Chocolate Bird Nests with Cadbury Eggs for Easter or Spring

So, how cute are these chocolate bird nests? They are pretty adorable! Full disclosure, before making these, I did not think I would have enough artistic talent to make them look good, but I was very happy with the results! It has been awhile since i have made them. This Easter, I may try them with butterscotch chips in place of the peanut butter chips or just extra chocolate chips. They are easy to assemble and so fun to eat. This treat is perfect for Easter or just for celebrating spring! Enjoy.

Recipe for Chocolate Bird Nests with Cadbury Eggs for Easter

INGREDIENTS:
One 12-ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips
One 12-ounce bag of peanut butter chips
One 12-ounce bag of chow mein noodles
36 – 48 Cadbury mini eggs (amount depends on how many nests you are able to make)

DIRECTIONS:
Line a couple to a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Add the chocolate and peanut butter chips to a large microwave safe bowl. Place bowl in the microwave and heat for one minute on medium power, then take out bowl and stir. Continue this process of heating and stirring until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Stir the chow mein noodles into the melted chocolate/peanut butter and stir until the chow mein noodles are completely coated. Use a large spoon to drop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture onto the parchment paper. Use the spoon to flatten and shape into nests. Place 3 eggs on top. Continue until you have used all of the chocolate/peanut butter/chow mein mixture.  Place in the fridge to harden, or in the freezer to speed up the process. Recipe makes 12 – 15 bird nest candies.

Recipe Source: Six Sisters’ Stuff 

Lucky Charms Cupcakes

Have you ever had a cupcake that is filled with and topped with Lucky Charms? Well, if you haven’t, you are missing out! Wendy and I made these cupcakes together last year for a fun St. Patrick’s Day treat. When I was thinking of ideas of little gifts I can get her for St. Patrick’s Day, I remembered these fun cupcakes. I bought her a box of Lucky Charms and a rainbow pop-it purse off of Amazon, and I told her we’d make these cupcakes as soon as I had the energy! We made them together yesterday, and we both ate way too many of the fun marshmallows as we baked!

These cupcakes start with a delicious vanilla cake, then they are filled with marshmallow and Lucky Charm marshmallows (unless you get the prank cupcake, which is just filled with the cereal part)! Then they are topped with a colorful buttercream frosting and the Lucky Charms cereal. They are SO good! You can stuff the cupcakes with the marshmallow cream first and then add the Lucky Charms, or you can do the Lucky Charms first and then add in the marshmallow cream. Whichever makes you happiest. Enjoy!

Recipe for Lucky Charms Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of whole milk
  • 3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the marshmallow filling

  • 1/2 container of marshmallow fluff (7.5 ounce container)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • about 30 – 40 Lucky Charm marshmallows

For the frosting and topping

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup marshmallow fluff
  • 1 Tbsp. of whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
  • food coloring
  • Lucky Charms cereal

DIRECTIONS

For the cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with 10 cupcake liners (recipe makes about 10 cupcakes).

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set to medium-high speed to beat together until light and fluffy. Add in the egg whites and mix on medium until incorporated. Add in a third of the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed, then add in half of the milk and mix. Continue to alternate adding in dry ingredients and milk. Then mix in the vanilla extract.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 – 3/4 way full. Place in oven and cook for 7 minutes, then use an oven mitt to rotate the cupcake pan and cook for an additional 6 – 7 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick or fork comes clean when stuck into the center of the cupcake.

Let cupcakes cool for ten minutes in pan, then transfer to a wire rack.

For the marshmallow filling

Add the marshmallow fluff and butter to a small mixing bowl and mix with an electric hand mixer on medium low speed until smooth. Use a cupcake corer to make holes in the cupcakes. Use a spoon to fill each cupcake with the marshmallow cream. Add three to four Lucky Charm marshmallows to the marshmallow cream.

For the frosting

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric hand mixer on high speed until smooth. Add in 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar and beat well. Then add in the marshmallow fluff and beat well. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the milk and vanilla extract. Add in more powdered sugar if needed for consistency. Now, divide the frosting into separate bowls for the food coloring. Mix in desired color to each and mix. Frost cupcakes and then top with as much or as little cereal as you’d like. EAT up and feel the marshmallow magic! Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Recipe Adapted from/Source: Sugar and Charm

By the way, the leprechauns visited our house this year too!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Guess what? You need these chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes in your life right now. These chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes are here to help you chase any blues away. Just like the cookie dough truffles, there is no raw egg in the cookie dough filling. The mixture is made up of everything that is good in life,  like butter, brown sugar, condensed milk, flour, vanilla, chocolate chips, and a little bit of love.

I made these for the first time years ago on a baking date with one of my friends. When I had seen the recipe on blogs I wanted to make them, but thought they looked too complicated. Doing them with a friend was less intimidating! Now that I have more baking experience, I am able to make these independently in my kitchen, even with a little helper around! They do take some extra steps, but nothing is tricky, and the time is oh so worth it!

So, what are you waiting for? Go make some chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes, and put a smile back on that face. Enjoy!

This recipe makes one dozen cupcakes, because in my family of three, that is all we usually need – even when we share with our friends and family!

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup plus of cake flour OR 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

For the cookie dough filling

  • 2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp. of light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 ounces of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/ tsp. of pure vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons of semisweet chocolate chips (regular or miniature)

For the cookie dough frosting

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/8 cup of powdered (confectioners’) sugar
  • 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. of whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
  • Extra chocolate chips, for topping cupcakes

DIRECTIONS
For the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Put the butter and the brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and use an electric hand mixer to mix on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Then add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and stir together. Add one third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and beat on low speed, then add 1/2 cup of the milk and beat again on low speed. Continue alternating and end with the dry ingredients, mixing each time until just incorporated. Add in the vanilla extract and mix. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Divide the batter evenly into the paper liners. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the cookie dough filling
Once cupcakes are in the oven, make the cookie dough filling. Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix on medium high speed with an electric had mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Then mix in the flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover the bowl and put in fridge until mixture is firm, about one hour.

To stuff the cupcakes
When cupcakes are cooled, add in the cookie dough! Cut a cone-shaped portion (or use a spoon and scoop) out of the center of each cupcake. Fill each hole with a ball of the cookie dough mixture. Use all of the filling to stuff the cupcakes – the more you have, the better the cupcake!

For the frosting
Put the butter and brown sugar into a medium mixing bowl and use an electric hand mixer set on medium high speed to beat until creamy. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth. Add in the flour and salt and mix until just incorporated. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and well incorporated.

Frost the cupcakes, top with chocolate chips, and celebrate!

*Recipe makes approximately 1 dozen cupcakes.
Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge.

Source: Everyday Annie, which sources the recipe is inspired by Hello Baker, the cake adapted from Cupcake Bakeshop, the frosting adapted from The Cupcake Review, and the filling from How to Eat a Cupcake.

Brownie Truffles

Have you ever heard of a “happy accident?” Years ago I worked with a woman who had so many of her own sayings, to the point where I labeled them *Meganisms, after her name. I would constantly laugh at the things she would say, but now I find myself repeating everything she did say in my old(er) age. One of her ‘isms was “happy accidents.” If a mistake was made and we turned it into something good, she would always say “now that is what you call a happy accident!” Once upon a time I was baking brownies and pies, and I was a bit distracted while cooking. I have never been the best multitasker, and I ended up making a pretty big mistake with the brownies. When I took them out of the oven, I could tell something seemed different about the texture, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then it hit me. I was halving a recipe and instead of putting a half pound (2 sticks) of butter in the brownie batter, I had only put in a quarter pound (1 stick). I had it in my head that one stick has 8 tablespoons of butter and translated that into 8 ounces, which is a half pound! So, what did I do? At first I thought that the brownies tasted fine, just a little dry, and I was right. But I decided I didn’t want dry brownies. So I turned those brownies into brownie truffles! And that, my friends, was a happy accident that occurred in my kitchen. The brownie truffles are even better than the brownies, which are pretty darn good. They are very rich, and you might just need one. My niece, however, exclaimed that she could only eat three (in a matter of five minutes or less) because they were so rich. Here is the recipe for these out of this world brownie truffles. Enjoy!

*Note: Name has been changed to protect the anonymity of the individual but the story is true.

Recipe for Brownie Truffles

INGREDIENTS

For the brownies:
One 12 ounce bag of Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips
One 10 ounce bag of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips (you will have a little leftover)
3 eggs
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) of unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. of instant coffee granules
1 Tbsp. of pure vanilla extract (I like Nielsen Massey)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
For the truffle filling:
Cooked brownies
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the truffle coating:
One 9.7 ounce bar of bittersweet baking chocolate (70% cacao) , coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS

For the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 13 x 9 baking pan (mine is 2.75″ deep).
Melt the butter, half the bag (6 ounces) of the semisweet chocolate chips and a little over half the bag of bittersweet chocolate chips (about 6 ounces) in a medium saucepan over simmering water. Stir constantly until fully melted and smooth, then remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, gently stir the eggs, coffee granules, pure vanilla extract, and sugar. Then stir the chocolate mixture in and allow it to cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in to the chocolate mixture. In a smallish bowl, toss the remaining flour and the rest of the bag of semisweet chocolate chips and about 2 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate chips together. Coat the chocolate chips as well as you can with the flour. Then fold into the chocolate batter. Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 20 minutes, and then after 20 minutes, rap the pan against the oven shelf to get air to escape between pan and dough. Then bake for an additional 8 – 12 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
Transfer the brownie pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool.
Once brownies are cooled to room temperature (or slightly warmer), scrape all the brownie into a large bowl. Add in the softened butter. Use your hands to work together. Then use an electric hand mixer set on medium low speed and beat until smooth. It should kind of resemble a batter again. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for a couple hours.
Line a couple freezer safe containers with foil. Use a cookie dough scoop and your hands to form the mixture into 3/4-inch balls. Place each ball into the foil lined containers. Cover containers and place in freezer for several hours, or overnight.
Prepare a double boiler with water. Bring water to a simmer, and then place the bittersweet chocolate in top boiler and melt over the simmering water. Once chocolate is melted, turn off stove heat. Drop one ball at a time into the melted chocolate and use a spoon to coat. Place each coated ball onto a foil lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet in fridge and allow coating to harden before serving. If not serving right away, store in the fridge in airtight containers. Brownie truffles can be served from fridge or at room temperature.

Brownie recipe adapted from: Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies Recipe
Brownie truffles – original recipe.

Recipe makes approximately 4 dozen brownie truffles

Shrimp & Vegetable Enchiladas with a Creamy Poblano Sauce

I have a confession to make. I have a cooking blog and the truth is, there are so many things that I have never even attempted to make in the kitchen. When I made these shrimp enchiladas for the first time, I realized that I had actually never made enchiladas before! I seriously couldn’t believe that I had never made something as easy and delicious as enchiladas. I love enchiladas! I have had these enchiladas on my mind a lot lately, and I can almost taste them. I am going to need to make them very soon because it definitely seems like a craving! The nice thing about these enchiladas is that they are loaded with a lot of vegetables, and they taste absolutely scrumptious. All the flavors in the recipe come together so well. I hope you enjoy these enchiladas as much as we do, and please do not skimp on the amazing creamy poblano sauce!

Recipe for Shrimp & Vegetable Enchiladas with a Creamy Poblano Sauce

INGREDIENTS

For the roasted poblano pepper sauce
2 large poblano peppers

2 1/2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
For the filling
1 1/2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
1 very small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp. of oregano
1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper
2 cups of shredded green cabbage (I used a packaged coleslaw mix)
2 cups of shredded carrots (I used packaged shredded carrots for this – you can also peel and shred regular carrots)
3 cups of baby spinach leaves
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped and seeds removed (seeds have a lot of heat
1 pound of large Easy Peel and deveined Frozen Shrimp, thawed and coarsely chopped

For assembling
10 8-inch flour tortillas
8 ounces of grated Monterey Jack cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Roast the poblano peppers first. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and put into the hot oven. Cook, for about 7 minutes, then use tongs to flip the peppers over. Continue cooking, flipping as needed and checking frequently, until the peppers are mostly blistered (about 20 minutes) Remove from oven and allow them to cool before handling. Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

While the peppers are roasting, chop up the onion and chiplotle peppers and set aside. Grate the cheese and set aside. You can also thaw the shrimp if you haven’t already done so and peel and chop the shrimp and set aside.

Once peppers are cool enough to handle, make the sauce. Put the butter into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. While you are waiting for the butter to melt, carefully peel off the skin of the pepper and discard. Remove the seeds and stem and diiscard. Then coarsely chop the remaining pepper or use your hands to tear into pieces. Once the butter is melted, stir the peppers into the butter. Then add in the flour and stir constantly until the mixture is golden, about 1 minute or so. Add in the broth and garlic powder and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened and bubbles up. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the sour cream and cilantro. Set aside.

Put a large skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Once oil is hot, stir in the onions, garlic, oregano, and cayenne pepper and cook for about 5 – 7 minutes, or until onions are tender. Then add in the cabbage, carrots, and spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach wilted, about 3 minutes. Add in the chipotle pepper pieces and the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes. Remember the shrimp doesn’t need to be fully cooked because it will continue to cook once in the oven. Remove skillet from heat.

Assemble your enchiladas. Choose an oven-safe 9 x 13 baking dish to arrange the enchiladas in. To make them easier to roll up, I recommend putting the tortillas between a paper towel and heating in the microwave for about 30 seconds first. Then use a workspace and spread about 1/3 cup or so of the shrimp mixture down the middle of the tortilla. Top with 2 – 3 tablespoons of the grated cheese. Then tightly roll up the tortilla around the filling and place on one side of the baking dish, seam side down. Continue doing this until you can no longer fit any enchiladas in your pan. Evenly pour the poblano sauce over the enchiladas. Place enchiladas in the oven and cook for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a bit browned and sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool for just a couple minutes before serving.

Recipe Source: Annie’s Eats

Recipe Makes Approximately 4 – 6 servings. They taste great leftover! Cover the baking dish you used for the enchiladas tightly with foil and store in the fridge. To reheat, cook at a low temperature (275 degrees) in the oven for about 20 minutes. 

Easy Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

What do you consider comfort foods? I usually think of soups as go to comfort foods, and I only typically crave soup in the cooler weather. There are not as many comfort foods I associate with the warmer weather that comes in the spring and summer. We have had some warmer weather this week here in Maryland, even though it is still February! Today it was in the 60s, and it felt great. However, it is still February, so bring the comfort food on! One food that I consider “warmer weather” comfort food is shrimp scampi with pasta. I typically do not do pasta much, but I do love shrimp scampi with pasta. This meal is one that you can make in less than 15 minutes, and it tastes great. If you are cutting carbs, you can eat lots of the shrimp with a sprinkle of Panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, and the carb lovers in the family can eat up all the pasta! If you are looking for an easy meal that is comforting, refreshing and satisfying, try this easy shrimp scampi over linguini pasta! Enjoy.

Recipe for Shrimp Scampi with Linguini

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces of uncooked linguine or spaghetti noodles
    3 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
    1 pound of frozen medium shrimp, thawed, deveined, and peeled
    1/2 – 3/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine or chicken stock
    Zest of one lemon 
    1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about one lemon)
    A pinch or two of kosher salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh parsley leaves
    1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    Panko bread crumbs, if desired

DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta according to package directions. When it is finished cooking, drain in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the shrimp scampi. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-heat. Once it is melted, add in the shrimp, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp is pink (about 3 minutes). Then add in the wine or chicken stock and the lemon juice. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Give it a stir, then adjust the heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer. Once it comes to a simmer, remove from heat. Carefully add in the drained pasta, lemon zest, and parsley and toss.

Serve immediately. Top each serving with Parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs, if desired.

Makes approximately 4 servings. 

Recipe Adapted from: Damn Delicious, originally from Closet Cooking

Potato, Goat Cheese, & Chorizo Tacos with a Smoky Aioli

Here is a blast from the past! I made these with a friend on her 29th birthday, and she is 38 now! I remember when we had her over that night that she commented on the “interesting” things that were on the table for the tacos. As she was eating her tacos, she said “Wow Beth, I got to be honest, I was a little concerned when I saw everything out for the tacos. But it’s like the weirdest things come together and make this totally delicious combination of flavors!” I took it as a compliment.
I got the idea for the “weird” tacos from Paladar Restaurant. I had seen the meal on the menu there and really wanted to order them, but my date had other ideas. I decided I would try them out at home instead! Serve these tasty tacos with some refried beans and corn pudding. Enjoy!

Recipe for Potato, Goat Cheese & Chorizo Tacos with a Smoky Aioli

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 lb golden potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 lb chorizo sausage, casings removed
  • shredded red cabbage
  • cilantro
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • smoky aioli (recipe to follow)
  • 16 soft corn tortillas (soft taco size)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the cubed potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the potatoes for 12 minutes, then use a spatula to loosen the potatoes and toss around. Put potatoes back in the oven for another 10 – 12 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown. Leave the potatoes on the pan and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 270 degrees. 

Cook the chorizo. Put into a large pan and use a spatula or spoon to crumble the sausage as it cooks. Cook until sausage is completely done and make sure it is crumbled small.

Once chorizo is fully cooked, put it onto the pan with the potatoes. Toss together. Put pan back into the oven while you prepare the fixings.

Put cabbage, cilantro, and goat cheese into small serving bowls. Make the smoky aioli (recipe below). Put tortillas on a plate and cover with a paper towel. Heat in the microwave on low for about 25 – 30 seconds. 

Once all the fixings are prepped, take the potatoes and sausage out of the oven and put into a serving dish. Put tortillas, cabbage, cilantro, goat cheese, potatoes & chorizo, and smoky aioli out and allow everyone to assemble their own tacos. 

Recipe for Smoky Aioli

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup real mayonnaise
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed (or 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder)
  • 1 1/4 tsp. of smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

California Pizza Kitchen Quinoa Salad with Arugula

A friend of mine and I used to get together for lunch twice a year at the California Pizza Kitchen. We would get together to celebrate our birthdays, but of course we would usually go months after one of us had a birthday (darn busy schedules)! We always enjoyed the phenomenal salad at the California Pizza Kitchen.

We would usually get the Miso Salad, but when they removed the crab from the salad, I had to try something new. This quinoa salad was new at the time when we dined there and it was delicious. When I got home, I recreated the recipe at in my kitchen.

Quinoa is a superfood with tons of fiber and protein, and it tastes wonderful in this salad. You will love the healthy feel of the salad and the yummy flavors! I was told after making it that it tasted like something you would order at a really nice restaurant, so that means I definitely accomplished my goal! It has been awhile since I made this, but I cannot wait for warmer days so I can recreate this one again. I hope you will also give it a try! Enjoy.

Recipe for California Pizza Kitchen Quinoa Salad with Arugula

INGREDIENTS

For the salad:
1/2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
8 sun dried tomatoes in oil, cut small; plus 1 tsp. of oil from the sun dried tomatoes
3 ounces of feta cheese, cut into small chunks
1 1/2 cups of baby arugula leaves
1 bunch of asparagus, stalks cut off, cut into 1 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2 Tbsp. of toasted pine nuts

For the dressing:
1/3 cup of Extra-Virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
1/8 tsp. of dried oregano leaves
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Wash the quinoa and then cook according to package directions. Once quinoa finishes cooking, drain any excess water. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

While quinoa is cooling, prepare the dressing. In a smallish bowl, mix together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, oregano, and pepper. Mix well.

Once quinoa has cooled, add the sun dried tomatoes, sun dried tomato oil, feta cheese, and dressing to the bowl. Toss well to  coat. Cover bowl and put into the fridge for about 30 – 45 minutes.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to serve salad, steam the asparagus. Put asparagus in a large saucepan and cover just barely with water. Put over medium heat and bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and simmer for 3 – 5 minutes. Asparagus is done when you can prick it through with a fork, but still tender. Don’t let it get too soft. Once asparagus is finished cooking, drain the water and transfer the asparagus to a plate to cool.

While the asparagus is cooling, toast the pine nuts.

When ready to serve the salad, take bowl out of the fridge. Mix in the 1 1/2 cups of baby arugula and toss. Divide the salad between 3 – 4 serving plates. Top each plate with asparagus and toasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

NOTE:
The California Pizza Kitchen quinoa salad recipe was made with a champagne vinaigrette. I think the red wine vinaigrette works just as well. I also omitted the red onions from the recipe, but you might want to add them to yours!!

Coconut Ice Cream with Toasted Coconut

This toasted coconut ice cream is absolutely divine! I saw this recipe in an ice cream recipe book quite some time ago, and I have been wanting to make it for so long. I was a little nervous about the recipe because of the egg in the mixture, as I tend to always make ice creams that require no cooking, but I decided to take the extra time with this one. If you are a fan of coconut, you should really try out this incredible toasted coconut ice cream. However, if you are one of those crazy people, and you are “repulsed” by the thought of coconut, then maybe you shouldn’t! I hope there are more coconut lovers out there than haters, because people who hate coconut just make me sad. If you do love coconut like I do, than you’ll love this toasted coconut ice cream. Enjoy!

Recipe for Coconut Ice Cream with Toasted Coconut

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream, divided
2 1/4 cups of sweetened shredded flaked coconut, divided
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of coconut cream (I used Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
A little less than 1/8 tsp. of almond extract (optional)

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot, mix together the whole milk, 1 cup of the heavy whipping cream, and 1 1/4 cups of the coconut. Set over medium heat and cook until bubbles form around the edge of the mixture, about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes.

Pour the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl and press down on the coconut to extract as much flavor as possible. Then discard the coconut. Pour the strained milk mixture back into the pot and set back over medium heat. Cook again until bubbles form around the edge of the milk, about 5 – 7 minutes.

While the milk mixture is heating, separate out the egg yolks and place into a medium sized bowl. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream and the sugar. Mix the ingredients until well-combined.

Carefully scoop out 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture and add into the egg mixture. Mix until smooth. Then carefully pour the egg mixture into the pot with the hot milk mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until a custard forms. The custard should coat the back of the wooden spoon when it is ready. Do not let the mixture come to a boil. It should take about 7 – 9 minutes for the custard to form. Once the custard coats the back of the spoon, remove from heat. Stir in the coconut cream and mix well. Pour into a large bowl and add in the vanilla extract and almond extract.

Partially fill a large enough bowl that will fit the bowl with the ice cream mixture in it with cold water and ice cubes. Then set the bowl with the ice cream batter into that bowl. Stir occasionally. Once the mixture is cooled, cover with a lid or tightly with plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

While the mixture is chilling, toast the coconut. Put the remaining cup of coconut into a small frying pan and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the coconut and toasty and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Allow it to cool and then seal in an airtight container until ready to use. 

Pour the chilled ice cream mixture into the bowl of an automatic ice cream maker and make the ice cream according to manufacturer directions. When the ice cream is the consistency of thick whipped cream, add in 1/2 cup of the toasted coconut and continue the mixing in the ice cream maker until done. Then transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for a couple hours before serving.

Top each serving with the leftover toasted coconut, if desired.

Recipe makes approximately 8 servings.

Recipe Adapted from: Williams Sonoma Ice Cream

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream (no eggs)

The best gift I have ever received was my automatic ice cream maker. Ever since I got it, I have loved creating new ice cream recipes. I have made coconut ice cream, green tea ice cream, rum raisin ice cream, chocolate mint ice cream, and the list goes on and on! Of course, the very first recipe I ever made with the ice cream maker was this simple and delicious vanilla ice cream. It is very easy to make and it is that classic vanilla flavor that everyone likes.

When I first began trying out recipes, I really did not know that you could make ice cream at home without any eggs. Fancier ice cream recipes do use egg yolks, but basic recipes can be made with just cream, sugar, whole milk, extracts, and add ins.

If you do not have an automatic ice cream maker at home, then you need to go out or get online and buy one! You will love the creations you can make in your kitchen and you will never go back to store-bought again! Enjoy.

Recipe for Basic Vanilla Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with beans scraped out (if you do not have a vanilla bean, just increase the vanilla extract in the recipe by one teaspoon)
  • 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract (use a high-quality vanilla)
  • A dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk, well-chilled
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tsp. of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, well-chilled

DIRECTIONS

Scape the vanilla beans into a very small bowl. Pour the vanilla extract over the vanilla beans and mix with a spoon. Add in the dash of salt. Set aside.

Pour the milk into a medium bowl. Add in the sugar, and then beat mixture with an electric hand mixer on low speed for 1 minute, or until sugar is fully dissolved. Stir in the vanilla mixture. Pour in the heavy cream, and then beat again on the lowest speed for about 10 – 15 seconds. Cover bowl and put in fridge for about an hour.

Once mixture has chilled, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer directions. After mixture has turned into ice cream (with my new ice cream maker, it takes about 25 minutes), scrape into a Tupperware or snaplock, cover and put in freezer to set. Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker Instruction and Recipe Booklet

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