Monday, December 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies




I am FINALLY on vacation!  I had a total of 10 gigs throughout the month and literally NO free time this month of December....kind of put a strain on my fairly sane life.  ....okay, so my life isn't that sane.  Kinda crazy, actually.  But my theory is that December just really sucks.

However busy I was, the week before I left for Austin was SO much easier on my schedule.  One of my favorite jobs is to manage the East Central Illinois Youth Orchestra, so I decided to bake them peanut butter cookies and peanut butter blossoms.   They loved them, and ate most of them!  And to my surprise, they ended up giving ME a gift at the end of the rehearsal!  A scented candle and an $85 gift card to Espresso Royale....best gift I could've ever asked for :)

These cookies are....heavenly, to say the least.  Oh yeah, and they're SUPER addicting.  I could probably eat close to 10 in one setting, not even kidding.  

If you like your cookies super chewy, I'd recommend baking them for 12 minutes.  I ended up baking them for 13.5 minutes, and they were perfectly crispy and delicious!  (I personally prefer cookies chewy, so I'd bake them a little less next time)

I hope you guys decide to bake these---trust me, you will not be sorry!


PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

INGREDIENTS 
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups flour
 
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375º F.  In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter together. Beat in egg to mixture. Mix in peanut butter and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Stir in salt, baking soda and flour until well combined. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in extra sugar. Place on baking sheet and flatten with fork to make a crisscross design. Bake for 12-15 minutes, and let cool.
 
Hope y'all enjoy!
 
xoxo, Sara 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Strawberry Shortbread Cookies



Hey everyone!  Sorry it's been SUCH a long time since I posted anything....like around 2 months from now, hah.  My computer was out of commission for quite a while (there were about 5 or 6 keys that weren't working), so obviously I couldn't post the delicious things I was making!

While I've been away, I celebrated my 23rd birthday with my friends, and it was completely lovely!  We all went out to dinner at Escobar's restuarant in Champaign, and then went drinking with my friends.  Just reminded me how many lovely friends I have, and what a beautiful place C-U is!


The day after my birthday was probably the most exciting....I went out on a date with someone I met through a dating website.  Ironically, I actually met him a long time ago, as his sister was my babysitter!  I know, crazy and seemingly awkward....but we got along so well on our first date, and we have been dating ever since!  He's the most amazing man, and does EVERYTHING right: he cleans up when I'm away at work, makes me a bath when I'm feeling sick, and every now and then gets me flowers:


Yeah, I know.  He's perfect.  Thinking I'll keep this one for a while :)  Oh yeah, and he's adorable:






So, I decided to make Strawberry Shortcake cookies.  These cookies are simply AMAZING, and probably are my favorite cookies to eat.  And what better time than the Christmas season to be making cookies?


Anyway, I hope y'all enjoy the cookies, and I promise I'll post more diligently!!  :P




STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS 
12 oz strawberries, hulled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1-2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
extra sugar, for sprinkling
DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 375º F, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.  Whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix in the butter with your hands until coarse crumbs form.  Stir in the heavy cream until the dough starts to come together, then gently fold in strawberries.

Drop dough onto cookie sheets with your fingers, evenly spaced apart.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar, and bake for about 15-17 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Serve with a cold glass of milk.


Hope y'all enjoy!


xoxo, Sara

Apple Pie



This pie turned out AMAZINGLY.  I didn't let it cool long enough, so it kinda fell apart on me....so make sure to let it cool for a good hour or two if you'll be serving it for the holidays.

Trust me---if you make this, your guests will be happy.  Even my boyfriend, who is one of the pickiest eaters I have come across in a long time, said it was the best apple pie he's ever had in his life.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.  :P

 
APPLE PIE

INGREDIENTS
3 cups flour
1 stick of cold butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 tsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp cold water, if needed
3 lbs Granny Smith apples
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1-½ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
zest from 1 lemon
3 Tbsp corn starch
¼ cup apple cider


DIRECTIONS 
Preheat oven to 400º F, and blend butter, shortening, sugar, salt, and flour together until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.  Add vinegar to the mixture and gradually add cold water to the pie crust mixture.  Once the dough is workable, form into a ball and separate into two equal balls.  Take one ball and press with your fingers into a pie plate until it covers the entire plate.  Roll out the other ball into a giant ball, and slice 8 long strips to eventually form a lattice crust.

For the filling, peel, core and cut apples.  Place in a pot and add the light brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, lemon zest and nutmeg to the apples. Stir the mixture, and dissolve the corn starch into the apple cider in a measuring cup. Mix this into the apple mixture and turn the heat onto medium to cook the apples for 10-15 minutes until the apples have softened and the sauce has thickened. Place the mixture in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until it is cool. Once the apple filling is cool, scoop it into the prepared pie plate.  Take the strips of remaining pie crust dough and form a lattice crust, using an egg wash to keep the strips intact.  Sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar and cinnamon, and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350º F and continue baking for another 40 to 50 minutes, until the filling bubbles and the crust looks golden.  Serve warm with ice cream.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Szechuan Green Beans and Pork




SZECHUAN GREEN BEANS AND PORK

INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1" ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 lb green beans
1 lb pork loin, sliced in bite-size pieces
2 Tbsp garlic chili paste (less if you want it less spicy)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
DIRECTIONS
Make the Szechuan sauce by combining the garlic chili paste, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar and sesame oil in a bowl, and set aside for later use.

Wash the green beans and snap the stem end off of each. Peel and mince the fresh ginger and garlic. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat, and toss in the chopped garlic and ginger for about one minute. Add the pork slices and stir fry until they are cooked through, for 5 minutes.

Remove the pork to a plate and add the green beans. Stir fry the green beans for 5 minutes. The fat and juices from the pork will begin to brown on the bottom of the pan during this step. When the sauce is added next, it will deglaze the pan and bring up all of the flavor from the caramelized juices on the bottom of the pan.  Return the pork strips to the pan with the green beans and add the Szechuan sauce. Continue to stir and cook for about 1-2 minutes. 

Serve warm over a bed of hot rice.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Cookies and Cream (Oreo) Cupcakes



 COOKIES AND CREAM (OREO) CUPCAKES

INGREDIENTS
12 Oreos, twisted apart with cream filling attached
1 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup sugar

2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
10 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped
 

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp heavy cream
 

Oreo cookie crumbs 
6 Oreo cookie tops, halved 


DIRECTIONS 
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake tins with 12 paper liners, and place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cream butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, and bake for 14-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in the vanilla extract. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the heavy cream to the bowl just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes, and sprinkle with Oreo crumbs; garnish with Oreo halves, if desired.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Chicken Piccata



CHICKEN PICCATA
INGREDIENTS
2 tsp butter
3 Tbsp + 2 tsp flour, divided
2 chicken breast cutlets
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed and drained to remove excess salt
1 lemon (half juiced, to yield about 1 Tbsp; half sliced into thin circles)
Salt and pepper
4 oz spaghetti, or any shape of pasta you like (for serving)

DIRECTIONS
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions.  In a small bowl, use your fingers to combine 2 tsp butter with 2 tsp flour; set aside for now.

Season chicken cutlets on both sides with salt and pepper; dredge in remaining 3 Tbsp flour and shake off excess.  Add olive oil to a medium skillet over medium-high heat; once oil starts to ripple, add chicken and cook until fully cooked and golden on both sides (about 3 minutes per side), flipping once.  Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
 
With heat off, add wine to the skillet you cooked the chicken in; turn heat on to high and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom.  Cook for a few minutes, until the wine is reduced by about 2/3 or more.  Add chicken stock, turn heat down to medium, and whisk in flour mixture; cook until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.  Turn off heat, and add parsley, capers, lemon juice, and sliced lemon circles.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.  Serve chicken cutlets with pasta, with the sauce drizzled on top of everything.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Green Bean Casserole



GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS
1 lb green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced
1-1/4 tsp salt, divided
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup whole milk (you can use half and half if you want the dish to be extra rich and creamy)
melted butter

DIRECTIONS
Place the green beans over boiling water and cook for 8 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400º F.  In a large sauce pot melt 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the chopped onion and 1/4 tsp of salt for 4 minutes.  Remove the onions and set aside in a separate bowl with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Toss to evenly combine.

In the same large sauce pot, melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, add the mushrooms and remaining 1 tsp of salt and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute.  Sprinkle 2 tbsp of flour over the mushrooms and stir for 30 seconds until evenly coated.  Add the chicken broth and milk, bring to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until thickened.  Add the beans to the sauce and then pour into a greased 8 x 8 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with onion/bread crumb mixture on top, lightly pour melted butter on top, and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden.  Serve warm.


Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Black Eyed Pea Soup




INGREDIENTS
30 ounces black-eyed peas, drained
14 ounces white beans, drained
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 package chorizo, c
rumbled
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups chicken stock
salt
and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Heat the olive oil, add the onion, and stir and cook over low heat, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chorizo, stir and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stock, stir. Add the white beans, stir and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. Using a potato masher, lightly mash the beans. Add the black-eyed peas, stir and continue to cook over very low heat, until flavors are married; about 45 – 60 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, and ladle into bowls.

Hope y'all enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sugar Cookies


Alright....so I had another late night cookie craving.  So, I made sugar cookies!  A little amendment I made: I ran out of vanilla extract, so I used 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1-1/2 tsp almond extract.  I think the cookies taste wonderful, but it just depends if you like more of a vanilla flavor or more of an almond flavor.  Regardless, I hope y'all make these cookies; they're simply spectacular!  :)


Sugar Cookies

INGREDIENTS
2-1/4 cups flour
2-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling the cookie dough balls in
2 eggs
2-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350º F, and whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Cream butter and sugar, and beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla, and add in the dry ingredients mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed.  Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.  Form the dough into balls and roll them in the extra sugar.  Flatten them, and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool, and serve warm with a cold glass of milk.

Hope y'all enjoy!


xoxo, Sara

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots



This week has been so much better....I feel like my life finally has the balance I've been looking for.  Plus, I earned a substantial amount in my last paycheck, AND I sold my first bow at the Music Shoppe!  :)  The last couple of days I've had days of literally nothing, so I've been able to catch up on cleaning and general house maintenance things, which has definitely needed to happen.  Living alone out of college is not an easy feat!

So, let's talk shallots.  Shallots are such an interesting thing---they're a cross between garlic and onion, and kind of share that same type of taste.  I found this recipe a while back, and thought it was such an interesting idea, to mix green beans and shallots together, with a hint of thyme!

I had some of the leftover mexican rice from last week, and I thought this would be a perfect pair!  Whatever y'all decide to make with these green beans, I hope you enjoy it :)


Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

INGREDIENTS
1 lb green beans (about four handfuls), trimmed
2 shallots, sliced
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Cook green beans in boiling, salted water for 6 minutes.  Drain and let cool.  Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low; sauté until shallots are browned and tender, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.  Add cooked green beans to the shallots and stir over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and serve warm.


Hope y'all enjoy!


xoxo, Sara

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Banana Bread


A couple of days ago, I realized I had fairly old bananas....and anytime you have overly ripe fruit, there's only one thing that means in my mind: time to make a fruit dessert!  Therefore....it was my duty to make banana bread.

I have actually NEVER made banana bread!  I know, surprising right?  But it was seriously the easiest thing I have ever made!  I was really REALLY tired after making the enchiladas, and was definitely having second thoughts about making the banana bread.  But it literally took 10 minutes to mix all of the ingredients and pour it into the loaf pan.  If you guys have overly ripe bananas....just do me a solid and make the banana bread.  Trust me, you'll thank me later :)

Banana Bread
(from the Fanfare Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS 
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt 

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350º F, and grease a 9x5x3" loaf pan. Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and bananas. Add dry ingredients, pour into the loaf pan, and bake 1 hour. Cool, cut into slices, and spread with butter.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara 

Mexican Rice


So, I was a little impatient with the rice and it turned out more liquidy than it needed to be.  But....it's incredibly flavorful, and the addition of jalapeño peppers really flavors it well!  And goes wonderfully well with the enchiladas, too :)  

Mexican Rice

INGREDIENTS
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 cup long grained rice
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups diced tomatoes with liquid
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS
Heat the oil in a pan, and add the onions, garlic, green pepper, jalapeno.  Sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the rice, chicken stock, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and salt, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Fluff the rice and serve immediately.

Hope y'all enjoy! 

xoxo, Sara

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce


Man, the past few days have been INCREDIBLY stressful on me.  I've been pretty unhappy with one of the bands I'm in, but after thinking about it and many long conversations with friends and family, I've decided to stick it out for one more month.  We'll see what happens....haha.

So last night I got back from work, and it was a MUCH better day than my shifts last week.  I was thinking about what to make for dinner....and suddenly it came to me.  My favorite food in the world: enchiladas!  When I went to Mexico with my friends Helena and Rue, all I would order are enchiladas.  No joke, there were wonderful Mexican traditional dishes that I could have ordered, but enchiladas are just my favorite food!  The enchiladas I made are a great recipe, but make sure you buy more hot chili powder than you'd think----I didn't use as much as the recipe called for, because I thought I had enough!  Although the sauce wasn't as spicy as I had hoped, it's extremely delicious, and the enchiladas are very addictive.  I hope y'all will try them!


Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce

INGREDIENTS 
1 medium onion, chopped 
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on how much spice you want
3 tsp sugar
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded (I used mozzarella cheese)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
8 corn tortillas

DIRECTIONS
Cook the onion, salt, and oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until the onions have softened, for 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato sauce and water, and bring to a simmer.  Cook until slightly thickened, for 5 minutes.  Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside.  Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the onions to a large bowl and set aside. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the reserved onion mixture. Add 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup cheese, and the cilantro, and toss to combine.  Season with salt or pepper if needed, and taste to make sure seasonings are correct.  Preheat oven to 400º F.  Heat the tortillas over a small skillet, and spread a generous amount of chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Pour sauce evenly over the enchiladas, top with the remaining cheese, and cover dish with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream and mexican rice.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Honey Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake


One word to describe how this cake tastes: DIVINE.  It's so rich, but at the same time you have to go back for another piece.  Hope y'all try it!

Honey Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
7 eggs, separated
2-1/2 cups flour
1  tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz can evaporated milk
1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
5 Tbsp honey, divided

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350° F, and cream butter and sugar.  Add egg yolks until creamy and blended.  Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Stir in vanilla, and beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter, and pour into a greased and floured 13- x 9-inch pan.  Bake for 25-28 minutes; while baking, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, 1/2 cup whipping cream, 2 tablespoons honey, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a large measuring cup or medium bowl.  Pierce the top of the hot cake generously with the end of a wooden spoon.  Gradually pour milk mixture over cake, about 1/3 cup at a time, spreading to the edges.  Let stand 2 hours, cover, and chill for 2 additional hours (if you can wait that long!).  Beat remaining 1 cup whipping cream until foamy, and add remaining 3 tablespoons honey, beating until soft peaks form.  Spread over top of cake, and sprinkle with extra cinnamon if desired; let sit in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Aloo Gobi (curried cauliflower and potatoes)


So, funny story about this dish, haha.  I was boiling my water for the potato....but I couldn't find it anywhere!  I remember putting it in the bag in the grocery store, but it mysteriously disappeared when it came time to cook the dish!  But I made it with only the cauliflower, and it turned out just as well....so if you're silly like me and forget the potato, never fear!  :P

Aloo Gobi (curried cauliflower and potatoes)

INGREDIENTS 
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1“ ginger, chopped
ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala 
turmeric, to taste
red chili powder, to taste
mustard seeds 
sesame or peanut oil 
salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Boil water and salt, and add potato pieces until just soft.  Add the cauliflower florets, salt, and enough turmeric to flavor the potatoes and cauliflower, and cook for another 2 minutes. Drain the water completely and keep aside.  Heat oil and mustard seeds until they start to pop; be careful not to get hot oil on your skin!  Add grated garlic until light brown, and add the diced onions until transparent. Add salt, turmeric to taste, and chilli powder.  Add tomatoes, garam masala, and ginger, and sauté until the tomatoes cook completely. Add the cooked cauliflower and potato, and mix well. Cover, and sprinkle water in if necessary.  Serve warm.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Chicken and Chickpea Tagine


Life in Urbana has been AMAZING.  On Sunday night, I went over to hear some friends play music they've been writing and/or working on, and it reminded me so much of Oberlin's folk scene!  It was great to meet new people, and I finally got to play with my friend Morgan, who I was supposed to collaborate/record with at the beginning of the summer.  Yesterday I had my usual Monday day off, and I met up with an old friend for Thai food and went shopping at Art Mart.  Usually Mondays are my cooking days, and I was looking through my many cookbooks to figure out what I wanted to make.  My very good friend Molly called and wanted to come for dinner, so I decided to try my middle eastern recipes, Chicken and Chickpea Tagine, Aloo Gobi, and Honey Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake for dessert!  It was seriously the BEST dinner I have ever put together :)  




















After we ate dinner and one slice of cake.....we had two more while watching Atonement, along with bawling the whole time.  It was such a great evening, and a FANTASTIC dinner to boot.  I would definitely recommend making these dishes; they won't last long, trust me!

Chicken and Chickpea Tagine

INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 tomatoes, diced
2½ cups chickpeas, canned or dry chickpeas soaked overnight (I just used canned and it turned out fine!)
½-¾ cups raisins and dried apricots
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup water
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
salt, for dredging

DIRECTIONS 
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pot.  Cook the onion stirring occasionally, until it softens.  Add the garlic, and add salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander, pepper, and cayenne pepper, stirring to incorporate all of the spices.  Add tomatoes, chickpeas, dried fruit, and vanilla extract, and bring to a boil. Add more water, rub the chickens with salt, and pour into the soup pot.  Adjust heat so the mixture simmers steadily, and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour.  Serve warm with couscous.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Strawberry Pancakes



Wow, it is such a gorgeous morning today!  I'm looking outside at the lake, with the sun reflecting over the ripples in the water, and it's just such a peaceful morning.  

Yesterday was SUCH a good day---I went to lunch with an old friend from Oberlin, and it was just so wonderful to hang out with her!  We never really got to hang out that much while at Oberlin, so I hope we can start doing that here in Urbana!  Then I went to hear the Boneyard Quintet at the Iron Post....man, they were sounding really good.  It was nice to get drunk and visit with old friends, haha....and I was out with some friends until midnight last night!  I was pretty beat, but I really haven't gone out by myself, with friends, in a LONG time.

Anyway, so I woke up this morning, and thought to myself: man....I haven't had pancakes in a long time!  I bought these gorgeous strawberries at County Market the other day, and it occurred to me: why don't I make STRAWBERRY PANCAKES?  They are SO delicious, and a perfect summer treat :)  Please make these if you're looking for a way to use up your strawberries....I guarantee you'll want more than one!

Strawberry Pancakes

INGREDIENTS
1-1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, separated
3 Tbsp melted butter or margarine
7-8 diced strawberries
   

DIRECTIONS
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. In a measuring cup combine the milk, egg yolks and butter. Stir into the dry ingredients lightly, stirring until lumpy and just combined; add in strawberries.  In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold gently into the rest of the batter.  Cook pancakes on a preheated, buttered griddle. Serve with maple syrup and additional strawberries, if desired.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parmesan Tilapia



Today was one of those days where I just wanted to sit on my couch all day....so going to work at 3 pm was REALLY tough.  Last night, I was feeling pretty down, because I feel like my best friend and I are growing apart.  If I knew if and what I did, it would make me feel better, but she's not talking to me at all about anything!  And for some reason, things like that are REALLY tough/impossible for me to get over.  Hopefully one day she'll try and contact me, but for now I just have to ignore it and move on with my life :(

To cheer me up a little, I decided to make one of my favorite meals of all time: Parmesan Tilapia.  It's TOTAL comfort food....seriously.  Loads of parmesan cheese, flaky white fish, butter or olive oil, salt and pepper, and tomato sauce....what else could be better?  And I paired it with pasta, a side salad with red and green peppers, and my left-over snickerdoodles.  I have a good feeling that things are gonna start looking up for me soon....(especially since I got my paycheck today!)  


This recipe is seriously the easiest in the entire world, so I'd recommend making it if you're looking for a 30-minute meal!


Parmesan Tilapia
(from Craig Claiborne's New York Times Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS
2 tilapia filets
salt and pepper, to taste
generous amount of tomato sauce
generous amount of shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp melted butter

DIRECTIONS
Grease a square baking dish with butter, and place the washed tilapia filets in the dish.  Season with salt and pepper, and coat with tomato sauce.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top, drizzle melted butter on top, and bake in a 425º F oven for 20 minutes.

Hope y'all enjoy!
xoxo, Sara

Monday, August 22, 2011

Snickerdoodles



Today I had NOTHING to do!  I haven't had a day like that in....god, since I was sitting on the couch at home!  So I did all of my dishes (which was a LOT), cleaned up the rooms, and bought some odds and ends for the apartment.  I got this really cute bedspread, and my room is definitely screaming Sara more than ever:


After all of my errands were done and I cleaned the kitchen, I fixed myself dinner: a chicken, bacon, and tomato sandwich, freshly cut-up watermelon, and leftover corn chowder.  While eating dinner, I watched The Parent Trap....and pretty much bawled the entire time.  Alas, throughout the teary eyes, I had this urge to make a simple dessert, like cookies.  I didn't want to spend more money and go to the grocery store again, and I had leftover cinnamon and sugar from the churro cupcakes.  The obvious solution was....snickerdoodle cookies!

These cookies are one of my favorites, because they're not too rich (which unfortunately means you can eat a ton without feeling too stuffed, haha).  I would highly recommend baking these....they're so tasty and make your house smell like Christmas!

Snickerdoodles (makes 24 cookies)

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350º F, and cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg, and then add vanilla extract.  Mix flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Gradually add flour mixture into butter mixture, form into a ball, and wrap in saran wrap.  Place in the refrigerator, and chill for 1 hour.  Unwrap the dough, and take out small chunks of dough and roll into balls.  Dip in cinnamon and sugar mixed together, and place on baking sheets (flatten with the bottom of a glass, if desired---I didn't flatten them, and I think they look just as pretty!).  Bake for 8-10 minutes, let cool, and serve with a cold glass of milk.

Hope y'all enjoy!
xoxo, Sara

Churro Cupcakes



During this crazy weekend, I was trying to schedule a time to hang out with one of my very good friends, Tad.  He was leaving for college, and both of us kept on having conflicts....we finally came up with a solution, to eat beer and cupcakes!  I decided to make Churro cupcakes, which I'd been DYING to make since May.  Churros are one of my favorite treats to have....I had some in Mexico, and had a life-changing experience after eating those churros.

These cupcakes may be some of the best cupcakes I've ever made.....I highly recommend making these.  They are incredibly addictive and make your house smell heavenly and divine :)

Churro Cupcakes (makes 12 cupcakes)

INGREDIENTS:
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract


2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-1/2 cups milk
3 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 Tbsp milk
1 egg white
pinch of cream of tartar
pinch of cinnamon

1 cup chilled whipping cream

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350ºF, and in a large bowl sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together.  Combine almond milk and vinegar, and whisk in sugar, butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until relatively smooth, and fill cupcake liners with batter.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, and let cool completely.


Combine cornstarch, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.  Slowly whisk in the milk while over a double boiler, and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes.  Once thickened, add the chocolate and continue stirring for about 2-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a small bowl and cover, gently pressing a layer of plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, the egg white, cream of tartar, and cinnamon in large bowl until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour.  Gradually beat chilled cream into chocolate mixture, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

With a small pairing knife, cut out cones from the tops of the cupcakes; set aside the cones.  Spoon chocolate pudding filling into each cupcake.  Cut off the pointy part of the cone, and press the tops over the pudding.  Spread the whipped cream frosting on top, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixed together on top.


Hope y'all enjoy!


xoxo, Sara

Chipotle and Green Chile Corn Chowder


I have FINALLY moved into my apartment/condo in Champaign!!  It was very much a fiasco, though....on the way to Wilmington, where my Grandma's beach is, I lost my driver's license :(  At first, it was extremely difficult to travel, because the people at the airline counters had completely different rules regarding ID cards than the people at the security station.  But I finally made it to Illinois!  Unfortunately, I needed to get a license to be able to drive to my jobs, etc, so I had to go to the DMV to get all of that sorted out.  For those of you that haven't tried getting a license as a recently graduated college student, IT'S SO FRUSTRATING.  After several days of panicking, wondering if I had all of the 473184708174 documents, I officially have my Illinois license!

My parents left town on Friday morning, and although it was sad to see them depart, I was SO excited to be able to live by myself!  Admittedly, my life in Urbana-Champaign is going to be REALLY busy....and this weekend for me was pretty crazy!  I had a gig every night, along with stressful days of work.  Luckily, I had a relatively calm day on Sunday, so I decided to make corn chowder for lunch/dinner/the next several days.

I've never made corn chowder before, but it is one of my favorite soups to order in a restaurant or buffet/cafeteria style.  This recipe has chipotle peppers and green chiles, which adds a lot of spice (which I LOVE)!  The corn here in Illinois is extremely sweet and delicious, and went perfectly with the soup.  I hope you guys decide to make it; it's extremely delicious, and soothing for any summer allergies you might have.

Chipotle and Green Chile Corn Chowder

INGREDIENTS
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 Tbsp butter
1-½ yellow onions, diced
5 ears corn, shucked and sliced off the cob
2 whole chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, finely diced
4 oz diced green chilies
32 oz chicken broth
1-½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp corn meal
¼ cups water

DIRECTIONS
Cook bacon pieces in a pot for a couple of minutes, and cook the diced onion and stir for 3 to 4 minutes. Add butter, add corn, and stir and cook for 1 minute. Add both kinds of chilies and stir. Pour in chicken broth, cream, and salt, stir, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, and 
combine cornmeal with water.  Pour into the chowder, cover, and cook for 15 minutes over low heat.  Once consistency is reached, and serve warm with a piece of toasted french bread.


Hope y'all enjoy!


xoxo, Sara

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peach Cobbler

Hey everyone!

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted, but I've been in places where I wasn't able to have internet access.  I traveled to Florida for my uncle's wedding, and then went to Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina, where my grandmother owns some condos.  It was the most amazing trip for me, mainly because I've had my ass on the couch for months at a time!  Florida was wonderful; it was great to see my relatives and meet new family :)  Of course the wedding was fun, the cake was beautiful, and I got to swing dance!  The beach was probably my favorite though; if I were done with school and had enough money to live on, I would move to the beach in a second.  Seriously.  This was the view of the beach from our condo:


I know.  UNBELIEVABLE.  So, while I was at the beach, I decided to bake something for my family.  The day I made the cobbler, there were some tears, yelling, private conversations, etc.  But the good thing about anything made with butter, sugar, and fresh fruit is it makes EVERYTHING better, including the most crazy drama.  :)


Anyway, I hope you guys decide to try this peach cobbler recipe.  It's unbelievably delicious, and I have made it twice this summer....whoops.  :P


Hill Country Peach Cobbler

INGREDIENTS
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk 
3 cups sliced fresh peaches
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350º F, and melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat until browned.  Pour the butter into an 8-inch square baking dish.  In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and milk.  Pour the mixture over the butter, but do not stir.  Arrange the peaches evenly on top of the batter, and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar (I mixed them together before sprinkling them on top).  Bake the cobbler for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice cream.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara