Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spinach-Apple Salad with Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette

A Tasty and Healthy Salad
Hello!  Long time no post.  This past weekend I was in Chicago for a volleyball tournament with my club team.  I had a nice time with my team and relatives but didn't get the chance to post this wonderful salad that I made the weekend before.  This delicious and beautiful salad is perfect for the summer or on a hot, Autumn day, but I wanted to share it with you all now instead.  This is one of my absolute favorites and it's really hard to describe the sensational flavor without just trying some yourself.  The apple mixed with the bacon and maple syrup gives it a fresh and savory taste, as well as some nice crunch.  It's super quick to make {all you really have to do is mix it all up} and presents well with the vibrant colors from the apple and optional tomatoes.  
Try this out in the summer for a get together and impress all your friends and neighbors! :)

2 tbsp maple syrup {tastes better if real, not imitation!}
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chives {optional}
about 1/3 of a cherry tomatoes container {again, optional}
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 slices bacon, cooked & cut
1 large granny smith apple
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thin
10-12 oz of fresh baby spinach 

How to:
Combine the syrup, vinegar and mustard and whisk well.  Add oil, whisk, then add the chives, salt, pepper and bacon.  Slice the apple then add the vinaigrette to the apple and onion {doing this will help keep the apple a bright green}.  Toss with the spinach and cherry tomatoes & enjoy!
note: serves about 8

Happy cooking!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!
Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday and enjoyed some yummy treats :)


Monday, February 13, 2012

Rick Bayless Guacamole

Holy Mole, Guacamole!
The perfect appetizer to serve for large groups is....chips and salsa!  What makes this traditional crowd pleaser even better?  Fresh guacamole.  Yum.  I can't tell you how fast this stuff goes at my house.  I made this just 20 minutes before my boyfriend's family arrived, and we had already put significant dents in the bowl before they knocked on the door.  It's tempting.  It's fresh.  It's delicious.
Give it a try!

2 medium, ripe avacados
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
salt to taste

to make it really good:
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 jalapeñ
1/4 small white onion, finely chopped
(optional: tomato)

How to:
Cut the avacado in half, running your knife around the pit from stem to blossom end and back up again.  Twist the halves in opposite directions to free the pit and pull the halves apart.  Dislodge the pit, then scoop the avocado into a medium bowl.  
Mash the avocado with a large fork.  Stir in the garlic and about half a teaspoon of salt and any other ingredients you have chosen.  If you use white onion, make sure to rinse under cold water for about 20 seconds to get rid of any overwhelming flavor that would taint the guacamole.  

Luckily for me, my dad helped with the onion!  If you've been following my previous posts you're probably well aware that I get super teary eyed when chopping those pesky things up.

Serve with chips and enjoy!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Movie Premiere: The Vow

Notebook Rival?
I went to see The Vow on Thursday night with some friends and my boyfriend.  We grabbed some shakes at Steak and Shake beforehand and they were really good!  None of us had been and if you haven't tried them, I highly suggest it for an inexpensive, large treat!  You could probably split one though, they were huge!  Okay, back to the movie.  Not sure if it had to do with the fact that it was 2 a.m. but it didn't quite live up to my expectations!  I had really, really high expectation though. It was definitely better than Dear John and in my opinion better than The Last Song.  I'm a big Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum fan, so the combination was perfect! I wish the ending was more specific though.  That's probably why I love The Notebook, you know exactly how everything in their lives end haha.

Anyways, this was a random post but I just wanted to share my opinion on it!  Have you seen it?  Are you going on Valentines Day?  Let me know your thoughts! It's definitely a great date movie :)


Espresso Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Jazz Up Some Box Mix!
Who would have thought that just two ingredients could take a box mix of brownies from "eh" to "amazing!"?  Whenever my family has to bring a desert or treat to an event, we almost always fall back on either our famous chocolate chip cookies, or these espresso brownies.  These brownies have such a rich, chocolately taste, with just two secret ingredients separating them from the average box mix!  {hint: espresso powder and cinnamon}.
I highly recommend taking the few seconds to add these powders and chocolate chunks to your mix the next time you make brownies!  We had my boyfriend's family over for dinner last night, and even his mom {who's a dessert chef} loved them.  Pair it with some coffee ice cream and toasted pecans to make it especially tasty and fancy!


Note: if brownie mix doesn't have chocolate chunks in it, add them!

How to:
1.  Mix the dry ingredients together 
2.  Have the 1/4 cup of water in a measuring cup.  Add the egg and whisk with a fork
3.  Add the egg and the 1/3 cup vegetable oil. 
4.  Grease the pan {this box took a 9x9 pan} and pour the brownie mix in!  Follow instructions on the back of the box for cooking :)

Wouldn't these make such a simple and great gift for Valentines Day?  


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cereal and M&M Cookies

Breakfast of Champions
Alright, so maybe cookies aren't the healthiest breakfast choice in the world.  However, I would be lying if I said I didn't eat a couple of these the next morning instead of my traditional bowl of oatmeal!  These cookies {although not the most photogenic} are surprisingly tasty and for most people {myself excluded}, very easy to make!  
My brother is actually the expert cookie chef in our house.  Back in middle school, my dad wanted to help us both have super cool science fair projects.  I got to make/watch him make a lie detector, and my brother did a huge project on the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  Seriously, his chocolate chip cookies are always a group favorite at potlucks! I'll post that recipe soon.  Anyways, he was supposed to be my "Miyagi" for this simple recipe, but neglected me and I did not know that..

a) you mix dry ingredients together before adding them to the liquids
b) I forgot the oatmeal at first....uhhh
c) unplug a mixer before touching the spatula!  No one got hurt, but it was a crisis waiting to happen!
d) over-crush the frosted flakes

So here is the recipe!  My dad jotted down the very brief form, so I'll write some more details underneath the picture for those of us that need some extra guidance ;)

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup crushed corn flakes or Special K {we only had frosted flakes, which work fine, just add less sugar!}
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup oatmeal
1 bag mini {or regular} M&M's..we got rid of some Halloween candy!

How to:
  1. Cream the butter and sugars.  Make sure to unplug the mixer if you try to touch anything inside the bowl!
  2. Add in the eggs, mixing it in slowly at first.
  3. Mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a bowl.  Now add these, making sure to go slow.  You don't want flour to go everywhere!
  4. Crush the flakey cereal.  Now, contrary to my belief, you do not want this to be grainy!  Barely break the cereal up, such as in the third picture from the right. Add cereal and oatmeal to the mixture. 
  5. Add M&M's.  If using regular size, stir with a spoon.  If mini, they can be mixed.
  6. Roll into balls, about 3 by 3. They expand a lot!  Bake on ungreased sheets at 375 degrees for 8 minutes

Hopefully your baking experience is less dangerous and disastrous!  These work really well for kids, my 3 younger sibling all love them!  {hence, they only lasted 3 day in my house}.  


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spicy New England Clam Chowder

A Seafood Lover's Favorite
As long as I can remember my family has been making this delicious {and spicy!} clam chowder in the winter months.  It's warm, tasty, and really gets those sinuses cleared up!  Definitely a hiccup recipe for me, if you know what I mean {reference to another blog post}.  The other afternoon I finally decided to own up and learn this recipe, because I can guarantee it will be one I'll keep on hand for years.  I was surprised it took me this long to learn how to make it; it was so simple.  So now, I am imparting my wisdom and delicious recipe on you all! 

{like these flowers in the background?  DIY blue mason jar tutorial here}

1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups milk
5 cans minced clams, undrained
2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves*
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper 

*my family prefers crushed rosemary, the chunks are kind of weird!

How to:
Melt butter in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour, salt and cayenne.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Add milk all at once and whisk thoroughly.  Add remaining ingredients.  Simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.  
Note: This is better made the day before!  Gets very flavorful :)  Also, it freezes well.

My only complaint would be the chopping of the onions!  I swear I cry enough to make the soup when I chop 'em!   {okay, maybe not that much..that would be a bit excessive}.  I had to take many breaks in order to finish them.  Ahh, the day when I can chop onions quickly..that will be the life!
Sorry it's been a little while since I've posted.  I actually made this recipe {and an upcoming cereal cookies recipe} this weekend but have been rather busy with school and volleyball practice.

As always, enjoy and please comment if you try this or have any questions!