Monday, January 27, 2014

Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

I know there are millions upon millions of blue cheese dressings and dips out in the world wide web, but I find this one is practically perfect in every way. Besides Litehouse Dressings, I refuse to buy already made salad dressings from the grocery store. They have a funky aftertaste and you can tell they are loaded with preservatives and chemicals. Not exactly what I want to put on top of my fresh vegetables or salads! If that makes me a salad dressing snob, I guess I am one! There is absolutely no comparison between a homemade dressing to something in a bottle.

Out of all the salad dressing varieties out in the world, blue cheese has always been one of my favorites. I love the combination of creamy and tang with the stinkiness of blue cheese. I always say, the stinkier the cheese, the better!

Drizzle this blue cheese dressing over your salad or as a dip for chicken wings and veggies on game days. You will love how simple it is to put together and how positively perfect it really is! You will never want to buy the bottled stuff again!

Perfect Blue Cheese Dressing
{Makes ~1 cup}

-4 ounces crumbled Blue Cheese
-1/3 cup Sour Cream
-1/4 cup Mayonnaise
-1/3 cup Buttermilk
-1-1/2 tablespoons White Distilled Vinegar
-1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
-Few dashes Tabasco sauce
-1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Barbie Dream House

This week has been INSANE! Dusty and I moved this week with the help of his parents back to Dusty's hometown. The place we were living at before was nice, but this place is BETTER because....

We moved into Barbie's Dream House!

More like Barbie's ranch-style dream house to be more accurate. All I know is that this house is PINK! Pink house, pink garage, pink curtains, pink-green carpet, pink toilet, pink, pink, and more pink.
I didn't tell you the best part....
I have a pink kitchen too!

You didn't think everything else would be pink and the kitchen wouldn't, did you???

I personally love it. The color of pink isn't so obnoxious that you want to throw up, and it goes perfectly with all of my bright cooking utensils, electrics and accessories. Plus I have a double oven now (enter Hallelujah chorus!)...which makes baking and cooking much more enjoyable!

When you move to a small town, there aren't a lot of rental options, so you can't be too picky. Dusty isn't crazy about the pink, but is slowly getting use to it. Me on the other hand, I'm in heaven! This house is a girly girls dream! ;)

So don't be surprised in future food posts if the background is pink! I can't help countertops are pink!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Three Cheese Mushroom Ravioli

These tender ravioli with this creamy, hearty mushroom-cheese filling will surely impress your loved ones when you make it for them...whether it's on an average weeknight or for a special occasion!

Valentines Day is less than a month away which means it is time to start planning that special meal for your special someone. A few years ago I made Lobster Macaroni and Cheese, and last year I made Easy Risotto with overcooked Lobster tails (Valentines Day fail). This year I haven't quite figured out what I'm wanting to make for Dusty. Usually I like to stick with something Italian...I don't know why, but for some reason I feel the need to make a pasta dish of some type for the holiday of romance. Maybe it has to do with the fact I'm madly in love with anything and everything carbs????

Another thing I've come to love are wonton wrappers! They can be used for making wontons (of course!), dumplings, pot-stickers and ravioli. You can fill them with anything and they will be delicious. Who wants to spend all that blood, sweat and tears making homemade ravioli pasta when you can just open up a package of wonton wrappers? Not this girl!

When it comes to special you prefer to go out to eat or stay in and make something special???

Three Cheese Mushroom Ravioli
{Serves 4}

-8 ounces coarsely chopped Herb Roasted Mushrooms
-1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
-1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
-1/4 cup fresh minced Parsley
-1/2 teaspoon Salt
-1/8 teaspoon Pepper
-32 Wonton Wrappers

In a bowl combine the chopped mushroom, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mushroom-cheese mixture onto the center of one of the wonton wrappers. Bring the edges of the wonton wrapper with water and place another wonton wrapper on top, sealing the edges with a fork. Place the ravioli under a damp washcloth to keep the wonton wrappers from drying out. Repeat with the rest of the wrappers and mushroom-cheese mixture.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli to the boiling water in batches of 4-6 ravioli at a time. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the ravioli are tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Repeat with remaining ravioli. Serve with Alfredo sauce or you favorite tomato-based sauce. Enjoy!

*If you have leftover ravioli or don't need 4 servings, you can freeze them in a freezer-safe storage bag. Just add an additional minute or two to the cooking time when you boil the ravioli.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Herb Roasted Mushrooms

This recipe is by no means fancy, difficult or complex. It's a quick and simple way I love to prepare my mushrooms when I'm using them in almost anything and everything. This recipe is an essential one in my life. I use herb roasted mushrooms to top my pizza, add to my spaghetti sauce or use in various fillings. I like to top my steaks with them and I even like to eat them as is for a side dish or mixed together with some sauteed veggies.

Just combine all the ingredients in a bowl and roast them on a sheet pan.
15 minutes later, you get these beautifully roasted and caramelized gems....

Next time you need mushrooms on top of your pizza or on top of your steak, just take an extra 15 minutes to transform your mushrooms from ordinary to extraordinary! 

You will be glad you did! 

Herb Roasted Mushrooms
{8 ounces}

-1 (8 ounce) package sliced Mushrooms
-1 tablespoon Star Fine Foods Family Reserve Infused Olive Oil with Rosemary (or EVOO)
-1/2 teaspoon minced Garlic
-1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
-1/2 teaspoon Salt
-Pinch of Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F) and line a baking sheet with a non-stick liner or aluminum foil greased with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and stir to coat the mushrooms. Lay the mushrooms on the baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 15 minutes until mushrooms are caramelized and tender.

Friday, January 17, 2014

{Cookbook Corner} The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Many people are surprised to hear that I use to not be able to cook at all. Like seriously....I couldn't cook. At all. Dusty use to be the cook in the early days of our relationship, which I thought was super adorable and attractive. The more time we spent together, the more time we spent in the kitchen and watching Food Network, and suddenly I wanted to learn how to cook and impress my man. 

Although, I must tell you that my cooking endeavors didn't start out so smoothly. I once made a crusted fish that was crusted with red pepper flakes! OUCH! I also once made a sandwich from "A Man, A Can, A Plan" that I slathered in horseradish sauce! DOUBLE OUCH! There were lots of tears and pain with my early cooking experiments. 

Thankfully, my cooking skills have progressed exponentially from where I was 6 years ago, and that is because I have come to love reading cookbooks! I would actually consider myself a cookbook-aholic. If I go to the bookstore, I instantly beeline it to the cookbook section and pour over all the fabulous books. I absolutely love all the possibilities of potential meals I can create for me and my husband, and love the beautiful food photography. Dusty thinks it's funny because I will sit down and read a cookbook as if it was a novel. I just love the short stories at the beginning of each recipe telling the background and inspiration for how a recipe came to be. When I think about it, I can't even remember the last time I read a real book...maybe a year ago???

I decided to start this fun series {Cookbook Corner} because of my love for cookbooks. They are educational, fun and most importantly, they give you the instructions to make some really good food...usually. 

For the most part, the books I buy are gems. They are covered in sauce, grease and the pages are torn (the sign of a good cookbook!) Although, there is the occasional book I've purchased on a whim that has turned out to be a dud or isn't realistic for my lifestyle or the ingredients are impossible to find for rural Montana living. Each month I want to highlight a different book that I think is a "must-have" and feature the fabulous recipes I tried from the book. 

To kick off the {Cookbook Corner} series I want to feature my recent cookbook obsession....
This beautiful collection of recipes, stories and food photography was brought together by Deb Perelman, the author of the popular and delicious blog....Smitten Kitchen. She is a self-taught home cook (like myself) who enhances regular ingredients and recipes to make them truly spectacular. I greatly appreciate the fact that she uses real ingredients that are commonly found in typical grocery stores. I hate it when recipes call for really odd and unusual ingredients that would require me living in a large city to find. Where the heck am I going to find duck bacon in rural Montana? Truffle butter? Not in this book! Deb uses typical fresh ingredients that are twisted and tweaked to become something really special and delicious!

One of the first recipes I made was this Iceberg Stack with Blue Cheese & Radishes. I loved the concept of cutting the iceberg lettuce horizontally and then pouring the dressing over so each nook and cranny gets a grasp of the creamy dressing. It's absolutely genius! Way better than the typical wedge you are served at restaurants. I also loved the variety of color provided from the darkness of the blue cheese to the bright pink from the radishes. The celery and radishes give the best extra crunch to the salad while not being overwhelming in flavor (I don't really like celery, but I liked the subtle notes it played in this salad!). The presentation of the salad also is very grand and impressive with the multi-layered tower of salad. This recipe was a definite win! 

Out of all the mouth-watering breakfast recipes, I decided to try out the Potato Frittata with Feta & Scallions. I pretty much had all the ingredients in my refrigerator, which is a bonus! That's one thing I really love about all of these recipes in the book, you most likely have 75-90% of the ingredients in your pantry or refrigerator! What I loved about this recipe was the perfect amount of flavor and saltiness the feta cheese provided. I also loved the idea of roasting the sliced potatoes and then making them as the "crust" for the frittata. The recipe instructed to leave all the bacon grease in the pan, which ended up making Dusty and I feel bogged down after eating it for breakfast. Also, the clean up after this dish was very difficult. I had to soak my cast iron for 12 hours and then intensely scrub it afterwards. Other than those few detail, it was delicious. Next time I would remove some of the bacon grease and bake it in a non-stick pan....problem solved!

Where is the beef? Not here! The cookbook has a whole section of vegetarian main courses that look even better than the meat and seafood-based recipes. I absolutely love Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, but it is so labor intensive and has a lot of beef fat skimming the top of the stew. That is totally not the case with this vegetarian version of Mushroom Bourguignon. It contains all the wonderful flavors and heartiness of the meat version, but takes under an hour to put together. Dusty and I absolutely loved it and the leftovers were just as good, if not better, than the night before. It was absolutely perfect for the cold windy days/nights we have been having lately.

I have so many other recipes from the book I'm dying to try, but I didn't have enough time to get them made! Here is what is on my "To-Make" list:

-Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Jack Cheese & Lime Crema
-Whole-Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones
-Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes
-Cheddar Swirl Breakfast Buns
-Tomato Scallion Shortcakes with Whipped Goat Cheese
-Broccoli Slaw
-Avocado Tartine with Cucumber and Sesame Seeds
-Wild Mushroom Tart
-Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
-Shaved Asparagus Pizza
-Gnocchi in Tomato Broth
-Sweet Peas &  Shells Alfredo

And the list goes on and on....
So many good recipes! You should see my book, almost every page is bookmarked!

Do you have The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook? What have you made from it and loved?


To kick off this new {Cookbook Corner} series, I'm sponsoring a $50 Sur La Table gift card giveaway! Sur La Table is a food lovers dream. I haven't been to the actual store itself, but I love shopping online and perusing the pages upon pages of cookware, bakeware, tabletop and linens, fun food and much, much more!

To Enter: 
Tell me...What is your favorite cookbook of all time!?!
Additional Entries:
Good luck! 
Fine Print: This giveaway ends on Sunday, January 26th 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 myself, The Girly Girl Cooks. I was not sponsored or encouraged to review The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and all opinions are my own. Unfortunately, this giveaway is open to US residents only. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tropical French Toast with Homemade Coconut Syrup

On our honeymoon to Maui last month, Dusty and I found a local cafĂ© that had the most wonderful breakfast. After spending $60 on the resorts somewhat-decent breakfast buffet the first morning, we knew we couldn't do that everyday! After doing some digging around on the internet, I found the Kihei Caffe. At a first glance it seemed like just a hole-in-the-wall type of restaurant, but once I was served my large platter of Hawaiian Sweet Bread French Toast with Pineapple and Coconut, smothered in Coconut Syrup, I was in breakfast heaven. Dusty and I returned to the Kihei Caffe practically every morning. I ordered this French toast dish almost every time we ate there while Dusty was more adventurous trying different things on the menu. I couldn't get enough of this French Toast!

While on the trip, part of me wanted to stock pile the deliciously sweet and creamy coconut syrup. But the other, more sensible, part of me knew it would be difficult to pack a lifetimes supply of coconut syrup in my suitcase, while maintaining the 50 pound baggage limit. Besides, a small bottle of that syrup cost around $8 and I thought I could definitely get it cheaper on Amazon. Wrong! I got home from the honeymoon, went immediately to my computer and looked up the syrup on Amazon. It was $12-15 per bottle! Ugh! I was not about to spend that much on a tiny bottle of syrup.

So this week, when I was making my Chicken Satay Skewers with the Sweet Potato-Peanut Dipping sauce, I only needed 1/4 cup of Coconut Milk. That left me with practically a full can of Coconut Milk to use up. At that very minute a light bulb turned on! I immediately dumped the coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla paste in a saucepan and created my very own coconut syrup that is just as sweet and creamy as the one I tasted in Maui at the Kihei Caffe. Plus it probably cost me no more than $4 to make 12 ounces of this tasty syrup. Yay! Victory is mine! 

Homemade Coconut Syrup
{Makes 1-1/2 cups}

1 (13.5 ounce) can of Coconut Milk
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste (or Vanilla Extract)

Combine ingredients in saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to simmer while stirring constantly for 8-10 minutes until sauce become thick and syrupy. Serve immediately or allow it to cool to room temperature. Store in air tight container in refrigerator.

Tropical French Toast
{Serves 4}

-4 Eggs
-2 tablespoon Milk
-1 teaspoon Orange Zest
-1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
-1 tablespoon Butter
-8 slices White Bread (or Hawaiian Sweet Bread...if you can find it)
-1/4 cup Sweetened Flaked Coconut
-1 cup fresh Pineapple chunks (or canned, if you can't find fresh)
-Homemade Coconut Syrup, for serving

In a shallow dish combine the eggs, milk, orange zest and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine. Heat a griddle or pan over medium-low heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter. Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture and flip to coat both sides. Add the egg soaked bread to the griddle and cook for 3-4 minutes, turning the bread halfway. Place 2 slices of French toast per plate and top each pair of French toast with 1 tablespoon of flaked coconut and 1/4 cup of fresh pineapple chunks. Serve with homemade coconut syrup. Enjoy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chicken Satay with Sweet Potato-Peanut Dipping Sauce

Now that school, the honeymoon and Christmas are over, I'm officially back into the swing of things at home with my two boys. I'm also back to cooking three meals a day due to lack of restaurant options and absolutely loving every second of it. I'm loving not having to eat at the school cafeteria, and I definitely know that Dusty is relieved he doesn't have to rely on frozen Schwan's meals anymore. It's nice to have our meals back to normal once again.

As much as I love cooking, I don't want to be doing it all day. That is why these chicken satay skewers are the perfect lunch. Packed with flavor but quick and easy to whip up. Star Fine Foods came out with a new line of Cuisine Cooking Oils that are infused with different flavors, depending on the cuisine. I brushed the Asian Soy & Ginger oil on the chicken before putting them on the grill and it added the most beautiful hints of flavor to the chicken satay.

What I love most about this recipe is that I was able to sneak sweet potatoes into it without Dusty knowing. I found out two weeks ago that my husband, whom I thought I knew absolutely everything about, despises sweet potatoes! Who is this man? I know nothing about him! All those times I made sweet potato fries and he didn't eat all makes sense now!
After Dusty ate a couple bites of his lunch, I slyly asked how he liked it. He replied, "Love it! The flavors are awesome, the chicken is grilled perfectly and the sauce is really good." I giggled and said, "Oh really??? That's funny, because it has sweet potatoes in it!" (insert evil laugh) Muahaha! He just shrugged his shoulders, smiled at me and kept eating, despite the fact that the sauce was made with sweet potatoes, because it was that good.

Chicken Satay with Sweet Potato-Peanut Dipping Sauce
{Serves 4}
-1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
-1/2 teaspoon Salt
-1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
-1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
-1/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
-2 tablespoons Star Fine Foods Asian Soy & Ginger Cuisine Cooking Oil
-1 clove minced Garlic
-1/4 cup Coconut Milk
-1/4 cup Sweet Potato Puree (check baby food aisle!)
-1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
-2 tablespoon Soy Sauce
-Juice of 1 Lime (2 tablespoons)
-1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
-12 Wooden Skewers

For the Sweet Potato-Peanut Dipping Sauce:
Combine the minced garlic, coconut milk, sweet potato puree, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Whisk to combine until smooth. Set aside.

For the Chicken Satay:
Heat a grill or large skillet over medium heat. Cut the chicken breast into one-inch thin strips. Thread the chicken breast strips onto the skewers. In a small bowl combine the salt, garlic powder, black pepper and smoked paprika. Evenly sprinkle the spice mixture onto both sides of the chicken skewers. Brush the 2 tablespoons of Asian Soy & Ginger Cuisine Cooking Oil over the chicken skewers to evenly coat. Add the skewers to the grill and cook for 10-12 minutes, turning the chicken halfway, until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Serve with the dipping sauce and either cooked rice, couscous or quinoa. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Huckleberry Sherbet

Fact: Homemade Ice Cream, Sherbet and Sorbet tastes way better than the store bought stuff.
But I'm sure you already knew this....I just discovered this little fact the other day, so I thought I'd share.
Last week I got the itchin' to make something delicious, sweet and creamy for dessert, so I got out my ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid and gave it a whirl. I'm ashamed to say that this is my first time using my ice cream maker and I've had it for about 3 years now. So many years wasted without homemade frozen treats!  

The fabulous thing about this recipe is that it is so easy to change up! You don't have to make it with just huckleberries, you can use any berry of your desire whether it be cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. You get the point. Either way, it's absolutely creamy, dreamy and delicious.

The reason I went for huckleberry is...... 1) they are my favorite berry of all time 2) they were in the freezer and 3) because I know that the men in my life absolutely love huckleberries. My father-in-law in particular is a huckleberry fanatic and I'm pretty sure if I tell him I've made a baked good containing huckleberries, that he would be in the car driving 40 miles for a taste.

It's actually funny because when I told Dusty I made this Huckleberry Sherbet, he totally sneered his nose up at it. I know! The nerve! The man loves ice cream like no other and this sherbet was questionable. It's not ice cream and it's not sorbet....what is this dessert?!?!?

Well, he took one bite of the sherbet and fell instantly in love.
I know you will too! 

Huckleberry Sherbet
{Serves 6}
-3 cups fresh or frozen Huckleberries (or any berry of your choice)
-1 cup Sugar
-2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
-2 cups Whole Milk
-2 tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream
To a saucepan add the huckleberries with sugar. Bring the berries to a slow boil and cook until huckleberries are beginning to break apart and the mixture is becoming syrupy. Cool the huckleberry mixture to room temperature. If you are using a different berry that has lots of seeds (i.e. blackberries), run the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to separate the seeds from the berry syrup.

Add the cooled huckleberry mixture to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add milk, cream and lemon juice and blend briefly to combine.

Freeze the sherbet according to your ice cream maker's instructions, then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 24 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Creamy Basil Vinaigrette

There is nothing I love more than a good salad. One that makes you forget you aren't eating a cheeseburger and fries because it's absolutely fabulous. I had that happen to me when we were in Hawaii. We were having lunch at Pita Paradise in Wailea and the fresh Ahi tuna Greek salad I had with a creamy basil dressing was so out of this world good, that Dusty was actually jealous of my salad and sad he was eating a sandwich instead. Believe me....that rarely happens!

I've never been a fan of a "simple vinaigrette" with just lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon, salt and pepper. I find the dressing bland and lacking something. It just doesn't do it for me. This vinaigrette is so light, healthy and refreshing with the right amount of flavor and sweetness that I always use as my go-to vinaigrette. Most of the time I make it with dried basil which is just as flavorful. Usually I'm never lucky enough to find fresh basil in our grocery store, so when I saw it this week in the store, I had to snatch it up! Besides being so delicious that you want to just drink it up, it is ridiculously easy to make as well. Add the ingredients to a jar with a lid and shake it!

Creamy Basil Vinaigrette
{Makes 1/2 cup}

-1/3 cup Basil Infused Olive Oil (or any EVOO)
-2 tablespoons Honey
-2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
-1 tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
-1/2 tablespoon Honey Mustard
-2 cloves minced Garlic
-2 tablespoons fresh minced Basil or 1 teaspoon dried Basil 

Combine all the ingredients into a jar with a lid. Place the lid on the jar and shake vigorously until the dressing has become emulsified and the ingredients incorporated. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for 1 week in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
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