Friday, August 26, 2011

Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake

This recipe is not only easy but healthy.  1/9 of this pudding cake is only 3 points on Weight Watchers.  For those that aren't on a diet serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 sugar
1/3 cup + 1/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low fat milk (1%)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 2/3 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 inch square baking pan with non-stick spray.

Combine the flour, sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, baking powder, instant-coffee, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center, and pour the milk, melted butter, and vanilla into the well.  Stir just until blended.  Spoon the batter evenly into the pan.

Combine the brown sugar and the 1/4 cup cocoa powder in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over the top of the batter.  Gently pour boiling water in  zigzag fashion over the top, but do not stir.  Bake until the top of the pudding is set, about 35 minutes.  Cool at least 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Appetizer

Calamari Fritti
Tutto Italia
Disney World's Epcot Italy Pavilion
Orlando, FL

So obviously this is one of my favorite restaurants if you have read my cannelloni al forno post.  Fried calamari may look very simple, but it is very difficult to cook well.  The breading either comes off and is soggy or the calamari is chewy and tough or there is just no flavor.  These are cooked perfectly.  A good amount come in each order (It fed my starving family of four) but honestly you could never have enough of these delicious bites.  Each calamari or squid is cut into ringlets that are the perfect size.  I do have to say it makes me sad that they don't serve the tentacles because I personally love them, but maybe it freaks out some Disney guests. So back to the calamari.  They are absolutely fried to perfection with the perfect amount of crust on the outside.  The crust is flavored with herbs and spices, I am assuming things like basil and parsley and other italian ingredients.  The crust is the perfect golden brown and is so crispy.  The calamari itself is so tender and juicy.  Not even a little bit tough.  Now they serve these calamari with a classic marinara sauce that has at least 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes on top.  My parents said it was delicious, but since I hate tomato sauce I leave it off of the calamari.  For me the best topping for these calamari is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Now what is the most annoying thing about squeezing fresh lemon juice?  The seeds of course.  But this restaurant has thought of everything.  They wrap the lemon in a yellow cheesecloth that catches all of the seeds but allows the juice to go right through.  Pretty cool right?  And has soon as that lemon juice hits the hot calamari it starts to glisten a little.  You sink your teeth in and you hear the amazing crunch.  Then you taste that tender calamari and you know this is one of the best appetizers you have ever eaten.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Breakfast

Winnie the Pooh's French Toast
Crystal Palace
Magic Kingdom in Disney World
Orlando, FL

This restaurant has one of the best meals you could ever eat in Disney World.  It is a huge buffet that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and all meals are equally delicious.  My family's personal favorite is the breakfast there because of this french toast. The other great thing about the Crystal Palace is it has Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore.  So no need to wait on an extra line in the park, just make sure you are at the table when they come around.  So the breakfast buffet consists of classic breakfast items done right.  Of couse you have the fruit, bagel, and danish section (but I usually skip that to get to the good stuff).  Then you get to the delicious biscuits with gravy, hashbrown casserole, breakfast potatoes, and other fattening breakfast foods that you would only eat in Disney because you know you are going to walk probably 10 miles the rest of the day.  So of course all of the foods are delicious, but the real treasure in this restaurant is the french toast.  The thing about the french toast is though, its on the kids buffet line that is probably 2 feet high off the ground.   I was embarassed the first few times we went to go to the kids buffet, but honestly there are more adults there than kids bending down to fill their plate with this stuff.  I don't know how they do it, but every time I get this delicious concoction its still steaming hot even though its been out on a buffet.  You bring it back to your table and it smells like you are in a bakery in Paris at 5:00am when all of the goodies are being baked.  The first time I got it I used a knife and fork cause I thought it would be sticky, but seriously dont even waste your time cutting this thing.  Just sink your teeth right in.  This isn't traditional french toast. It's more like a cross between the most delicious donut you ever ate, french toast, and a churro.  The shape is not uniform at all, which is the best part because some of the edges get very crispy and you pick them off as you bite into this delicious dish.  I have no idea how they make this thing, all I know is its delicious.  The dough is soft, yet still has a good chew to it and is the most buttery, sweet thing you have ever tasted.  The outside is so crispy and is the perfect texture difference between the soft dough.  Then the entire thing is coated in cinnamon sugar and you wish they sold the coating just so you could put it on everything sweet.  Of course you get your hands ridiculously sticky, but obviously you would since this came off of the kids buffet.  If you go to Disney and don't get this treat, you have made a huge mistake.  There is no other place you can get anything like this.  And I don't know why, but the fact that it's Winnie the Pooh's French Toast makes it even more magical. 

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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Pasta

Cannelloni Al Forno
Tutto Italia
Disney World's Epcot Italy Pavilion
Orlando, FL

Words cannot describe how good this place is.  First of all you walk in and you feel you are standing on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.  There are beautiful paintings every where of famous places in Italy and famous artwork from Italy.  All of the staff in this restaurant are from Italy, even the chefs.  You know you are going to get authentic italian food in this place.  Honestly you can't go wrong with anything on this menu.  My family and I have tried multiple items on the menu and nothing is short of delicious.  Before you even order your meal, steaming baskets of fresh bread come out that you swear your italian grandmother is making in the kitchen.  Of course if you have an italian grandma.  Most American restaurants serve butter with their bread, but in Italy oil is very common.  The oil is imported from Italy and is absolutely delicious.  Plus they add fresh basil, fresh cracked pepper, garlic, and crushed red peper flakes in the oil and when you dip the steamy bread into this flavored oil you honestly feel like you died and went to heaven.  Then you look at the menu and of course you can't decide what to get cause everything is written in italian and sounds delicious.  The language is quite beautiful.  The one dish that I promise is definitely the best on the menu is the cannelloni.  It has everything anybody could want in a pasta dish.  Pasta, tomato sauce, spinach, 3 cheeses, and a cream sauce.  There is no way this thing can be bad.  It comes to the table and of course you aren't allowed to touch the dish cause it just came out of a 500 degree broiler that creates a crust of  mozzarella and ricotta cheese on top.  You crack through this crusty shell of cheese on top to find pillowy softness underneath.  Light, thin sheets of pasta in a tube shape stuffed with the richest ricotta cheese and most tender spinach you have ever tasted.  Underneath the two cannelloni is a thin layer of the lightest, freshest tomato sauce you have ever tasted.  The top is delicately topped with another layer of tomato sauce and then a layer of bechamel sauce, which is a typical thickened cream sauce.  Then like I said before, you have the crust of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on top.  The contrast of textures and flavors of this concoction is ridiculous.  This really is the best thing I ever ate.  If you want it you have to get there fast because the menu always changes.  You cannot miss out on this authentic and delicious italian masterpiece. 

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Baked Shrimp Scampi

1 lb shrimp
1 cup bread crumbs
2 lemons
1/4 cup parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil

Peel and devain the shrimp and rinse.  I like to leave the tails on as a handle. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a baking dish put 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bottom. Put the shrimp on top of the olive oil and season with salt.  Zest both lemons and sprinkle the zest over the top of the shrimp.  Then cut the lemon in half and juice it over the shrimp.  Chop the parsley and mix it with the breadcrumbs.  Then sprinkle the parsley, bread crumb mixture over the shrimp.  Finish with a drizzle of olive oil over the top.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until shrimp turn pink.  Enjoy!
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stuffed Chicken Breast

4 chicken breasts
1 package frozen spinach
8 oz goat cheese
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 cups bread crumbs

Butterfly each chicken breast.  Butterflying just means to "unfold" the meant you are using.  Basically just slice the chicken breast in half creating a hinge by not cutting all the way through.  Now you can pound the chicken breast by using any heavy object to pound untilt the chicken is about 1/4 inch thick.

Microwave the spinach based on the package directions and squeeze all of the water out.  Now place 1/4 of the spinach over each chicken breast in a thin layer going 1 inch from the edge.

Now spread 2 ounces of goat cheese over the top of the spinach on each chicken breast.
Now starting from the short end, tightly roll the chicken breast up to create a pinwheel effect.  You can also fold the oddly shaped ends in like you are making a burrito.  Once it is rolled up place toothpicks at the seam to hold the chicken together.

Now salt and pepper the chicken on all sides before doing a standard breading procedure.  First each chicken breast goes into the flour, then into the beaten egg, then into the bread crumbs.
Heat a large skillet on high with 1 tablespoon of oil.  Brown the chicken on all 4 sides in the pan.  About 3 minutes each side or until chicken is browned. 

Now bake chicken in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  Serve and enjoy! (Don't forget to remove the toothpicks)

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Bacon and Bleu Cheese Burger

1 lb ground beef (I used 80% lean to 20% fat)
1 cup bleu cheese
8 slices of bacon
4 hamburger rolls or buns
1 large onion

Slice the onion into very thin strips.  Put in a large skillet with the temperature on low.  In order to carmelize the onions the temperature needs to be low.  Putting it too high won't allow the sugars in the onions to fully carmelize.  Saute the onions in the pan for 20-25 minutes or until they become a golden color. 
Now form your ground beef into four patties.  Heat a grill pan or skillet on high.  Place the burgers in the pan and cook 7 minutes before flipping to the other side.

While the burgers are cooking cook the bacon.  I like to cook my bacon in the oven for about 10 minutes or until bacon is crisp.

Once burgers are flipped on the second side, top each burger with 2 slices of bacon each.  Then top with about 1/4 cup of bleu cheese on each one.  Allow to continue cooking for another 7 minutes with the bacon and cheese on top with a lid over the pan. 

Place each burger on top of the bun and top with the carmelized onions.  Enjoy!

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Potato Salad

Since I am not a huge fan of mayonaise on potato salad, I decided to make a version without mayo.  Not only is it healthier, but it can be served warm and doesn't need to be refrigerated so it's great for picnics and barbecues.  It has so much flavor and is very easy to make.

2 pounds thin skinned potatoes (yukon gold, purple peruvian, or new potatoes)
1/2 red onion
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons fresh dill
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 tablespoon dijion mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Chop the potatoes into about  1 1/2- 2 inch cubes.  Add potatoes to a pot with the garlic clove and fill with water 1 inch above the potatoes.  Put pot on stove and turn the gas on high.  Once the water comes up to a boil salt the water and continue cooking.  Total cooking time should be 20-25 minutes or until fork comes out without any resistance. 

In a large bowl, whisk the mustard and red wine vinegar together until they combine.  Then slowly whisk in the olive oil. 

Slice the red onion very thinnly and add to the mustard, vinegar, and oil vinegarette.  Chop the dill and parsley and reserve to the side. 

Once potatoes are fork tender, drain them and remove the garlic clove and add them to the mixture.  Stir gently and add in the parsley and dill.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or chill and enjoy!

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Friday, August 12, 2011

The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Soup

Potato and Leek Soup
Rose and Crown Pub
Disney World's Epcot United Kingdom Pavilion
Orlando, FL

Now you are probably wondering why I would order hot soup in the heat of Florida, but honestly this soup is good enough to be eaten on the hottest days of the year.  Now I am not sure how authentically English this soup is, but every person in the restaurant is from the United Kingdom and works in Disney for one year.  I have a feeling they wouldn't want to serve me a phony English soup.  But authentic or not, it is delicious.  I ordered a cup because I was getting an entree also, but if you are really hungry order a bowl.  Or just order a bowl anyway cause this soup is just that good.  Leeks are almost like a mildier onion and they really are all over this soup.  The soup itself has a very strong leeky flavor which perfectly goes with the creamy texture of the pureed potatoes.  The texture is just completely silky.  There are absolutely no lumps in this soup.  Not only do you get the leek flavor in the soup, but then on top they put a leek oil which adds flavor and a beautiful color.  Then they top it with fried leeks for texture.  When you dig down into that soup and break apart those crispy leeks in the creamy soup you are just in heaven.  Then on the side they give you two rolls and butter.  For me, I ditch the butter and just start digging in.  I think the rolls were made to dig in cause they absorb the soup so well yet still maintain a crispy texture on the outside.  This soup really is the best soup I ever ate.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tomato and Arugula Salad

This is a great refreshing summer salad.  It goes on the side of anything, or add some chicken to make it a main course!  I served this with my Caprese Burger!  Enjoy!

8 fresh plum tomatoes
2 cups arugula
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

In a bowl whisk together the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar vigorously until it comes together. 

Then cut the tomatoes into chunks.  I got about 8-10 chunks out of each tomato.  Add these to the dressing and stir.  Then cut the basil leaves into strips and toss in with the parsley.  Sprinle with salt and pepper.  If eating the same day, now is the time to add the arugula and stir.  If serving tomorrow let the tomatoes sit in the refrigerator with the sauce, but 1 hour before serving stir in the arugula. 

Let the entire salad sit for 1 hour in the refrigerator.  Then toss right before serving.  Enjoy!

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The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Appetizer

Sticky Wings
Kona Cafe
Disney's Polynesian Resort
Orlando, FL

These wings are some of the best wings I ever ate.  They come out 12 wings to an order and look absolutely gorgeous.  The barbecue sauce is glistening with a few sesame seeds on top for additional crunch.  You bite into the wing and the chicken meat is juicy, moist, plump and delicious.  It's just crazy good.  Of course its sticky, but who cares cause they are just so good.  On top of the juicy meat, the outside is perfectly crispy and topped with a delicious sauce.  The sauce on top is a combination of sweet and spicy because this is in a Hawaiian themed restaurant.  The heat isn't too strong, it just sort surprises you after you think these are just sweet honey barbecue wings.  These really are the best wings I ever ate!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pesto, Prosciutto, and Ricotta Grilled Pizza

I ate a similar pizza to this in a restaurant and what made it so delicious was the crispy crust and the soft ricotta cheese.  To get a crispy texture, grilling your pizza is the best way to go (unless you have a huge wood fired pizza oven in your house).  Enjoy!

1 cup basil pesto sauce (For my recipe go here)
1 pizza dough, split into two (homemade or store bought)
4 slices of prosciutto de parma
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat grill or oven to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll out half of the pizza dough until it is 1/8 inch thick.  Do the same with the other half of the dough.  Oil the dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each and spread evenly with a pastry brush. 

Toss the dough, oiled side down, onto the grill. Now you can slice the the prosciutto into small pieces. Close the grill and allow to cook for 5-6 minutes.  Dough should be crusty and golden brown on the first side.  Flip the crusts over.  Spread the pesto on each of the doughs into a very thin layer.  Then using a tablespoon, scoop spoon fulls of the ricotta cheese on the pesto layer.  Then sprinkle with the proscuitto and top with a little pepper.  Don't add salt, the proscuitto is salty enough.  Close the grill and cook for another 5 minutes or until cheese begins to melt.  Enjoy.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

I made this dish into individual servings, but you could also make one large one.  I also used leftover mashed potatoes here, but any of your mashed potato recipes will work too.  This recipe may not be 100 % traditional, but it is delicious and very easy to make. 

Makes 4 individual pies
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 lb ground beef
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Heat a large skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Begin to saute the onion and the carrot in the pan for about 5 minutes on medium heat.  Then add in the garlic cloves and celery.  Saute for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables become tender and translucent. 

After the vegetables are finished cooking, remove from pan.  Toss in the ground beef and saute for 10-15 minutes or until beef is browned.  Once beef is finished cooking remove and mix together with the vegetables.  With the heat on low, add the red wine and scrape all of the bits off the bottom of the pan. Let reduce for 5 minutes. Add the beef and vegetables back into the reduced mixture and add the worchestershire sauce.  Cook together for another 5 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Then separate the mixture into 4 small greased baking dishes or one large baking dish. 

Top with the mashed potatoes so that there is no more meat exposed.

Top with white cheddar cheese and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Enjoy!

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