Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cake Balls - a Valentine's Day treat!

The month of January has been so crazy, I don't even know where the days have gone! Between the new year, my birthday celebration(s), preparing for and running the Carlsbad Half Marathon, and the daily grind, I really haven't had much time to get creative in the kitchen... let alone sit down and blog my culinary creations. Plus we have been trying to cut back on the sugar intake in our house, which means I haven't been baking AT ALL. But here it is, almost February, so I think it's about time to indulge in a Valentine's Day inspired treat!


Well... what started as an attempt to make cute heart-shaped sugar cookie bars the other night, turned into these fun Valentine's Day Cake Balls. Here's how my epic baking fail (and creation of a new recipe) went down. I had found a delicious-looking recipe for cookie bars from Sally's Baking Addiction; she really knows her sugary treats. The ingredients included in her recipe such as the additional egg yolk and corn starch were supposed to help to make the cookie bars extra soft and chewy... just the way I like them. Well I was super bummed when I accidentally added the entire extra egg instead of just the additional egg yolk to the dough. DOH! Seriously, don't try to bake in a hurry or when you are distracted... baking is an exact art! I knew my 'cookie bars' were not going to turn out the way Sally had intended, but I decided to bake them anyway and see what happened.


When the pan came out of the oven, my 'ooops' looked pretty good and smelled yummy. So once my version of the 'cookie bars' were cooled, I attempted to use a cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes. NOPE. The extra egg white I added to the dough caused what was supposed to be soft and chewy cookie bars to turn out more like a crumbly, dense cake. Since it still tasted delicious and I hate to waste, I crumbled up the 'cookie bars' into a bowl and added the entire can of vanilla frosting. By mixing the cake-y 'cookie bars' and frosting, shaping them into balls, then rolling them in some festive sprinkles, I created Cake Balls instead!


Turns out these little Cake Balls are AMAZING!!!!!!!! They are the perfect Valentine's Day project to do with the kids or sweet treat to give away to your loved ones.

Cake Balls
adapted from sallysbakingaddiction.com
makes about 24 cake balls

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Red food coloring
1 can vanilla frosting (I used a pink-colored one)
Sprinkles

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 9x9 square baking pan with aluminum foil, making sure to leave enough overhang on the sides. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter for about 1 minute on medium speed using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Once the butter is smooth, add the sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cornstarch. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 different parts. The batter is quite thick. Once combined, add a few drops of red food coloring (the more drops used, the more red the dough will turn out) and mix until the color is distributed evenly throughout the batter.

Press the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 22-24 minutes or until very lightly browned on top. Be careful not to overbake. Allow the pan to cool completely on a wire rack at room temperature.

Remove the cooled cake from the baking pan using the aluminum foil overhang on the sides. Crumble cake into a large bowl and add the can of frosting; mix well until a dough forms. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls, then roll cake balls in sprinkles.

 

Store cake balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days. They are super yummy chilled!


Not every baking experience is a good one... ingredients get left out, mixed up, measured incorrectly, and things get overbaked. It's life! But every baking experience is a learning experience, we don't have to get it right all the time. The great part is that in some instances, you can take a culinary 'ooops' and make something equally as yummy.


This is my pre-Cake Ball 'ooops' in all it's glory! I'm going to try to make the heart-shaped cookie bars again... Stay tuned.

Enjoy!

- Janel

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How To Make: Gnocchi

The other day I asked my boyfriend to pick up potatoes at the store to go with our steak dinner. I should have specified I only needed 4 potatoes, because what we ended up with was a 10 lb. bag of potatoes that could feed a family for a month! Men are funny. Needless to say, we have been eating A LOT of potatoes lately. I usually just slice the potatoes thinly, then cover them in a mixture of olive oil, season salt, and black pepper and bake them at a high temp in the oven to make crispy potatoes. The potatoes “fries” (see our Oven Baked 'French Fries' recipe) make the perfect side dish to just about anything!

But there does come a point when you have just had enough potato “fries”. I decided to go totally outside my kitchen comfort zone and try a new recipe using potatoes… and I made GNOCCHI!!! For those of you who are not familiar with Italian food, gnocchi are dumplings made from potatoes. They can also be made from made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, egg, cheese, breadcrumbs, or similar ingredients. These classic Italian dumplings are an alternative to pasta and are quite delicious!


I’ve enjoyed many gnocchi dishes at restaurants and even bought pre-made gnocchi at the grocery store, but I had no idea how the dumplings were made or what they were made out of (besides potato). Well, after some research I found an easy recipe on allrecipes.com that requires only 3 ingredients!!!! If you have 1) potatoes 2) flour and 3) an egg you can make gnocchi. I had no idea it was so simple.

I will admit it is a labor of love to make these potato dumplings, but totally worth the time and effort! I followed the recipe and directions to the T… and quite honestly the only thing I would do differently next time is add a little salt to the dough. These gnocchi turned out great! I threw them in with some chicken sausage, broccoli, olive oil and Parmesan cheese and created a yummy, healthy one-dish meal.

Gnocchi
recipe via allrecipes.com
makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg


Directions:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel potatoes and add to pot. Cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes.


Drain, cool and mash with a fork or potato masher.


Combine 1 cup mashed potato, flour and egg in a large bowl.


Knead until dough forms a ball.


Shape small portions of the dough into long "snakes". On a floured surface, cut snakes into half-inch pieces.



Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop in gnocchi and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until gnocchi have risen to the top; drain and serve.


At this point, I added the gnocchi to some cooked chicken sausage and broccoli. Tossed it all in a warm pan in olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Then sprinkled with red pepper flakes!


You can eat gnocchi plain.... or throw them into a pan with your favorite meats, vegetables, and pasta sauces to make a hearty, delicious 'pasta' dish! There are plenty of awesome recipes out there for dishes using your homemade gnocchi.


Yuuuuuuuummmmmmmm!

I can't wait to try making gnocchi again, there are so many different ways to prepare and eat it!

Yeay for trying new things! It's fun to experiment and make a mess in the kitchen from time to time...

Good luck on your gnocchi-making adventure.

- Janel 





Sunday, January 11, 2015

Turkey Pot Pie Soup

Today was the perfect kind of day to put a big pot of soup on... it was lazy, rainy and cold Sunday! Amy and I looked for a soup recipe that we could use leftover turkey in (from our weekly Slow Cooker Turkey Breast) and came across a Skinnytaste recipe for Turkey Pot Pie Soup. Her recipes are always a winner so we decided to try it out...


With a few adjustments to the original recipe, I was able to create a bowl full of amazingly delicious comfort food! It tastes like you are eating a warm, rich pot pie (minus the flaky pie crust). 


This Turkey Pot Pie Soup is a great way to use up your leftover turkey from the holidays. It's a quick and easy soup to throw together... you can make a big batch tonight and enjoy it all week long. Packed full of protein and veggies, this hearty soup will warm you and fill you up!

Turkey Pot Pie Soup
based on a recipe by skinnytaste.com
makes about 10 cups

Ingredients:
1/4 cup flour
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
4 cups fat free milk
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
8 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
12 oz frozen mixed vegetables
2 medium potatoes, cubed
16 oz cooked turkey breast, diced small or shredded
1 tbsp butter (we use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter)
salt and pepper, to taste
dash of red pepper flakes

Directions:
Create a slurry by combining 1/2 cup of the cold broth with flour in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.


Pour remaining broth and milk into a large pot and slowly bring to a boil. Add celery, onion, mushrooms, oregano and parsley, frozen vegetables, and potatoes and return to a boil. Partially cover and simmer on low until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.


Add turkey and butter, and slowly whisk in slurry, stirring well as you add. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until soup thickens; add salt and pepper to taste and a dash of red pepper flakes, and serve.


This soup is great served with some warm buttermilk biscuits!


Yummmm... this was a great dinner for a cold rainy night! So good. This veggie-packed soup will definitely stay in the winter dinner rotation. 

Enjoy!

- Janel