Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spinach and Tomato Anytime Strata

Waking up early on a Sunday morning and putting your strata that you made the night before in the oven is something I truly relish. How fun is it to get all of your prep work and clean up done the night before so that after you have indulged and enjoyed your fantastic breakfast the only thing you have to do is load your plates in the dishwasher? (whether that is your hubby/roommate/children/or appliance is up to you). A great aspect of this recipe is that if you are worried about added calories that you can usually count on with a delish breakfast is that it actually uses a lot of vegetables and keeps you full so you don't do a lot of snacking in between meals. My mom always likes to eat light and wasn't planning on having a normal sized portion of this, until she tasted it. Her immediate reaction was "Well, I might have to have a little more" :) This strata can be eaten at any time of the day and is sure to please the most experienced or inexperienced palate around.

Serves 6


1. 6 eggs
2. 4 cups Italian bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
3. 1 package (16 oz) frozen spinach
4. 1 can Rotel or similar tomatoes
5. 1 cup onion, finely chopped
6. 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
7. 1/3 cup Colby Jack cheese
8. 4 slices Pepperjack (gourmet,, whatever)
9. 1 1/2 cups milk
10. 1 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened butter
11. 1 tsp salt (divided)
12. 1 tsp pepper (divided)
13. Dash nutmeg


1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and continue to cook another minute. Stir in the spinach and remove from heat.
2. Butter the inside of a 2 qt. baking dish and layer the bottom with half of the bread cubes. Top with half of the spinach mixture, half of the tomatoes, half of the Parm and CJ cheese and the 4 slices of PJ cheese.
3. Repeat these layers once more (remember, no more PJ cheese-those are a yummy melty surprise in the middle)
4. Combine eggs, milk and remaining salt and pepper. Whisk until blended and pour evenly over the layers in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.
5. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350° F and bake uncovered for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until puffed, golden brown and cooked all the way through.

Serve with salad, fruit, a latte  and enjoy your meal!

Irish Car Bomb Surprise Cupcakes

Ok, I'm just going to say it. Two of my absolute most favorite things to indulge in, daily, if necessary are: chocolate and alcohol. Yep, there it is. I'm just throwing it out there, judge me. But you may think twice after you take a bite of these Heavenly delights. As I was thinking about a special dessert I could make for a coworker's birthday I was thinking about some delectable combinations that would mix and marry with outrageously wicked results. I was still in a bit 'o an Irish mood, let's be honest, when am I not in an Irish mood, and saw a recipe that I could really work with. If you haven't looked at Annie's Eats Blog, you MUST! She makes absolutely fabulous food and has great pictures and inventive recipes. I altered her recipe for Guiness and Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcakes and made mine the "semi homemade way".

Decorating and plating these cupcakes in my own special way was the most fun part of this process and the result was ah-ma-zing. As those who know me can attest, I am NOT a frosting person. I will scrape frosting off, I will give it away and I will eat around it. I always want a center piece of a cake so that I don't have to deal with all of that sweet cream. Well, let me tell you, do not be surprised if someone finds me at midnight sneaking around piping this frosting into my mouth! I love love love this frosting and insist that it be used. I frosted them before I went to work to ensure freshness and visual appeal. My coworkers went "ga ga" to say the least. They were extremely impressed and gave me extremely generous compliments for the fun and easy task I performed. I was even told that I should now extend my specialities to not only event planning for weddings, but also offering the service of providing (at an extra cost, of course) the groom's cake!

I wanted to make sure I had enough for everyone who had found out that I made these delights and it really was worth it to see the look of pleasure and soon-to-come chocolate coma flash across their faces. Because of the popularity of these cupcakes, I will be making them the next 2 weekends, one for my Grandpa's 87th birthday and then next when one of my best friends, Courtney, (and fellow food blogger @ Ice Cream & Wine ) comes to town for a visit!

I hope you enjoy my combination of my sweet indulgences and decide it's about time to combine the things that you love!


1. Devil's food cake mix
2. 1 cup Guinness
3. 6 tbsp unsalted butter
4. 2 large eggs
5. 2/3 cup sour cream

1. 6 oz bittersweet chocolate finely chopped (reserve 1/2 ounce for chocolate shavings)
2. 2/3 cup heavy cream
3. 2 tbsp unsweetened butter
3. 1 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream

1. 1 tub cream cheese frosting (any brand will do)
2. 6 tbsp. Bailey's Irish Cream
Yep, that's it.


1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line your cupcake pan with liners.
2. Simmer Guinness and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When combo begins to simmer, add 1/2 of the cake mix and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine eggs and sour cream and whisk until smooth.
4. Combine the remaining dry ingredients, Guinness batter and sour cream and eggs and mix until all are incorporated.
5. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 to 3/4 full.
6. Bake for about 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center. Allow to cool on a wire rack completely.

1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Pour over the chocolate in a small glass or stainless bowl. Let sit for about a minute and then whisk until smooth.
2. Be sure the chocolate is completely melted and then add the butter and Bailey's and stir until combined. Cool mixture, in refrigerator if necessary, until thickened. (If you place it in the fridge, be sure to mix every 10 minutes or so to ensure smooth consistency)

1. Mix frosting and Bailey's until smooth! (Sounds way too easy doesn't it?)

Please frost and decorate the cupcakes any way you choose and let me in on your creative secrets! But, to frost them as I have listen up: This is extremely easy and looks uber professional. Simply use a paring knife to cut a hole in the center of the cupcake. Pipe the ganache in the hole. (An easy method I use for piping is to simply place your ganache and frosting, respectively, in a Zip Loc bag, remove the air and snip a corner at the bottom.) Then, pipe the frosting around the ganache hole or all over, if you want a lot of delicious frosting, place the cut out on top of the frosting and sprinkle on the chocolate shavings. Super easy and extremely attractive!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blackened Cajun Mahi Mahi

Well, you may have noticed with my most recent posts that I am using a lot of Mahi Mahi and Cajun spices. I admit, I am a Cajun spiced fish junkie. The combination of a subtle flaky white fish with the harsh hot flavors of Cajun spices makes my nostrils flare and my mouth water. It is such a nice combination to have a tender fish inside and a spicy crunch on the outside. This fish is super easy and fast to make. It amazes me how much flavor you can get out of a simple homemade meal. After spending a lot of time in the kitchen and making my own meals I have discovered that I would much rather take the extra time to cook myself a nutritious and hearty meal than grab a burger on the drive home. Not only does it save you a pretty penny, it makes you feel good about what you are putting into your body.

I decided to spice up my vegetables in the same way for this dish which made for a delicious side. I bought a container of mushrooms and a large bunch of asparagus, which when you are cooking for only yourself could seem a little daunting to try to use all of them up before they go bad. Take a peek at my Creamy Ricotta Rigatoni to see another way to use those mushrooms and asparagus!


Fresh or Frozen Mahi Mahi
Cajun seasoning
Cayenne pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil


1. Heat pan to Medium High and swirl EVOO twice around the pan
2. Coat the Mahi Mahi thoroughly on both sides with spices
3. Place in pan and cover to lock in heat
4. Blacken on both sides to make a crust. This will lock in the tenderness of the fish and create a nice crunch on the outside.

Serve with vegetables and rice or potatoes and enjoy!!

Creamy Ricotta Rigatoni & Grilled Chicken

On a cool spring evening, a light and flavorful pasta really seems to just hit the spot. I have been experimenting with ricotta cheese and have discovered how absolutely tantalizing it is. It can be used in savory dishes that warm your insides, or to make sweet and fluffy pancakes that make it worth waking up early on a Saturday morning. For this dish, I chose to use the ricotta cheese as a sauce that I tossed my pasta and vegetables in. The key that I have discovered is that to adequately and successfully coat the pasta with this creamy sauce, you need to use a pasta that has ridges in it so that the sauce can stick to it. Rigatoni is not only a lovely noodle with ridges, but is perfectly bite sized and easy to pick up! You will love the flavors in every aspect of this meal on their own and especially when combined.

This dish made at least 3 servings, and since many nights I find myself too tired from work and not looking forward to making dinner, but yet not ready to give up and go through the drive through, I love having leftovers on hand.


16 oz. Rigatoni pasta
1 cup Ricotta cheese
Chicken tenders
1 1/2 cups halved or quartered mushrooms
1 bunch of asparagus cut in thirds
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch Red pepper flakes
Pinch Garlic powder
Pinch Cayenne pepper
Garlic Pepper chicken seasoning


1. Cook your pasta in salted boiling water
2. Steam the asparagus (I have a steam basket that fits on top of my pasta pan which works wonders)
3. Combine Ricotta cheese, red pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt & pepper in oven-safe baking dish. Place in 200 degree oven to soften and heat through
4. Pan sear mushrooms and asparagus in pan seasoned with EVOO and spices
5. When pasta is al dente, drain, but hold aside 1/4 cup of pasta water to Ricotta mixture. Combine pasta and Ricotta, then add mushrooms and asparagus. Keep on Medium Low heat.
6. Season chicken with garlic pepper seasoning and place in the pan that was used to cook vegetables. Brown on each side until cooked thoroughly.
7. Serve with pasta and vegetables mixture on the bottom and place the chicken on top. Enjoy!

Peanut, Almond & Cashew Crusted Mahi Mahi

I have been in quite the mood lately for a taste of the sea. It may be the large quantity of Mahi Mahi that I most recently purchased, or it maybe it's the season, but all in all I am loving coming up with fun recipes to tingle my tastebuds and bring out my culinary creativity. This is my first attempt at peanut, almond and cashew crusted fish, but I think it turned out deliciously well. The saltiness of the nuts really adds great flavor to the fish without me adding any salt and the fish stays nice and tender. This dish would be absolutely divine over a rice pilaf, but I ended up choosing my favorite roasted potato wedges.

If you are looking for a way to spice up your Friday night fish during this lenten season, look no further-this Mahi Mahi is sure to please!


Fresh or frozen filet of Mahi Mahi
1 cup of salted peanuts/almonds/cashews roughly chopped
Cajun seasoning
Garlic powder
Extra Virgin olive oil (EVOO)


1. Set your stove to Medium High and add one swirl of EVOO around the pan
2. Lightly coat your fish in EVOO
3. Spice fish with Cajun spices and garlic powder
4. Add nuts to each side of the fish
5. Cover and let cook evenly on each side (about 7 minutes each)

Serve with a side of vegetables and a carb and enjoy your dinner in less than 20 minutes!