Friday, December 31, 2010

Slider Bar

For Denis's birthday this year I invited both of our immediate families to dinner to celebrate. Instead of doing a formal sit down dinner we did a casual slider bar. It was kind of like having a summer barbeque in the middle of the winter. On the menu were both cheeseburger sliders and pulled pork sliders. Since it was Denis's birthday he chose the menu so I also made lobster mac and cheese. Super tasty! I put a variety of toppings out to go with the burgers and also served a salad on the side. I used two different types of cheeses and used whole wheat and regular potato rolls, both slider size. Since it was a casual dinner I didn't want to be in the kitchen the entire time everyone was here, so I was able to prepare everything ahead of time, all I needed to cook was the burgers. The Pulled Pork was easy because I was able to cook it in the crock pot the night before. I can't wait to try this in the summer!

Cheese Burger Sliders
Serves 12 (2 Burgers per person)


3lbs ground beef
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to grease grill or grill pan
2 large shallots, grated
1 tablespoon dried basil
salt and pepper
6 slices cheddar, halved
6 slices swiss, halved
24 rolls


In a large bowl combine ground beef, olive oil, shallots, basil and salt and pepper.

Separate into 24 mini burgers.

Heat grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Coat with olive oil. Cook burgers about 5 minutes on each side then add cheeses, a half per burger.

Place each burger in a bun and serve!


Sautéed Mushrooms
Sautéed Onions
Mayo and Kethup (1/4 cup of each)
Raw Onions

Pull Pork Sliders

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

As soon as I saw this on the Barefoot Contessa I could pretty much taste the cheesy goodness! I made this simple appetizer two times in the past two weeks, for a cocktail party and as an app for a dinner party. It is delish! I liked it because it had a lot of flavor without too many ingredients or preparation time. It was also great because I was able to prep it ahead of time them bake it right before my guests arrived. So yummy.

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry
Barefoot Contessa


1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 lb black forest ham, sliced
1/2 lb Swiss Cheese, sliced
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. (I ran out of parchment the second time I made it so I just used Butter Flavored cooking spray.)

Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and carefully roll it out to 10 by 12 inches. Place it on a sheet pan and brush the center with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Place a layer first of ham and then cheese, also leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the border with the egg wash. Place the second sheet of puff pastry on the floured board and roll it out to 10 by 12 inches. Place the second on top of the filled pastry, lining up the edges. Cut the edges straight with a small, sharp knife and press together lightly. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 20- 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve hot or warm.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dream Bars

For another Sunday Funday I couldn't decide between cookies or some sort of dessert bar, so I found this recipe that was really both. They are called Dream Bars and they were to die for, especially right out of the oven. I actually was able to freeze them a few weeks before and let them defrost before baking and they were still really tasty.

I have been using a lot lately and one of the best parts of the website is the comment section for each recipe. They always have so many helpful hints and suggestions from people that have tried them in the past. The comments for the Dream Bars were especially helpful. The recipe says to cook the brownie and cookie layers at the same time but the biggest overwhelming comment recommended to cook the brownie layer first then spread the cookie layer on top and bake. This worked really well. The recipe suggests to let cool completely but serving them warm with some good vanilla ice cream on top would be incredible.

Dream Bars
Makes 48 (2 by 1-inch bars)

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla


Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl, then pour in chocolate mixture, whisking until combined well. Whisk in flour mixture, set aside.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (8 ounces)


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan and line bottom and sides with wax paper, then butter paper.

Spread brownie batter evenly in pan. Bake for 35 minutes while mixing cookie dough, remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Make chocolate chip dough:
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Lightly beat 1 egg with a fork in a small bowl and add 1 3/4 tablespoons of it plus remaining whole egg to butter mixture, beating with mixer until creamy. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture until just blended, then stir in chips.

Top brownies evenly with spoonfuls of cookie dough, spreading gently with back of spoon to form an even layer. If the brownies are not cooked the dough will sink into the batter, it also helps when spreading the cookie dough.

Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs adhering, about 35-45 minutes longer. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. Invert onto a cutting board, remove paper, and cut into bars.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Cookies

I have been very busy these past couple of weeks cooking, baking, and decorating all sorts of cookies. Holiday orders were keeping me very occupied up to the last second! Even though they took a lot of time they were still fun to make and came out pretty cute too. One of my orders wanted the cookies personalized, so I did names on each. I can't wait until next year to add more fun shapes to the Christmas assortment!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday Funday Pulled Pork

A few weeks ago my cousins came for Sunday Funday and I made Pulled Pork. I never made it before so I was a little nervous but it was so easy. I did use a recipe as a guide but changed and added things. The original suggested to use a pork shoulder but that made me a nervous too, so I used two pork tenderloins instead. I used a slow cooker cookbook from Williams-Sonoma as my guide. I also added some liquid smoke as an added flavor. It adds a little smokiness as if it was cooked in a smoker all day, a little goes a really long way. For the rolls I toasted them with a little butter and garlic powder, it made the bread soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, perfect with the pulled pork.

Sunday Funday Pulled Pork
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking
Serves 12 with leftovers

2 Boneless Pork Tenderloins (about 4 lbs)
salt and ground pepper
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
4 cups (about 32 oz) of barbecue sauce, plus some for the serving
3 tablespoons of yellow mustard
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp of liquid smoke
Soft Round Rolls
Cole Slaw for topping, optional


Season pork all over with salt and pepper.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the canola oil. Add the pork and cook, turning frequently, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Brown each of the tenderloins separately to ensure all sides of each are browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour out all but about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan. Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pork to a slow cooker and add the broth mixture. Cover and cook until the pork is very tender, 8-10 hours (I cooked it over night) on a low-heat setting. Using 2 forks pull apart the pork into shreds. Add the barbecue sauce, the mustard, the honey, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the liquid smoke. Stir well, set temperature to high, and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the flavors are well blended and the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Serve the pork on the rolls, topped with the cole slaw. Serve additional BBQ sauce on the side.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Duke Graduation Cookies

My friend Kristin ordered some cookies as a Secret Santa present for her cousin who just graduated from Duke nursing school. So I did a few Grad caps and the Duke D with a black background as well as a white background each with the the medical symbol.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies

So honestly two of my favorite things are peanut butter and cheesecake. So when I came across this recipe I decided to make it immediately. What could be better than peanut butter and cheesecake together? Seriously? I made them for a dinner party at a friends' house, they were pretty tasty. My only change for next time would be not to cook them as long as suggested, my suggested time is below.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies
Bon Appetit
Makes 25


Brownie Layer:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 /2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cheesecake Layer:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup creamy (smooth) peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped


For brownie layer:
Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square metal baking pan with 2-inch-high sides with non-stick spray; line bottom with parchment paper.

Stir chocolate and butter in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth; cool 10 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla in medium bowl until very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture on low speed, then beat in flour and salt. Spread batter in pan.

For Cheesecake Layer:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in cream, then flour. Transfer 1/3 cup cheesecake batter to small bowl and reserve. Spreading remaining cheesecake batter over brownie layer.

Place chocolate in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on low power in 10-second intervals until chocolate begins to melt, then stir until smooth. Mix chocolate into reserved 1/3 cup cheesecake batter. Drop chocolate batter by heaping teaspoonfuls atop cheesecake layer. Using chopstick or wooden skewer, swirl chocolate batter in figure-eight pattern through white cheesecake layer.

Bake brownies until edges of cheesecake layer are puffed and center is set, about 25 - 30 minutes. (Recipe suggests to cook for 36 minutes, which I thought was too long, so I suggest less time.) Cool brownies in pan on rack. Cover; chill at least 1 hour.

Cut brownies into 25 squares. Using narrow spatula, transfer brownies to platter. Serve cold.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sausage - Cheddar Balls

I just subscribed to Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and they have some great, easy recipes. The first recipe I made was Sausage-Cheddar Balls. I've made these twice now and I tried them 2 different ways. I think they are delish! Below I've included the original recipe, but the 2nd time I tried the recipe I used Hot Italian Sausage and Three Cheese Cheddar. They were pretty spicy, so if you like "hot" this option would work for you. I love Buffalo Chicken so I think I am going to experiment next time with chicken sausage, blue cheese and Buffalo Sauce. I will definitely blog it when I do!

Sausage-Cheddar Balls
Everyday Food
Serves 4


1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups grated cheddar
1 lb bulk breakfast sausage
1/2 large yellow onion, grated on large holes of a box grater
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, ground pepper, cayenne pepper and baking powder. Add grated cheddar and toss to coat. Add sausage, grated onion and melted butter.

3. With your hands, mix until well blended and roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Place balls, 1/2 inch apart, on baking sheet. Bake until balls are golden and cooked through about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Garlic and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

Honestly what is Thanksgiving without some homemade mashed potatoes? I changed the original recipe a little bit but it was still rich and creamy and delish. Denis really likes mashed potatoes with the skin on so I left half of them with the skins on. I also like how it looks, its kind of rustic. I will definitely be using this recipe again for next year! I didn't take a picture of them unfortunately but here is the recipe.

Garlic and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 8-10


5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, half peeled, all cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
4 gloves of garlic, grated on a microplane or minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Cover with cold water by 2 inches in a 5 to 6 quart heavy pot and add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes in a colander, then return to pot and cook over moderate heat, shaking pot occasionally, until dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Mash hot potatoes with masher then cover to keep warm.

Bring milk with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt just to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, then remove from heat and stir into potatoes until combined. Stir in sour cream, then cover and keep warm.

Cook butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring frequently and scraping up brown bits, until foam subsides and butter is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and pepper and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Fold butter mixture into mashed potatoes and season with salt.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cat Cora's Southern Cornbread

I love cornbread, so I really wanted to try it for Thanksgiving. I've never made it before so I thought this recipe was a good one to try. I heard Cat Cora talk about it in a Thanksgiving episode then the recipe was in my Food Network Magazine. It smelled so yummy and tasted pretty good too with some butter.

Cat Cora's Southern Cornbread
Cat Cora's Classics
Serves 4 to 6 people

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk (shake before measuring)
2 large eggs


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan.

2. Melt the butter in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish in three 15-second intervals on high or in a small pan on the stove. Set it aside to cool.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and the eggs. Add the melted butter. Add the flour-cornmeal mixture and stir just until combined. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until the cornbread just begins to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 23 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole

This is probably the only semi-low calorie recipe I made on Thanksgiving. I found the recipe on Cooking Light, my go to website. Sometimes you can tell when I make something that is low calorie but this recipe was killer! It was so good and I will definitely be making it next year. It was like having desert for dinner. I liked it so much I had it for breakfast the next morning, only on Thanksgiving. I highly recommend it, but I wouldn't really eat it if you were trying to watch the calories!

Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole
Cooking Light
Yield: 18 servings


14 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 5 pounds)
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Place potatoes in a Dutch oven, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 12 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Combine the half-and-half and next 4 ingredients ( half-and-half through egg) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add potato to egg mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Spoon potato mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine flour and sugar in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add chilled butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in pecans; sprinkle over potato mixture.

Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes or until the topping is browned and the potatoes are thoroughly heated.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. Definitely Denis's! So we had a ton of food planned. Some food definitely came out better than others though, note to self for next year. Our Turkey was delish after being in a brine for over 12 hours, it was very juicy and moist. My pumpkin pie on the other hand needs some work; crust was good, pie not so much, next year I am going to stick with a traditional pie recipe instead of being fancy. I also tried dinner rolls they weren't very successful either, but I plan on trying them again shortly. Everything else came out pretty tasty. Since we only have one oven I was able to prep a lot the day before and everyone brought something from home as well. It was all very yummy. We made the Turkey, Sweet Potato Casserole, Mashed Potatoes, Cornbread, and Butternut Squash soup. Below is the menu, recipes will follow later:

The Menu


Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Bacon
Crab Dip
Caramelized Onion and Brie Puff Pastry
Pepperoni Bread


Turkey Brined and then Cooked with Garlic and Herb Butter
Sweet Potato Casserole
Garlic and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
String Bean Casserole
Broccoli Casserole
Corn Bread
Creamed Spinach


Pumpkin Pie
Brownies al a mode
Cherry Cake Bars

Thursday, December 2, 2010


As I mentioned before we hosted Thanksgiving again this year, for the 2nd year in a row. We had 12 people in our tiny apartment (next year we will definitely be in a house)! It was my parents, my sister and her boyfriend, my brother, my In-Laws and my sister-in-law, and my sister's boyfriend's Mom and Sister. It was very cozy. I decorated the tables with twig-like pumpkins for the centerpieces with tiny orange tea lights surrounding them. I went with fall colors for the napkins and tablecloths. We set up each of the cookies on the bread plates, for each person. I used our close to brand new china and crystal too. Below are some pics from the tablescape. The Menu and recipes will follow shortly.

Adult table...
Kids' Table...
Cookie Placecards..

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Cookies

We hosted Thanksgiving again this year, more to follow on that later, so I made cookies but used them as place cards. We had 12 people so I did 6 turkeys and 6 pumpkins. I thought they came out pretty cute!
Pre-baggies and ribbons..
with Brown Bows!