Potato Skins

SUPERBOWL LI.  PATRIOTS CHAMPIONS!  WHAT A GAME!!!  While I am not huge on football, I am SO glad I was able to watch last night’s game that certainly made history.  Incredible win!

Honestly, my favorite part about the Super Bowl is the snacks. 🙂  I can’t help it!  It is a great excuse to eat all the junk food you usually wouldn’t eat.  Like potato skins.  I LOVE potato skins, but I don’t eat them on a regular basis.  They are the perfect snack for the Super Bowl.  Deep fried and full of melted cheese and bacon, then topped with sour cream?  Mmmm…

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Potato Skins

Active Prep: 15 min
Cook time: 15 minutes
TOTAL: ~30 min

Ingredients:

  • 3 large russet potatoes
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 c shredded cheese (I prefer a blend of cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack)
  • 3 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • Sour cream, scallions, other toppings (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Pierce potatoes with a fork several times on each side.  Microwave for 10-12 minutes on High until soft.
  2. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the middles of the potatoes, leaving about ¼” of potato around the skin.  (Hint: save the insides to make mashed potatoes!)
  3. Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 375 °F.  Deep fry potato skins in a single layer for 5 minutes until they start to brown.  Remove and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  4. Top potatoes with cheese and bacon crumbles. Place on a baking sheet and bake in oven for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted.
  5. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Top with sour cream or toppings of your choice if desired.

Dark Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This week we found out if we are having a boy or a girl!  To reveal the news to our family, we decided to make a “gender reveal” cake.  We decided to make a chocolate cake (our favorite) with some of the most delicious cream cheese frosting to compliment it.  Blue or pink frosting would be on the inside, and the outside would be white frosting.  When we cut into the cake, it would be revealed whether we were having a boy or a girl!

The cake recipe is based strongly off of a Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe.  I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder to give it that extra dark flavor, and I used hot coffee instead of boiling water to bring out the cocoa flavor even more.  The result is a super moist cake packed with chocolately flavor.  The cream cheese frosting recipe is the perfect balance for this cake.  It’s not overly sweet, so it really compliments the chocolate cake.

So… was it a boy or a girl?!  Check out the photos below!  I added pink and blue sprinkles to the entire outside of the frosted cake to make it a bit more fun.  Enjoy! 🙂

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Dark Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Active Prep: 30 min
Bake time: 30-35 minutes
TOTAL: ~1 hr, plus cooling and frosting time

Dark Chocolate Cake

 Ingredients:

  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 ¾ c all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • ½ c vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c brewed hot coffee

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl, beat together eggs, milk, and vegetable oil.  Add to flour mixture and beat on low until just combined.
  3. Slowly stir in vanilla and coffee. Batter will be very thin.  Pour into prepared cake pans and bake at 350 °F for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then remove from cake pans and cool on wire racks completely. Frost as desired with cream cheese frosting (recipe follows).

Cream Cheese Frosting

 Ingredients:

  • 2 (8 oz each) blocks of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 lb confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ – ½ c milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

 Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add softened butter and cream cheese. Beat on medium-high speed until combined and smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to low and slowly add half of confectioner’s sugar. Add ¼ cup milk and vanilla, then continue adding the remaining sugar.  Add additional milk if necessary to achieve desired consistency.
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl and increase speed to medium high for 1 minute until well-combined. Frost cake as desired.

It’s a boy!!!

Quick & Juicy Grilled Pork Chops

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re looking at the picture of my terribly burnt pork chop and saying to yourself, why isn’t this considered a failed recipe?  When in reality, this is the opposite of failed.  This is the BEST PORK CHOP RECIPE EVER.

I’ll tell you why – it isn’t burnt.  At all.

Why is it so black, you ask?  That’s the secret ingredient.  The ingredient you’ll never guess.  That ingredient is COCOA POWDER.

I can’t claim this recipe as my own.  This one is all John’s.  He spent the entire summer trying to perfect his grilled pork chops, and he did it.  It’s brined for several hours then rubbed with a cocoa powder spice mixture.  Then grilled for just the right amount of time and in return you get the tastiest, juiciest pork chop you will ever eat!  He created this recipe based on several he’s found over the years – and the outcome is just phenomenal.  Not a chocolate lover?  Don’t worry, this tastes NOTHING like a chocolate-covered pork chop.  The bitter flavor of the unsweetened cocoa powder combines with the flavor profiles of all the other spices and creates magic.  Please try this at your earliest convenience.  It will change your life!

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Quick & Juicy Grilled Pork Chops

Active Prep: 10 minutes
Cook time: 7-10 minutes
TOTAL: 20 minutes (plus brining)

Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in pork chops (~1 lb each)
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together water, sugar, and salt. Add to Ziploc bag with pork chops.  Brine for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper generously on both sides.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together cocoa powder and chili powder. Rub mixture into pork chops.
  4. Heat grill to direct high heat. Grill pork chops over direct-high heat for 3 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
  5. Flip pork chops again and grill over medium direct heat for 5-7 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Baked Bruschetta Chicken

While John was away last week, he went to Red Robin 3 times.  THREE TIMES.  It was the only restaurant within walking distance.  By his 3rd trip, he was hamburgered out, so he got a bruschetta chicken sandwich (something I honestly never thought he’d ever order!) with a salad on the side (no fries!!).  He liked the sandwich so much that he suggested I make something like it for dinner this week – so I did!

This chicken is marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing based mixture, baked, then topped with mozzarella cheese, a delicious bruschetta topping (which includes tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and basil).  Served over some crusty Italian bread, you have yourself a delicious and relatively healthy meal that will satisfy both your meat and veggie cravings!  The recipe was inspired by a Hunt’s grilling recipe.

What will I change next time?  I think I’d like to pound the chicken breast nice and thin, and THEN marinate.  The chicken breasts I used were so thick that I think I lost out on some of the flavor from the marinade.  I would also use fresh sliced cherry tomatoes.  Canned tomatoes are great when you don’t have much time, but I much prefer fresh.  That being said, the recipe is superb as-is – but I’m always looking for ways to make it even more tasty!!

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Baked Bruschetta Chicken

Active Prep: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 1-8 hours
Cook time: 25 minutes
TOTAL: 45 minutes (plus marinating time)

Ingredients:

Marinade

  • ¾ c balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 (6 oz) can tom paste
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts (~1 lb each), cut in half

Topping

  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • ½ c balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • ¼ c tomato paste
  • ½ c chopped scallions
  • ¼ c chopped basil
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 slices Italian or French bread
  • 6 slices mozzarella cheese (~6 oz total)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together marinade ingredients. Pour into Ziploc bag and add chicken.  Mix until chicken is covered.  Marinade in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 425° Spray a 9×13” baking dish with nonstick spray and add marinated chicken.  Bake until no longer pink in the middle, about 20-25 minutes.  Add one slice of cheese to each piece of chicken and bake for an additional 2 minutes until cheese is melted.
  3. While chicken is cooking, make the topping. In a medium bowl add diced tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, tomato paste, scallions, basil, and minced garlic.  Mix well and refrigerate until chicken is done.
  4. When chicken is done, toast slices of bread and put on plate. Place chicken breast directly on top of bread.  Top with several spoonfuls of bruschetta topping.

FAILED: Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken

It sounded so perfect.  Wicked on-sale bone-in chicken quarters.  Honey barbecue sauce.  Garlic.  Slow cooker (set it and forget it!), meaning minimal effort.  How could it possibly go wrong?

Oh my, it did.

This recipe has huge potential to taste oh-so-delicious, but it wasn’t in the cards for me this week.  I had planned to make enough chicken for dinners for the week since John was out of town.  It lasted a half a meal… and the rest went in the garbage.

I figured I might as well post about my recipe failures.  I know we ALL have recipes that turn out disastrous.  I’ll try making this again one day… and hopefully I can turn it into a recipe WIN!

I won’t post the recipe until it is perfected, but here are some tips for my future self or for anyone attempting a similar recipe:

  1. Don’t cook it for 9+ hours. Okay, I know that sounds crazy.  But the way my slow cooker is designed, it can cook on low or high for a set amount of time, and once it is done, it will stay on a “warm” setting until you actually shut it off.  I think it still cooks it somewhat.  So when I work a 9 hour day PLUS have an hour of commuting, that’s about 10 hours in the slow cooker, even though I only set it to 6 ½!  Big mistake haha.
  2. Cover the chicken with liquid – COMPLETELY. I made a honey barbecue-garlic mixture and poured it over the chicken, but it didn’t quite cover everything.  I should have added more of the mixture or even some chicken broth.  The top dried out and the “exposed” bone turned black, and some of the edges burned.
  3. Add less soy sauce. The recipe I was following had a bit too much soy sauce for my liking.  It made the chicken WAY too salty and over-powered the taste of the honey barbecue and garlic flavor.

You win this time, honey barbecue garlic chicken.  We will meet again!

Copycat Moe’s Homewrecker Burrito

This past Sunday morning, I was doing some cleaning around the house, and I got to thinking about my FAVORITE Mexican restaurant (Mexicali), which got me thinking about Mexican food in general, and my brain kept going until I suddenly NEEDED the taste of a Moe’s Homewrecker burrito.  I haven’t even been to a Moe’s in about 6 or 7 years (John converted me to Chipotle, but my love for Moe’s will go on!).  But at that moment, I needed my chicken-and-pinto-bean-and-rice-stuffed burrito with everything else in it.  The closest Moe’s to me is about a 35-40 minute drive, and I didn’t have much spare time, so I decided that I had to re-create the flavor in my kitchen.

You know how when you REALLY want to re-create a favorite restaurant dish at home, and it comes out so disappointing because the flavor doesn’t even come close?  THIS WAS SO NOT THE CASE!  I worried, during the entire burrito-making process, that this was going to happen to me and I would end up heartbroken and burritoless.  This is one of my best copycat accomplishments!  I must thank Christine over at Christine’s Kitchen Chronicles for the inspiration for the rice and bean mixture.

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Copycat Moe’s Homewrecker Burrito

Active Prep: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
TOTAL: 25-30 minutes

YIELDS: 8 (10-inch) burritos

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, removed from bone and shredded
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 c instant white rice
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle pepper (see note)
  • 1 Tbsp adobo sauce (see note)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained
  • ½ c water
  • ½ c fresh salsa
  • 8 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • Sour cream, avocado, cheese, lettuce, or any other filler you’d like!

NOTE: I usually just buy the small 4 oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  You can remove one of the peppers and finely dice it, then scoop out the Tbsp of adobo sauce from the can.  Save the remaining peppers for future use, or add additional for some extra kick/smoky flavor!  If you don’t love the smoky flavor of chipotle peppers, you may substitute with a jalapeño or just omit if you don’t want too much kick!

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the shredded chicken, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and salt until chicken is well-coated. Set aside.
  2. Prepare rice according to package directions. Should make around 2 cups cooked rice.
  3. While rice is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, cumin, and cayenne pepper.  Add to skillet and heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add pinto beans and water. Simmer until beans are soft, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 cups cooked rice and salsa.  Mix well.
  6. Add ½ c seasoned chicken and ½ c rice mixture to flour tortilla. Add additional toppings as desired (sour cream, guacamole, etc).  Roll up and enjoy!  This tastes great warm or cold.  Makes ~8 burritos.

Here’s how I assemble my burritos for that delicious “Homewrecker” taste!

  1. Spread 1 Tbsp sour cream in center of tortilla.
  2. Add ¼ of an avocado, diced, to the tortilla.
  3. Layer ½ c rice mixture followed by ½ c seasoned chicken.
  4. Sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp shredded Mexican blend cheese over filling.
  5. Fold in sides, roll carefully, and wrap in aluminum foil.
  6. ENJOY!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I feel like I’ve written a lot of posts on potatoes lately… hope y’all don’t mind!  It must be those Irish roots of mine J.  I just can’t get enough!  Today’s edition of Elyse-Must-Post-About-Potatoes is of the mashed variety.

My aunt, Sherrie, makes the world’s BEST mashed potatoes (“MP,” as I like to call them), and every holiday since I can remember, it is absolutely REQUIRED that she makes them.  We all (my sisters, Sherrie, and my cousins Andre and Gianna) gather around the Crock Pot filled with 10 pounds of the stuff and each take a spoonful for the traditional “mashed potato taste test.”  And I SWEAR they get better every time!

While this recipe isn’t “Sherrie’s Famous,” they are still mighty tasty.  Healthy, too 😉  Just kidding… don’t make these if you are on any sort of diet.  It’s loaded with sour cream, butter, and milk.  But that’s what makes them oh-so-delectable!

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Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Active Prep: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
TOTAL: 25 minutes

YIELDS: 6-8 servings (~1 cup per serving)

 Ingredients:

  • 4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 c sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium stock pot, add diced potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until potatoes are fork-tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes and place back in pot. Add sour cream, butter, milk, and salt.  Mash everything together with a potato masher until smooth.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes with Cookies and Cream Frosting

I don’t think I’ve posted a cupcake on this blog yet – HOW CAN THAT BE?!?  Cupcakes are my FAVORITE thing in the world to make (and eat!).  Making and decorating cupcakes is my favorite hobby.  I just can’t get enough!

I promised Lauren (my twin sis) that I would make her some Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes for her (our) birthday (yesterday!).  The thing is… pregnancy brain struck and I LITERALLY forgot to make them!  I had all the ingredients bought and ready to go, and I just completely blanked out and didn’t realize what day it was until I woke up yesterday and realized that the promised-cupcakes were still in ingredient-form!  OOPS!  So, I made them today to bring to her tomorrow. 🙂

These Chocolate Oreo cupcakes have a surprise Oreo baked on the bottom.  The chocolate cupcake recipe is adapted from one of my FAVORITE chocolate cupcake recipes from Sally’s Baking Addiction.  The frosting has a butter and cream cheese base, plus lots of crushed Oreos mixed in.  I hope she doesn’t mind getting a box of 11 – a baker’s dozen from me is 11, not 13 😉 (hey, the baker needs one, too!)

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Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes

Active Prep: 15 minutes
Bake time: 18-20 minutes
TOTAL:  ~35 minutes

YIELDS: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • ¾ c all-purpose flour
  • ½ c Hershey’ Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ c light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ c white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ c buttermilk
  • 12 Oreo sandwich cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Prepare a cupcake tin with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add brown sugar, white sugar, oil, and vegetable oil and mix on medium high with an electric beater until well-combined.
  4. Add half of flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk, slowly folding in after each addition. Repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk.
  5. Place one Oreo cookie in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Add ¼ cup of batter to each liner.  Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Frost with Cookies and Cream Frosting and decorate as desired!

 

Cookies and Cream Frosting

Prep: 15 minutes

YIELDS: Frosts ~12-18 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 16 oz cream cheese (2 blocks), room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 6-8 Oreo cookies finely crushed (~1 cup)
  • 12 mini Oreo cookies, for decoration (optional)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt on medium-high speed until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
  2. With mixer on lowest setting, slowly add confectioners sugar. Once incorporated, increase speed to medium-high to blend well, about 1 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add ¾ c of the Oreo crumbs.  Mix until combined.
  3. Frost cupcakes as desired. Garnish with mini Oreo cookies and remaining Oreo cookie crumbs.  Enjoy!

One-Pan Potatoes and Kielbasa

I would say 4 out of 5 days a week, I get home from work and I’m STARVING.  It’s those days that I pray that we have leftovers or that I’ve planned a super speedy dinner to make.  This potatoes and kielbasa dish is quick to make – I’d say 20 minutes tops from start to that first delicious bite in your mouth!  I had originally planned to make this on Friday, but we ended up getting a pizza instead, so yesterday was THE day.  I would make this every week if I could.  Kielbasa is one of my favorite meats.  Plus I add some veggies to the dish to make it a complete meal. 🙂

If you are in starvation mode and need to eat this ASAP, get those potatoes chopped and on the stove first!  You can chop everything else while they are cooking.  No need to peel the potatoes.  Just make sure they are diced small enough (an inch cube max) to decrease your cooking time – larger than that and you will be waiting a little bit longer.

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One-Pan Potatoes and Kielbasa

Prep and cook time: 20 min

Yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium red potatoes, diced into ½ to 1-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb kielbasa, sliced into bite-size pieces
  • 5 oz spinach (~4-5 cups)
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Add diced potatoes to a medium stock pot. Cover with water and heat on high, covered, until water begins to boil.  Remove cover and boil until fork-tender, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. While potatoes are boiling, dice and chop vegetables and kielbasa. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pepper, onion, and garlic.  Cook until vegetables are soft, ~2-3 minutes.
  3. Drain potatoes. Add potatoes and kielbasa to skillet.  Cook until potatoes begin to brown and kielbasa is heated through, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to low and add spinach, a cup at a time, stirring until spinach wilts, about 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Spicy Oven-Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes are one of life’s greatest side dishes.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a potato that I didn’t like.  Fried… baked… roasted… mashed… I am salivating just thinking about all the delicious ways I could eat them!  John and I don’t eat potatoes often enough – mainly because we are too impatient to wait for them to cook. 😉  But I always try to have a potato as part of Wednesday Night Dinner with my mom (along with a vegetable and a meat) so we have a nice rounded meal.

These potatoes are sliced thin and tossed with oil, salt, and pepper – then seasoned with paprika and just a pinch of cayenne pepper to give them a little kick!  They are roasted in the oven for about 45 minutes (or longer, if you want them nice and crispy).

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Spicy Oven-Roasted Potatoes

Active Prep: 10 minutes
Cook time: ~45 minutes
TOTAL: 55-65 minutes

YIELDS: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 medium red potatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 °F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray generously with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large zip-tight bag, add potatoes and olive oil. Seal bag and toss to coat.
  3. Add salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Seal bag and mix well until potatoes are uniformly coated with seasonings.
  4. Place potatoes in a single layer on baking sheet. Roast in oven for 45 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through.  Serve immediately.  Yields about 4 servings.  (NOTE: Increase baking time by 10-15 minutes for a crisper potato!)