Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Happy fall, friends! I don't know about you, but I am a total sucker for this season...I love the fashion (boot season) and the food. The smell of spice, pumpkin, apples, it just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Anyways, to kick off my fall celebration I put up a few decorations around the house and decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake. Per recommendation from the fabulous Pioneer Woman, I also drizzled caramel onto my crust and it added a really nice chewy texture to my crust. Hope you can try this recipe this season!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Time: 35mins Prep and 1hr/1hr 5min Cook

- 16z Ginger Snaps
- 1 Stick of butter, Melted
- 1-2c of Pecans (Optional)
  1. Add your cookies, pecans, and butter to a food processor until it is ground enough for a crust.
  2. Or - In my case...get a large ziplock and a meat tenderizer (or hammer) and crush away on a chopping mat so you don't break your countertop.  
  3. Once that step is done, grease a 9 x 13 baking pan and pour in your crumbs. 
  4. Use the bottom of your measuring cup to form the crust for your cheesecake.
  5. Place the crust in the fridge until you are ready to spread on the caramel and pour on the mixture.

- 3 Packages of Cream Cheese
- 1 Can of Pure Pumpkin
- 1 1/2c Sugar
- 1tsp Cinnamon
- 1tsp Allspice
- 1/2tsp Nutmeg
- 4 Eggs
- 3tbsp Heavy Cream
- Pinch of Salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat the cream cheese and sugar until they are mixed well and become fluffy.
  3. Add the pumpkin and spices and continue to mix. 
  4. Slowly add in one egg at a time and finally add your cream until the mixture is completely combined. 
  5. At this point you can either pour the mixture onto your cooled crust or pour on your caramel and nuts onto the crust before your pour in your mixture. 

I used an Ina Garten recipe, it turned out differently compared to my previous caramel sauces, but it was perfect on the crust! You can also buy a jar of caramel at the store and pour on your desired amount.

Get the recipe here! 

Whipped Cream
- 1/2-1c Heavy Whipping Cream
- 2tbsp Powdered Sugar
- 1/4-1tsp Vanilla 
  1. Whip the mixture together in a mixing bowl until you reach your desired consistency. Usually right before stiff peaks form. 
  2. Do not overbeat the mixture...if you do then just start over! 
Enjoy this delicious fall dessert!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fig and Prosciutto Bruschetta

Easy and yummy! I recently got a few figs from a friend and decided to make use of them in a bruschetta. The sweetness from the fig and honey are perfectly paired with the saltiness of the prosciutto.

Fig and Prosciutto Bruschetta 
Time: 15mins Prep and Cook 

- Spoonful of Ricotta Cheese ( I used part skim)
- Figs, Sliced (About 1 per bread)
- Prosciutto (2 pieces per bruschetta)
- Honey
- Truffle oil (Optional - I heart truffle oil, but my man likes this recipe without it)
- Toasted Bread
  1. Toast your slices of bread.
  2. Drizzle your bread with honey/ and or truffle oil. 
  3. Take a spoonful of ricotta and spread it onto the toasted bread.
  4. Top your ricotta off with 2 slices of prosciutto and sliced figs.
It's a quick and simple treat...if you have the ingredients try it out!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guinness Brisket

I asked my friend Becca for this recipe several years ago so that I could make it for my love. Since then I've made a few tweaks, but we still love this as much as the first time we tried it. This brisket is perfect for a chilly fall day and super easy for a get together. Serve this up with a side of your favorite crusty bread or salad. I want to warn you that this recipe will need to sit in the slow cooker all day, but the tender goodness is worth the wait, enjoy!

Crockpot Guinness Brisket (Serves 4-5) 
Time: 15min Prep and 8-10hr Cook

If you're of drinking age, go ahead and take a few sips of your Guinness, you know to make it an even 12oz...

- 4 to 5lbs Beef Brisket, trimmed of excess fat
- 12oz Guinness (Or any dark stout)
- 8oz Tomato Sauce
- 3/4c Light Brown Sugar
- 3-4 Carrots, Sliced thick
- 1 Medium Chopped Onion
- 4-5 Garlic Cloves
- 1tsp Thyme
- 1tbsp Parsley
- 1/2tsp Black Pepper
- 1tsp Salt
- 1-2 tsp of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  1. Mix together the wet ingredients and spices in a bowl and chop any vegetables you want to add. 
  2. Place your trimmed brisket into the pot and top with chopped vegetables. 
  3. Pour liquid mixture over the brisket, cover, and cook on low for at least 7-8hrs.
  4. Once it's ready, serve with some mashed potatoes and crusty french bread!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Taqueria Adventures in Hampton Roads Pt. 2

Last weekend we made our way to Jessy's Taqueria in Norfolk and enjoyed every bite of it! We've decided the two taquerias our friend recommended are hands down the best Mexican restaurants in town.

It is a medium sized taqueria attached to a little tienda (store) that has a small meat counter, Mexican pastries, and a small assortment of groceries.  When you walk into the taqueria there are pictures above the register to show you their menu options and after you order and get your meal, you return to the counter to pay your bill.

Appetizer:  Chips, Salsa, Jalapeno Guacamole
The salsa was great, it was actually chunky and had a great flavor. The guacamole was good and simple. It was made with avocados, diced jalapenos, cilantro,lime, and salt...I'm going to toot my own here and mention that my guacamole is our favorite. You can find the recipe here.

If you're you a fan of guac, El Taco Loco and Plaza Azteca does make some pretty good table side guacamole.

Entrees: I got a sope and carne asada taco and my love got a dish called Alambre (Meat, Veggies, Bacon, and Cheese).

Drinks: Of course we ordered horchata, but they were out. Luckily the guy was nice enough to bring out the new batch of horchata once they were done making it.

Our meal cost us about 25-30 dollars which isn't too bad. I don't think you can go wrong visiting either Taqueria, they both serve delicious and authentic Mexican cuisine. They are both very, very casual so don't plan on going to them for a date night or anything. Personally, I liked the food at El Rey's a little more but the salsa and guacamole was a lot tastier at Jessy's.  If you're in the Hampton Roads area these are definitely worth checking them out!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Black Bean Brownies with Chocolate Agave Frosting

Dun, Dun, Dun! Yes, Black - Bean - Brownies! Yes, it is actually made with black beans and it tastes pretty darn good.

I'll be honest I was pretty skeptical of trying these brownies. Funny thing to note is that these were my first homemade brownie and it happened to be the black bean kind.  I was invited to a friends house for dinner tonight and she mentioned wanting a "healthy dessert" so I figured if it was my chance! If it tasted horrible...well I didn't have a plan B so I'm glad it worked out.

Looks pretty good doesn't it? The brownies turned out rich, soft, moist, but a little more cake like than your average brownie. I'll definitely be making these again!

Black Bean Brownie
Time: 10min Prep and 30-33min Cook

- 1 15z Can Beans Drained (Low Sodium)
- 2 Whole Eggs, 1 White
- 1/4c Strong Coffee/ 1tbsp Instant Coffee (Helps deepen the chocolate flavor)
- 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter Melted (I've made without butter and it still turned out good)
- 1/2c of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1/3 to 2/3c of Agave Nectar
- 1-2tbsp Peanut Butter (Optional, you could add some chopped nuts too)
- 1tsp Baking Powder
- 2tsp Vanilla
- 1/2-1c Chocolate Chips
I used semisweet because I had it in the pantry, but I think milk chocolate would've been better.
- 1/4-1/2tsp of Cinnamon (Optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. With the exception of your chocolate chips, add in all of your ingredients into a blender or food processor. 
  3. Puree your ingredients until it forms the consistency of a batter.
  4. Coat and 8x8 pan with a good amount of oil or Pam.
  5. Mix in your chocolate chips and pour the batter into the pan and place in oven for about 30-33minutes. Cool your brownies for a few minutes and spread on your favorite chocolate frosting! I would let the brownies chill for at least 30mins, I thought they tasted better that way. 

Store brownies in the refrigerator

Chocolate Agave Frosting
Time: 5min 

You can really use any type of frosting you want to at this point! I wanted to make an chocolate agave frosting to top the brownies and was happy to come across a super simple recipe at Clean and Delicious. Some people thought this was too bitter, so play around with your favorite frosting!

- 1c Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1/4c Grapeseed Oil (I have used olive oil and coconut oil in place of grapeseed)
- 1/2c Agave Nectar
- 2tsp Vanilla
  1. Mix ingredients together and top your brownies! How easy was that?
I'll probably continue to play around with this recipe but overall I really enjoyed it. My friend had no idea it was even made from black beans. When I made her guess what was in it, she thought I was hinting at the "spice" she tasted from the cinnamon. I want to clarify that this it's not your super fudgy chocolate brownies, but it's definitely a good and "healthy" option! Try it out and let me know how it turns out for you. 

Waffles with Sausage and Peppers

I love weekends. I love long weekends even more, it makes waking up on Sundays that much more exciting. Over the holiday weekend I made my love some waffles and a side of sausages with peppers, potatoes, and onions. In my opinion this is a pretty mouthwatering breakfast...or practically lunch since we fell back asleep 3 times this morning (To our defense, things have been a little crazy around here! Sorry Dolly).

Cinnamon Waffles (Made 2 batches of Belgian waffles)
Time: 10mins Prep, Cook Time based upon waffle maker 

- 2 Eggs Whisked
- 2c Flour ( I like to use unbleached flour, you can use whatever you have on hand)
- 1 1/3c Milk
- 1/2c Oil
- 3 to 4 tbsp Sugar (Personal preference)
- 3 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/4 tsp Salt 
- 2 tsp Vanilla
- Pinch of Cinnamon ( Optional)

  1. Whisk together your wet ingredients: milk, eggs, vanilla, and oil.
  2. Mix together your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon
  3. Pour your dry ingredients into your milk and egg mixture and mix. Don't over mix the batter, just make sure everything is blended well.
  4. Pour your batter onto the waffle iron and set your desired heat!
  5. I also whipped up some cinnamon sugar butter to top the waffles. (Optional)
We got to use our new Cuisinart waffle maker that my cousin got us for our wedding! 

Sausage with Peppers, Onions, and Potatoes (Serves 4) 
Time: 5mins Prep and 10-16mins Cook

- 1 Potato Sliced
- 2 Peppers Sliced 
- 1/2 Onion Sliced
- 1tbsp Whole Grain Mustard (It adds a nice flavor)
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Olive Oil 
- Sausages ( I used Chicken and Apple)
  1. Coat your pan with olive oil and heat the pan to about medium and sauté your vegetables. I like to add potatoes first so they can get some extra cook time. 5-6mins.
  2. Add your sliced sausages and mustard to the pan and cook through for another 10mins or so...wait for your waffles and you're good to go!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Taqueria Adventures in Hampton Roads

GOOD Mexican food is pretty dang hard to come across out here. My love and I are from out West and we have been spoiled with many years of awesome and authentic Mexican restaurants. Unfortunately we've become quite the Mexican food snobs, we often venture to places just to be disappointed by their lack of x,y, or z. Most of the places that we've frequented here use store bought tortillas, serve tomato sauce for salsa, have no idea what horchata is, and serve ranch dressing alongside their salsa. Honestly the spicy ranch has grown on me a little, but I still have no idea why it is served at a Mexican restaurant.

After hearing our cry for good Mexican food our friend Kelley recommended two local restaurants, El Rey and Jessy's Taqueria in Norfolk. We went to the original El Rey with some friends for lunch today and were quite pleased!

It is important to note that El Rey is a small taqueria with 2 tables and a few stools along the counter. Once you decide what you want, you order at the register and they make your food fresh while you wait. 

Beverages:  I was extremely disappointed they did not have horchata today so we settled for a bottled water and a Jarritos (Mexican soda).  
Horchata is a rice milk typically made with ground rice, vanilla, and cinnamon. It is one of my favorite drinks of all time! I really need to try making this at home, keep an eye out for it!

El Rey Burrito - Carne Asada, Beans, Rice, Cheese, Avocado, Lettuce, Pico de Gallo. 
Mixed Tacos - I got 3 tacos: Barbacoa, al pastor, and carne asada served with onions and cilantro and a side of rice and beans. I thought the tacos were awesome, my barbacoa was a little greasy but still delicious.
The tortillas are homemade and cooked with your meal. They serve both corn and flour.

We also ordered chips and salsa, the chips were pretty good but the salsa was just okay. I ended up ordering a side of pico de gallo for our chips. They did not have guacamole today either, but from what our friend Kelley said we weren't missing out on anything. Overall it was an awesome little taqueria and I'm glad we finally made it out there. It definitely beats any restaurant near us! 

The lady at the register told us to visit their other location El Rey 2 located on Little Creek Rd. next time. It is supposed to be larger and have more menu options...including horchata! 

We'll be visiting Jessy's Taqueria in a few weeks and I'll be sure to post a follow up!