art. I couldn't decide if I should eat it or just look at it. I decided to eat it and I'm so glad I did! One of my favorite lunches I enjoyed on the island and a must try!

The next time you go to Maui, you have got to put these places on your list of places to eat. I promise you won't be sorry and you will enjoy every foodie experience and tasty bite! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baking A Difference: Cinnamon Swirl Bread {Giveaway}

Because I just finished finals and graduated nursing school....

Because I'm home with my husband and puppy forever....

Because Christmas is only 13 days away....

Because I'm leaving with my husband for our honeymoon today....

Because I love baking and all things bread....
Because I haven't done a giveaway in forever...


I'm hosting the ULTIMATE BREAD LOVERS BAKING GIVEAWAY thanks to Fleischmann's & Karo Syrup. I'm also going to share a fabulous twist on Fleischmann's Beginners White Bread, by turning it into one of my all time favorites....Cinnamon Swirl Bread!

This year Fleischmann’s® Yeast, Fleischmann’s® Simply Homemade® Baking Mixes and Karo® Syrup – trusted baking products that have helped people create beautiful homemade bread, baked goods and delicious desserts for more than 100 years – are launching the Baking A Difference campaign to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign to help end childhood hunger in America through the power of baking.

In addition to donating a total of $450,000 to the No Kid Hungry campaign, Fleischmann’s® Yeast, Fleischmann’s® Simply Homemade® Baking Mixes and Karo® Syrup will encourage aspiring bakers, passionate foodies, and established chefs across the country to bake a difference. Baking can now help children across the country get the nutritious food they need every day.

Fleischmann’s® Yeast, Fleischmann’s® Simply Homemade® Baking Mixes and Karo® Syrup are calling all bakers to bake for a cause. If you like to mix up treats in the kitchen, then we challenge you to bake for someone you love and bake a difference. Inspire family, friends, teachers, neighbors and others to get involved in the Baking A Difference campaign and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Collectively, we can all harness the power of baking recipes and bake a difference together to end child hunger in America.

Thanks to Fleishmann's and Karo Syrup, one of you is going to win the ULTIMATE BREAD LOVERS BAKING GIVEAWAY to help you Bake a Difference!

 The Giveaway includes:

-(1) Sur la Table Nonstick Mini Loaf Pan

-(1) Syliss Bread Knife

-(1) Madeira Paddle Board

-(1) Set of 3 Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast Packets

-(1) Set of 3 Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast Packets

-(1) Set of 3 Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast Packets

- (1) Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Pretzel Creations Baking Mix

- (1) Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Multi-Grain No Knead Bread Mix

- (1) Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Stoneground No Knead Bread Mix

- (1) Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Italian Herb No Knead Bread Mix

- (1) Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Country White No Knead Bread Mix

- (1) 16 fluid ounce bottle of Karo Light Corn Syrup

-(1) 16 fluid ounce bottle of Karo Dark Corn Syrup 

To Enter: 

Tell me what is your favorite thing to bake during the holiday season?

Additional Enteries:

Good luck! 

Fine Print: This giveaway ends on Monday, December 23rd at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected and emailed being notified that they have won. The winner has 48 hours to claim their prize, otherwise another winner will be selected. This giveaway was sponsored and provided by Fleischmann's and Karo Syrup for the Share Our Strenth's No Kid Hungry Campaign. I was compensated for this giveaway, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Unfortunately, this giveaway is open to US residents only. 

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
{Makes 2 Loaves}

-4-3/4 to 5-1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
-1 package Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast
-1-1/3 Whole Milk
-3 tablespoons Sugar
-3 tablespoons Butter
-1/2 teaspoon Salt
-2 Eggs
-3/4 cup Sugar
-3 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Lightly grease two 8x4x2 inch loaf pans. 

Combine 2 cups flour and  undissolved yeast in a mixer. In a saucepan, heat the milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, butter and salt until very warm (120-130 degrees F); stir into flour mixture along with 2 eggs. Beat for 30 seconds at medium speed of mixer while scraping the bowl occasionally. Then beat at high speed for an additional 3 minutes, continuing to scrape the bowl occasionally. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as possible.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the surface of the dough. Cover and let rise for 10 minutes. Punch dough down and divide the dough in half. Cover and let it rest again for 10 minutes. 

On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into a 12x7 inch rectangle. Brush the surface lightly with water. Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon; sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over each rectangle. Beginning at the short end of each rectangle, roll up the dough up tightly. Pinch the seam and ends to seal. Place the loaf, seam side down, into the greased loaf pans. Cover and let the loaves rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Bake in 375 degree (F) preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until done. Immediately remove the bread from loaf pans and cool on a wire rack. 

Recipe Adapted from Fleischmann's Beginners White Bread recipe and Better Homes & Garden Cinnamon-Swirl Bread. Information provided on Baking a Difference Campaign provided by company representative. 

To learn more about the Baking A Difference campaign and get the latest recipes and baking tips from Fleischmann’s® Yeast, Fleischmann’s® Simply Homemade® Baking Mixes and Karo® Syrup, visit Facebook.com/FleischmannsYeast, Facebook.com/SimplyHomemadeMix, Facebook.com/KaroSyrup and Pinterest.com/BeABetterBaker.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cookies, Cookies & More Cookies!

Did you know December 4th is National Cookie Day?

I didn't. Not until this morning when I popped on Twitter and Facebook and I saw everyone was talking all about cookies and National Cookie Day. If I were home right now, I'd bake up a couple of batches of my favorite cookies in honor of the fun day. But since I'm in a dorm room with no means of baking at all....I thought I'd share with you all of my favorite cookies that I've shared on The Girly Girl Cooks over the years.

These shortbread cookies are a must in our home for the holidays!
These are one of Dusty's favorite cookies of all time!
These soft pillowy cookies are so easy to whip up! I love them!
How festive are these?
I love the holiday colors from the red cranberries, green pistachios and white chocolate chips.
These no-bake refrigerator cookies are insanely good!
We always make these cookies during the holiday season. So good!
An oldie, but a goodie.
These are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had! This cookie is a regular in our house.
The perfect cookie for Santa Claus!
One of the first desserts Dusty and I ever made together when we first started dating.
This is another no-bake cookie that is out of this world! YUM!
These sinful cookies are packed full of everything you love....chocolate, peanut butter and BACON! They even have a little bit of chili powder to make them extra sinful!
These are officially my favorite cookie of all time! Raspberry and white chocolate were meant to be together and are perfectly married in these DELICIOUS cookies! 
I hope some of these delicious and fun cookie recipes will inspire you to bake for National Cookie Day or give you ideas for the holidays!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Buttery Pecan Pie

Last week I went home for Thanksgiving and I was given the wonderful job of bringing Apple and Pumpkin Pie to the big dinner. I was in hog-heaven because there is nothing I love more than baking pie! If I could professionally make pie for a living, I'd totally do it. There is nothing more satisfying than rolling out, filling and baking a perfectly baked pie with a golden brown and flaky crust. Pure heaven.

I made a horrible mistake of wearing jeans with a belt on Thanksgiving. Those pants had absolutely no give to them whatsoever and my attempt to totally stuff my face was very difficult due to the lack of stretchy pants. All throughout dinner I was really jealous of Dusty's adorably pregnant cousin, Raquel, who was wearing stretchy jeans. I need to invest in pregnancy pants for next Thanksgiving like that one episode of Friends when Joey is wearing Phoebe's pregnancy pants! HA!

What does your family do?
Do you dress up for Thanksgiving or wear your sweats for the big meal?

Dusty and I also made the mistake by not taking home any leftovers! How were we suppose to make turkey sandwiches without leftovers???? As a result we decided to make a smaller Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday and invited Dusty's family over for Thanksgiving dinner: Part 2. It was also an excuse to finally use our wedding china!

For our smaller Thanksgiving dinner we roasted an 8 pound turkey (glorified chicken, it was so small!), sage stuffing, creamy chive mashed potatoes and of course I had to bake another pie. Oh darn! ;)

I've had my fair share of Pecan Pie, but Julie's recipe (my MIL) for Pecan Pie is by far the most buttery, creamy and heavenly Pecan Pie I've ever had. I believe the secret to it's wonderfulness involves the ratio of dark to light corn syrup. Most recipes call for just light corn syrup, but I think the little bit of molasses in the dark corn syrup takes this pie places.

Buttery Pecan Pie
{Serves 8}

-1 unbaked Pie Crust
-3 Eggs
-2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
-1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
-1/3 cup melted Butter (salted)
-3/4 cup Light Corn Syrup
-1/4 cup Dark Corn Syrup
-1-1/2 cups Pecan Pieces (or Halves)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F).

Mix the eggs, sugar, melted butter, light corn syrup and dark corn syrup in a mixer over low speed until just combined. Fold the pecan pieces into the pie filling mixture. Pour the pecan pie filling onto the unbaked pie crust.

Protect the crust with aluminum foil or pie crust shield to prevent over-browning or burning. Bake for 50 minutes until the filling is dark golden brown and set.

Place the pie on a cooling rack and allow it to settle to room temperature for several hours. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!

Recipe By: Julie Ahrens
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