Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fake Out! Black Tie Mousse Cake

Living in Hawaii definitely has its perks. First of all, the lowest temperature I've seen since living here is like 64 degrees. Also, 80 degrees here is sooo different from 80 degrees in New England. New England is super humid and you feel the need to take a shower the minute you walk out your door. Hawaii is breezy and hot, not humid.

Also, we have such a diverse array of delicious food here it is ridiculous. The one category Hawaii could work on is Italian cuisine. Which of course, is my favorite kind of food. In a way, this is a blessing because I have had to experiment in the kitchen. This has undoubtedly saved me a truckload of cash from how much I spent going to Italian restaurants. I know that Olive Garden to "real" Italian chefs is frowned upon. I really don't care. I love Olive Garden. I would give up my left foot to have some breadsticks with an alfredo boat and 23 tiramisus right now. Jon would give up his left eye right now to have the breadsticks and 44 black tie mousse cakes.

I'm always forcing Jon to try recipes he would never agree to if I didn't have this blog. I decided he deserved a reward for all the spinach, mushrooms and onions he'd been consuming in the name of Cooking With Cait. That reward was a Black Tie Mousse Cake. I immediately turned to google with the search "Olive Garden Black Tie Mousse Cake". I landed on this recipe. I am sure this mousse cake is delicious and very close to Olive Garden's, as most of her reviews say it is. I, unfortunately, came up with this idea at 8pm and was not about to go through that long of a baking process. I decided to pick up some instant puddings, mix it with homemade whipped cream and get this thing in the fridge to set within an hour. I hope you all enjoy this as much as Jon and I did.

1 box Butter Fudge or Devil's Food Cake mix

Chocolate Mousse:
5.9oz instant chocolate pudding
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache:
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp almond extract

Vanilla Mousse:
5.9oz instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
2 cup whipped cream (such as cool whip or homemade*recipe follows*)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Homemade Whipped Cream (yields 4-5 cups)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For Whipped Cream, put metal or glass bowl in freezer for 5-10 minutes. Whip cream, sugar and vanilla extract on high with electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks.
You're going to make TWO 9 inch cakes. One will be used for this Black Tie Mousse Cake, the other... Well, use your imagination ;). I ended up making a Pistachio Mousse Cake with it. You could also do some epic sundaes with cake in the bottom of the bowl. Yummm. Anyways, bake cakes as directed on box in a deep springform pan. Remove from oven when knife comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

Using a medium bowl, combine chocolate pudding mixture with milk and heavy cream until soft set. Add in cream cheese and vanilla extract.
Using a medium bowl, combine vanilla pudding mixture with milk and heavy cream until soft set. Add in cream cheese and vanilla extract. Fold in whipped cream gently until well combined.

Using a double boiler, melt chocolate chips, heavy cream and almond extract until smooth.

In the springform pan, pour chocolate pudding over cake base evenly and spread until smooth. Pour half of the ganache mixture over the pudding and spread until smooth. Then, pour vanilla pudding over ganache and spread until smooth. Add remaining ganache by rounded teaspoons "polka dotted" throughout vanilla pudding mixture. Use a knife to create a marble look. Set in refridgerator for 2-4 hours or overnight. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Apple Cheesecake Bars

I had exactly 3 apples in my fridge and they were glaring at me everytime I opened the fridge door. I was researching recipes online for Apple Muffins and I landed on Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars. It's a Betty Crocker recipe that calls for boxed cookie mix and canned pie filling. I was not digging that. I wanted to go homemade all the way. So I whipped up an oatmeal cookie recipe for the crust portion, I semi-followed their cheesecake recipe, and made a homemade apple sauce for the filling. It seems like a lot of work, but it truly wasn't that bad. It helps that I've started to master the art of time management, at least in the kitchen, haha. I hope you guys enjoy it!

2 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Cheesecake Filling:
2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 eggs

Apple Filling:
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced into small pieces
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9 baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, cut butter into oatmeal and brown sugar until crumbly and combined. Add in egg, vanilla extract, flour, baking soda and cinnamon until well mixed. Press crust into bottom of prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.

While crust is cooking, prepare apple filling. Place apples, apple juice, water and lemon juice in sauce pot. Cook on medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, until apples are softened. Drain water/juices. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Allow to cook on low until crust is done.

While apple filling is simmering, prepare cheesecake filling. Beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add in vanilla extract, almond extract and eggs until well combined.

Remove crust from oven. Pour cheesecake filling over top. Pour apple filling over top of cheesecake filling. Bake in oven for another 35-40 minutes. Set in refridgerator for 2-4 hours to set. Enjoy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chicken Tortellini Soup

Good morning/afternoon/evening kids!

This recipe was really one that just fell together. My friend Casey had posted a couple weeks back looking for slow cooker type recipes to start cooking at home more with. It made me realize that I really need to start using my slow cooker more because it just kind of sits in my cabinet. I couldn't resist cooking some of the ingredients for this recipe on the stove, but it all comes together in the slow cooker.

At first, I was going to make a Chicken and Corn chowder but I had no potatoes. I just can't imagine chowder without potatoes. Then, I was going to make a Cream of Chicken and Mushroom soup, but Jon had drank my entire gallon of milk in 2 days. What is he, a growing 14 year old? Then, I was going to make a Chicken Chilli but really didn't feel like putting anything tomato in the soup. I just wanted it to be a clear type soup. So, I landed on just doing a Chicken Noodle but realized I had just cooked up some tortellini the day before, so I threw those in there and voila! Delicious. Hope you all like it! And I hope you enjoyed the unnecessary evolution story of this soup.

Sorry I've been mostly posting chicken recipes recently. I am constantly looking for new chicken recipes and I'm hoping you guys are too. I will mix it up with desserts and maybe some breakfast items in the very near future, I promise!

2 32 ounce containers of Chicken Broth
1 cup celery, chopped
1 1/2 cup carrot, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup mushroom, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup gravy*
15 ounce can of corn
15 ounce can of beans (I used kidney)
1/2 tbsp parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
2 bay leaves
2 1/2- 3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded**
2 cups tortellini, cooked as directed on package.

Turn on slow cooker, add in stock, carrots and celery. In a medium skillet on medium-high heat, melt butter. Add in mushrooms, onions and garlic. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until mushrooms are browned, and onions and garlics are softened. (Warning: your kitchen is going to smell unbelievably delicious during this stage. Family members may not be able to wait for the slow cooker to finish its job.) Add gravy to mushrooms, onions and garlic and whisk together until well combined. Add gravy mixture to slowcooker. Add in corn, beans, parsley, thyme, poultry seasoning and bay leaves to slow cooker. Allow to cook 5-6 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low until vegetables are tender (particularly the carrots). Add in the chicken and pasta at the end and allow to cook with soup for about 15 minutes just to heat through.

*Instead of gravy, you could also use a cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom soup. Those soups contain MSG, so I elected to use gravy. If you don't want to make a homemade gravy, you could buy those McCormick gravy packets to throw it together.

**Like I told you guys with the Chicken Soft Tacos, I buy those rotisserie chickens at Costco. So, for this soup recipe, I used the chicken for the soup, and made a gravy out of the juices.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

My last few posts have been chicken based so I figured I should maybe switch it up. I was watching the Food Network the other day and they had one of those quick recipe commercial type things. Melissa what's-her-face was making meatballs with Italian Sausage. I always had made ground beef or ground turkey meatballs, so I was curious to see how they'd turn out with the sausage. My mom makes these delicious meatballs stuffed with mozzarella. So, I stuffed some mozzarella inside the Italian sausage meatballs and they turned out AH-mazing! I served them up with some whole wheat spaghetti, marinara sauce and parmesan garlic bread. It was the perfect Sunday night dinner.

1.235 lb package of Italian sausage, casing removed
2 cloves garlic, hand grated or finely minced
1/2 cup carrot, hand grated or finely minced
1/2 cup onion, hand grated or finely minced
1/2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup mozzarella cheese, chopped into cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients besides mozzarella cheese until well combined. Take meat about the size of a golfball. Press into patty form. Place mozzarella cheese on it and form meatball around it until cheese is fully covered and sealed in. (See picture below) Place on baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Scare 2011

Aloha Everyone!

I wanted to share with you guys a little bit about the tsunami warning/advisory/watch experience we just had. Last year, we had a tsunami warning due to the devastating earthquake in Chile, which was an 8.8 magnitude quake, 6,859 miles from us. This year, a watch was generated around 9pm, due to a 8.9 earthquake in Japan, 3,861 miles from us.

At first, the government issued a "watch". A watch is much less severe than a warning. It's pretty much just a head's up to avoid swimming in the waters, stay off the shores, etc. Around 9:30pm, they upgraded us to a warning. A warning means we need to follow the evacuation guidelines of the island and move to higher ground if we are in a evacuation zone. This also means the sirens will sound throughout the island to continually warn us there is a tsunami coming. The sirens sounded on most of the island around 9:45 I believe. For some reason, our sirens didn't sound. Instead, they had fire trucks patroling neighborhoods to announce the need to evacuate. This also means that about an hour prior to the tsunami's ETA, they will block roads from both sides leaving the North Shore.

Jon and I just happen to live at the very northern tip of the island, so we are in one of the more vulnerable spots if a tsunami should actually hit. The north and west sides of the island are usually the most vulnerable. So, we packed an emergency bag of clothes, some electronics, valuables, photos and yes, I packed toilet paper. We headed over to my Mom's across the street to meet her, my dad and my sister and head up into Pupukea, which is a very high area.

The tsunami is no joke by any means, but I just have to share with you guys how much my mom cracks me up. Last year, I honestly felt like I was at a tailgate party on top of the mountain. My mom and dad brought their tent, lawn chairs, cheese and wine. It was like a tsunami picnic. This year, when I got to my mom's house, her first priority was to cut up the fudge my dad had made that night. Then, we were loading up a cooler with a 20 lb bag of ice I had left over from our power outage a week ago. She was seriously torn over whether to pack ginger ale or wine because both wouldn't fit. She ended up bringing a bottle of wine and a box of wine, we like to keep it classy. She also packed spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and oatmeal, with nothing to cook it with. She also packed us Mexican Train in case we decided we wanted to play at 3am. At least she stays calm and lighthearted during a scare like this one!

The scariest part of all of it was the coverage we were watching on the local news and cnn.com. At first, we were figuring it was just like last year and they were just taking precautions. Then, we started to hear the reports of the distance difference. Japan is 3,000 miles closer to Hawaii than Chile is. They were also commenting on how last year the direction of the tsunami wave was protected by a natural barrier the island chain had. This year's tsunami was to come from a direction leaving us only protected by the other islands. They were also talking about how the island itself reacts to the waves, causing more damage. It was just plain scary to hear all these reports.

Once we got up into the hills of Pupukea, we turned on KSSK radio, the Perry and Price show. Perry and Price were absolutely amazing. They were contacting government agencies, schools and businesses  to determine any closings they should alert us about. They dealt with the idiots prank calling about Taco Bell not providing them their sauce and questioning what time iHop opened. I spent 22 years in Massachusetts, and the media and state government were rarely on the same page and hardly able to communicate to us efficiently about a 2 foot snowfall. I am so impressed with Hawaii's organization to get us information about evacuations and closings so we can best prepare ourselves in case a tsunami did hit. As scary as a tsunami warning is, we are totally comforted knowing that the State of Hawaii will always get us the information as soon as they receive it to allow us to protect ourselves.

We ended up staying up in the hills a little under 10 hours. We got there around 10:30pm, and left around 8am. Jon and I were in our little VW bug, with the two dogs who were hating being cooped up in such a small space. We also had to keep turning the car on and off to try and get the AC to cool off the dogs. Savannah is a Siberian Husky with a lot of fur so sitting in 70 degrees for 12 hours in a confined space was not good for her. She was kind of freaking out all night, so I literally got no sleep. My parents and sister were in their Jeep and I think they were able to get a little sleep, but not much. Once we were cleared to return home, there was only about a half hour wait for them to clear the roads for us to travel back to the house. I was supposed to work 8:30-4:30 in Honolulu, which is about an hour away from us. Due to the roads being blocked, I had to call my manager who lives closer to go in for me.

Once I got home, around 9am, I literally passed out. I usually can deal without sleep pretty well, but the whole experience was just mentally exhausting. It is so sad to hear about the reports of deaths and injuries in Japan. I am so thankful that we are all safe. I just pray now that the death toll in Japan stops climbing and that they are able to return to some sense of normalcy soon.

Some pictures from the chaos!

Here is link to our news site, Hawaii News Now, which has a lot more about the tsunami's actual damages.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Picture time!

OK, my obsession with these Picasa and Picnik collages is nuts. Here is ANOTHER one for you guys. This is the picture of all four of us from our "Family Portrait Session" and then some pictures we got solo with the dogs. I just love these three so much, I had to share. :)

Chicken Soft Tacos

First, let me just say I LOVE the rotisserie chickens from Costco. They make my life oh, so much easier. They are $5, fully cooked and delish! We have a system with rotisserie chickens from Costco. The minute we get home with it, I start "de-boning" the chicken as Jon calls it. Which just means, I take the meat off the bone. During this process, Jon usually stands there and watches me while eating big chunks of meat off the bird, "helping". Then, I take the juices from the bottom of the container it comes in and make a gravy. We usually have a few pieces of chicken for dinner that night with the gravy then I save the rest for weekday meals. I elected to use this week's leftovers to throw together some easy chicken soft tacos. Best. Decision. Ever. Jon pinched his fingers together like an Italian and declared "simple and friggin amazing!" after eating one.

2 1/2-3 cups shredded chicken
Tortilla Shells (quantity depends on size of brand)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp tomato paste

Heat oil on medium-high heat in skillet. Add shredded chicken and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in chicken broth, lemon juice and lime juice. Stir to combine. Add garlic powder, paprika, chilli powder, cumin and tomato paste. Stir until combined. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid has thickened. Serve with desired toppings (lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream) on tortillas.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chicken Cutlets with Pasta in Garlic Butter

I don't usually like to toot my horn but I'm about to toot away. This recipe was delicious! I have to say my favorite part of having this blog is that it forces me to try different flavor combinations. I've watched Rachael Ray for years and I've seen her quite a few times cook with anchovies. I was always a bit curious about trying it in a recipe. I was at my favorite store, Executive Chef, and I saw anchovy paste and I bought it without knowing what I'd use it for. Don't tell Jon, but I put it in the sauce. If you think you wouldn't like it, please try it anyways. It gave it a salty flavor just like Rachael said it would. That lady knows what she's talking about.

I also made some sacrifices so I could make the garlic butter sauce and not feel totally guilty. I used a whole wheat pasta and oven baked the chicken rather than fry it. It still came out amazing. I'd say the stick of butter had something to do with it!

1 lb chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 lb pasta, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water

1 stick butter
4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp anchovy paste
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheet or pan with olive oil.

Like my mismatched plates?

<3 gunk on my hands!
Set up three plates. First with flour, parsley, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Second with eggs. Third with panko and parmesan. Toss each chicken breast in flour, then eggs, back to flour, again in eggs, and then lastly in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with both chicken breasts. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked throughout.

Melt butter in frying pan, add garlic and whisk in anchovy paste, oregano, flour and lemon juice. Allow sauce to simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes.

Toss pasta with reserved pasta water and garlic butter sauce. Add extra parmesan cheese if desired. Serve with chicken on top and enjoy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Family Portrait Session

This weekend, I bribed my sister with garlic butter shrimp from our favorite shrimp truck, Fumi's. The deal was she act as a photographer for an hour or so and I feed her shrimp. We walked up to Turtle Bay for some beautiful backdrops for this photo session and got some amazing pictures of Jon, me and the dogs. I figured I'd share with you all because my dogs are too cute to resist.

Stuffed French Toast Casserole

Hey there!

So I'm sure you all have noticed by now that a good majority of my recipes are stovetop recipes. For some reason, I don't really use my oven too much besides finishing off the meal or baking. My very first blog post was for an Amaretto French Toast. Jon asked for french toast the other day and I was just not feeling standing over the stove flipping 12 pieces of toast, y'know? So I decided I would make it a casserole, which I've done before and we loved. It comes out kind of like a breakfast bread pudding. We love stuffed french toast, so I stuffed the bread with a cream cheese icing. The recipe is similar to my regular french toast, minus the amaretto. I'm sticking with what I know tastes good on this one. Hope you guys enjoy this!

12-14 pieces sweet bread
2 cups milk
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease casserole dish with butter. In large mixing bowl, combine milk, eggs, flour, brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. Whisk together until smooth.

In a separate medium bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and almond extract until smooth.

Spread cream cheese icing on bread and sandwich together. Cut "sandwiches" into 6-8 small squares. Lay half of the pieces in casserole dish and pour milk and egg mixture over top of first layer. Layer rest of pieces on top and pour remaining batter over top. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

While casserole is baking, melt stick of butter on medium heat on stove. Whisk in sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon until combined. Lower heat to low to keep warm while casserole finishes.

After the 25 minutes, remove casserole from oven and pour brown sugar sauce over casserole. Place back in oven for another 5 minutes. Serve with any additional cream cheese icing and brown sugar sauce drizzled over top.

Tip: when you put the casserole back in with the brown sugar sauce, it may be a good idea to put a baking sheet under casserole dish to make sure the sauce doesn't bubble over into oven.


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