Stars Abound

My friend, Liz, hosted a small viewing party to watch the Oscars last night. I thought about what to bring for a dessert, and I decided on these cute star cookies.

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Making them was actually quite easy.

Start with your favorite sugar cookie dough. Store-bought or homemade works the same.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out star-shaped cookies.

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Use a smaller cookie cutter, ad cut another star shaped cookie out of the larger one.

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Put the cookies on a silicone baking mat (this is super important!) and bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes.

In the mean time, take some jolly ranchers and hit them once with a meat tenderizer.

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You don’t need to completely smash the candy – larger pieces will work fine.

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Once your timer goes off, take the cookies out of the oven and remove the smaller cookies from the pan. They should be done.

Fill the inside part of the stars with the crushed jolly ranchers.

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Be careful not to over fill, or you’ll end up with cookies like this:

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That one didn’t make it to the party.

Put the cookies back in the oven for only another minute or so. When they come out, they should look like this.

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Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes. You want to make sure the candy hardens.

Use a spatula to remove the cookies from the pan, and let them cool on a baking rack.

I love the way the candy is sort of see through and creates a pop of color in the cookie without adding icing. The red was a great way to add the red carpet into the cookie itself. Also, because the candy is really thin, you can bite into the cookie without breaking your teeth.

These were a big hit at the party – none were left!

No-Meat Fridays, Week 2: Skinny Spicy Fettuccine Alfredo

Look at this – I’m actually following up my post from last Friday with another meatless dish to enjoy this Lenten season.

I went with a true meat-free staple – pasta. As I prefer non-red sauces, I decided to go with an alfredo sauce. But, as we all know, alfredo sauce can be very, very fatty. I’ve been very good lately, working out to a Jillian Michaels DVD no less than four times a week (I’m on Level 2 of the 30 Day Shred) and watching my portion sizes, so as much as I love a good alfredo sauce, I wasn’t going to let it undo all the hard work I’ve put in to getting fit. So, I decided to find a way to make the skinniest alfredo sauce I could without sacrificing taste.

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I most definitely succeeded.

Here’s how I did it.

Ingredients (for alfredo sauce):
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove
6 teaspoons white flour
2 tablespoons low fat cream cheese
1 cup skim milk
3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese with added spices (I used Mama Francesca’s, but you can just add italian seasoning and a lot of red pepper for the taste)
1 tablespoon parsley
salt, to taste

Start by boiling a large pot of water. It will take a while.

Next, heat the butter on low heat and add the chopped clove of garlic. Let it cook for a few minutes, until the garlic is transparent.

Add the flour and stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Add the milk and parsley (and any other spices you’re using). Keep stirring for a while, around 5 minutes or so.

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This is the part I always have trouble with, which is getting the mixture to thicken. I find that letting the sauce simmer on low heat, without stirring, for a few minutes works well. Some of the liquid will boil away and when you go back to stir, the sauce will be thicker.

At this point, the sauce is almost done. Add in the cream cheese and Parmesan and stir until it is all melted.

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About 15 minutes before the sauce is ready, drop a box of fettuccine (whole wheat is best) into the boiling water. Add a generous amount of salt and stir occasionally, so the noodles don’t stick. When the fettuccine is cooked, drain the water, saving about 3/4 of a cup. Return the pasta to the pot, add the sauce (it will be thick), and about 1/2 cup of the reserved water. Stir until the sauce is evenly distributed.

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If the pasta is too dry, add more of the water. Otherwise, serve and enjoy.

Nutella Bites

I have a confession. I don’t like chocolate.

I know, how can I call myself a baker and not like chocolate? It’s weird, I really should like it. But, if given a choice between a chocolate cupcake and an apple pie, I’d pick the pie every time.

I tell you this because I recently made a chocolate dessert that I LOVED. I thought if it could win me over, it must be good.

Maybe it’s the sweet mix of chocolate and hazelnut, but whatever it is, these Nutella bites are just delightful.

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The funniest part to me is that this dessert takes absolutely zero effort. I think from start to finish, baking this took about 20 minutes.

Here’s what you need to make twelve bites:
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Nutella
1/8 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar (to sift on top of the bites)

Just mix everything but the powdered sugar together in a bowl until the batter isn’t lumpy anymore.

Pour into greased mini-muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for about 14 minutes.

When cooled, sift with the powdered sugar.

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That’s it.

You can easily double the recipe to get 24 bites, but I thought it best to keep the amount of these in my house as small as possible.

No-Meat Fridays, Week 1: Seared Sesame Encrusted Tuna Steaks

In the hopes of helping others with my weekly Friday Lenten conundrum of what to make for dinner, I’m going to try to start a Friday blog series of great no meat dishes. Let’s see how long this lasts before I resort to grilled cheese and tomato soup.

This fabulous meal needed few ingredients and took less then 20 minutes to prepare. In fact, the thing that took the longest was waiting for the rice to cook. It’s prefect for your Lenten, no meat Fridays.

We made seared sesame encrusted tuna steaks with green beans, rice, and wasabi.

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Ingredients (for the tuna steaks):
2 fresh tuna steaks (not frozen)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
about 8 tablespoons of sesame seeds

Ingredients (for the green beans):
Half a pound of green beans
1 clove garlic
1 green onion
salt
pepper

First, get the rice going. We used our rice cooker to make a cup of rice, which was more than enough for the two of us. Also, warm up a saute pan. It needs to get HOT.

I used the rice cooker for double duty and put a steamer basket on it for the green beans. I but the beans in as soon as the rice started cooking.

Next, start on the tuna. Rub the tuna steaks with the sesame oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Pour the sesame seeds into a shallow dish, and dip the tuna steaks in. Try to cover all sides. We ran out of sesame seeds, so ours weren’t fully covered.

Chop up the green onion and garlic. Put some olive oil in a pan and start cooking the garlic for the beans. Once the beans are done steaming, toss them and the onion, pepper, and salt. You’re not cooking the beans, you’re just keeping them warm, so keep the heat on very low.

Once the pan for the tuna is really, really hot, drop in the steaks. Let them sear on each side for about 1-2 minutes. More like a minute and a half, actually. You’ll want to get a good sear, leaving the middle warm, but mostly raw.

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Once everything is ready, put the rice on the plate and the tuna steaks on top. Get a little wasabi to eat with each mouthful of tuna and rice. It kind of tastes like a tuna roll, minus the seaweed.

Like I said, start to finish in about 20 minutes. If tuna steaks weren’t so expensive, this would certainly be added into our weekly dinner rotation. Even with the expense, it’s still a pretty cheap meal considering it’s restaurant-quality, made at home.

Valentine Fortune Cookies

I thought I’d quickly share the fun treats Dan and I made for my little cousins this Valentine’s Day – homemade fortune cookies!

Following this recipe (yes, I trusted Paula Deen to come up with a way to make fortune cookies – no butter in these at all, what?), I made the batter, spread thin circle on a silicone baking mat,

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and folded the burning hot cookies.

How to fold: First, drop th fortune in the botto half of the cookie circle. Then, bring the top part down to meet the bottom. Finally, bring the cornered edges togetehr to form the traditional fortune cookie.

I let the cookies harden up while hanging on a drinking glass.

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The key is to move quickly – drop the fortune in, fold the cookie, let it hang. You really want to move as fast as possible because the cookies are so very hot when you take them out of the oven.

I came up with fortunes like “Dream Big!” “Hugs!” and “You’re the best!” I hand wrote them on small pieces of light pink scrapbook paper.

When the fortune cookies cooled, I put 3 to a cute hearts bag, and tied a Toy Story 3 valentine to it.

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What a cute little treat!