Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

It may sound crazy but inspiration for this Ice Cream Sandwich Cake comes from a Weight Watcher's Cookbook.  And not just any WW Cookbook but my favorite one: 5 Ingredient 15 minute Cookbook.  This is one of my go-to cookbooks for simple, healthy dishes because one thing I hate is a laundry list of ingredients in a recipe.  And even though I don't really believe in eating numbers or "points" I endorse this cookbook because all of the recipes include 5 ingredients or less and this cake is no exception.

In the Weight Watcher's Cookbook the recipe is titled "Chocolate Almond Ice Cream Cake" and they instruct you to use light chocolate ice cream sandwiches, fat free whipped topping, and chocolate covered almonds.  Once you put the cake together they say that 1 slice is 5 weight watcher's points so if you're counting, do it their way.

I, however, am not counting and when I made this for our Father's Day gathering, I used full fat ice cream sandwiches and cool whip and this cake was a hit! I am posting the recipe, not to take credit, but because a few people asked me how to make it and also because I loved how I didn't have to bake anything. In the summer having the oven going can be brutal so I loved how this was an oven free process that resulted in a cool refreshing dessert that kids and adults loved.  It would be perfect for your 4th of July celebration!  Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes 12-15 slices):

15 Square Ice Cream Sandwiches
1 (12 oz) Container Cool Whip
Chocolate Syrup, for drizzling
Crunchy Ingredient*

This cake needs some type of crunch and there are so many options to incorporate texture.  Your crunchy ingredients can include (but are not limited to): Chopped Heath Bars (pictured), Any Chopped Chocolate Bar, Chopped Peanuts or Almonds, Chopped Chocolate Covered Peanuts or Almonds (try Dove brand), Mini-Chocolate Chips, Sprinkles, or Crushed Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Choose one or use a combination.


Arrange 5 ice cream sandwiches side by side on a serving platter.  Using a spatula, spread a layer of cool whip (about a 1/2 inch thick) over the sandwiches, covering them completely on the top.  Then drizzle chocolate syrup over the whipped cream and sprinkle a generous about of your crunchy ingredient over the syrup.  Repeat this process one more time and then top with the final 5 ice cream sandwiches.  Cover with saran and freeze for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, simply spread the remaining cool whip over the top and sides of the cake, covering the ice cream sandwiches completely.  Finish with a final drizzle of chocolate syrup and sprinkle a little more of your crunchy ingredient on top.  Cover with saran again and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Like with any cake, when ready to serve, simply slice it up evenly.  Cover and freeze any leftovers.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My $25 Steak Dinner

Let me paint you guys a picture: I. Wanted. Some. Steak! I still don't know why I was craving red meat so badly but I kept dreaming about a juicy, delicious, perfectly pink steak.  But there was one problem...I was broke! So my first attempt to satisfy my craving was to spend a gift card I had for Carrabbas.  I ordered the Steak Marsala with high hopes, but when I ate the dry, barely seasoned filet I was incredibly disappointed.  I mean, it filled me up that night but it didn't satisfy my craving.  So I had to take matters into my own hands.

With $25 in cash I'd just received from selling popcorn, I went to my local grocery store and managed to pull off a fabulous dinner.  Unlike Carrabbas, MY steak was seasoned to perfection, juicy and delicious and it even reheated nicely!  So I figured I would share this meal to show you all that an amazing steak dinner can be achieved on a budget and in a fairly healthy way.  Some folks believe that red meat isn't part of a healthy diet but flank steak is very lean and this whole meal was filling and low calorie.

So scroll below to see the recipes.  I included prices of the groceries that I purchased that day, to illustrate how affordable everything was.  And any ingredients that do not include a price are the ones that I already had in my pantry.  Oh and that Chimichurri was absolutely perfect (if do I say so myself!).  There are a million recipes for the Argentinean sauce but my recipe came together with what I had on hand and it was SO GOOD! And the leftovers would be amazing on any protein.  Enjoy!

For the Steak
1.5-2 lb Flank Steak - $12.95
2 tbsp Chili Powder
2 tbsp Kosher Salt
1 tbsp Coarse Black Pepper
2 tsp Dried Oregano
2 tsp Onion Powder

Chimichurri Sauce
Two Large Handfuls Fresh Parsley Leaves - $1.50
Two Large Handfuls Fresh Cilantro Leaves - $1.50
2 Garlic Cloves
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 tbsp Capers
2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sauteed Corn & Red Peppers
2 tbsp Butter, divided
1/2 a Red Bell Pepper, diced -$1.00
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 Bag Frozen Corn - $1.50
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 tsp. Smoked (or regular) Paprika

Sauteed Hericot Verts (French Green Beans)
1 tbsp. Butter
1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Small Shallot, diced - $0.85
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 Bag Fresh Hericot Verts - $3.69

Grand Total - $22.99 + tax!!  You see, $25 can go really far when you buy affordable cuts of beef and keep your kitchen stocked with the Essentials!


To prep the steak, combine the chili powder, salt, pepper, oregano, and onion powder to make a rub.  Then, like the name says, rub the seasonings on both sides of the steak and set aside until ready to grill (at least 15 minutes).

Next make the Chimicurri sauce by simply adding the cilantro, parsley, garlic cloves, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, capers, and vinegar to a food processor (this is a good job for a mini-chopper if you have one).  Pulse a few times and then blend while streaming in the 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Stop blending and taste for seasoning and a "sauce like" consistency.  If it's too thick, stream in more evoo.  Pour chimichurri into a bowl and set aside.

Now set up two sauté pans.  In one, melt the butter and once bubbling, add in the diced red pepper and sauté until slightly soft (about 3-4 mins).  Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.  Then add in the bag of frozen corn, stir to combine, and cook on medium low heat until the corn has defrosted and been heated through.  When ready to serve, stir in salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a serving bowl and top with smoked paprika.

Meanwhile, using a fork, poke a few holes in the bag containing the hericot verts and microwave on high for 3 minutes to get them going.  Then, in the other sauté pan, melt the butter, add in the olive oil and, once hot, add in diced shallots and sauté until soft.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the partly cooked hericot verts.  Sauté until the green beans have absorbed the oils and have slightly caramelized.  Then, remove from the heat until ready to serve.

To cook the steak, heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to high.  Once the grill is screaming hot, add the steak and cook for 5 minutes on each side for medium doneness (warm pink center).  Remove steak and allow to rest for 5-7 minutes (see left).

To serve, slice steak at an angle, top with chimichurri sauce and serve with sauteed corn and hericot verts.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Panko Crusted Salmon w/ Roasted Red Potatoes

It’s very rare that I experiment in the kitchen and get it right on the first try.  But this meal...I went in the kitchen with a vision and managed to create one of the best dinners I’ve made in a while.  So I had to share this with you guys!

I was inspired to make this meal when a Chef that I follow on Instagram posted a picture of a Panko Crusted Salmon that was on the menu at his resturant.  It looked oh so beautiful to me!  And even though the panko on his salmon looked golden and delicious, it also looked kind of plain.  So when I decided to recreate his dish, I knew I wanted to season the bread crumbs with plenty of fresh herbs. 

I also wanted to make roasted potatoes for a side and I thought about using a lipton onion soup packet that I had on hand.  This is what my Mom always used but when I looked at the nutritional information and saw the massive amounts of sodium, I decided to season the potatoes myself.  I used pretty much the same ingredients I was using in the salmon and everything came out perfect.

Though I must say that this salmon doesn’t really re-heat well.  L Yes, this kills me, because I cook for leftovers, but I still have to recommend you make this because it’s that good.  And it’s a lovely new way to enjoy Salmon.  I loved how the panko gave everything on my plate a crunch.  In fact, I would serve mashed potatoes with this next time but my roasted baby reds were so yummy I wanted to throw that recipe out there for now.  Plus, I mentioned in my weeknight cooking tips, how much I enjoy throwing everything in the oven, and this meal does exactly that, and is ready in no time.

One last thing! For the experienced cooks: I try to give exact measurements on this blog, but you don’t have to measure the seasonings in this dinner.  When I was making it, I put “a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” tasted constantly and I encourage you to do the same.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
For the Fish:
1 ½ lb. Salmon Filet, cut into 4 portions
1 tbs. Butter
1 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
½ tsp. Paprika
½ Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tbsp. Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. Thyme Leaves
1 tbsp. Rosemary, chopped
(Note: I put all the fresh herbs in a pile and run my knife through all of it but technically the thyme leaves could stay whole.)

For the Potatoes:
3 cups baby red potatoes, sliced in ½
3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. Rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. paprika

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with foil and spray one lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Cut the baby red potatoes in half and toss onto the non-greased pan.  Then in a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave add in the salt, pepper, rosemary, onion powder and paprika.  Stream in the tablespoon of evoo while whisking vigorously.  Pour butter/oil mixture over the potatoes and toss until all potatoes are coated.  Place potatoes on the bottom rack in the oven and set timer for 40 minutes.

For the fish, place fillets onto the other, lightly greased baking sheet.  Then, prepare the butter/oil mixture the same way as the potatoes: melt butter in the microwave, add in seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika) and stream in oil while whisking vigorously.  Brush a generous amount of the butter mixture (about half) over the fish.  Then toss the panko bread crumbs in with the remaining oil.  Add in the chopped, fresh herbs and mix together.  Lastly, sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs over the filets to create a thin, even layer on top and place pan on the top rack in the oven. 

Now would be a good time to give the potatoes a quick toss.  The salmon needs to cook for 20 minutes but check it halfway through.  If the bread crumbs seem to be getting a little too golden, just swap them with the potatoes for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Serve potatoes and salmon fresh from the oven with your favorite “house” salad.