Pomegranate Blueberry (Raspberry) Sorbet

After those pork chops the other day, I had about half a container of blueberries left over that I needed to somehow use. Those combined with the left over pomegranate juice from the Berry Chai Infusion made the perfect sorbet.

To make this, combine 1c of water with 1/2c of sugar and boil until the sugar dissolved. Chill until cold, about 1 hour, then combine with 2c pomegranate juice, 1/4c lemon juice, and 1T raspberry extract. Chill again (or chill the additional juices before adding). Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to instructions. About 5 minutes before finished, add in 1/2c blueberries.

I wish this had scooped better, but what was lacking in consistency was more than made up for with taste. This sorbet is super tart and tangy, and a great snack for dessert or just a quick refreshment.


Pork Chops with Blueberry Sauce

When I saw a picture of this on Love & Olive Oil, my mouth literally started watering. I'm not a pork chop person by any means - I've never cooked them before and they were always my least favorite meal when my mom made them. They always just seem so dry and chewy. Not my thing. But these... something about the blueberries in the sauce peaked the interest of my sweet tooth.

The original recipe called for boneless pork chops, but those weren't looking so great in the store so I went with the bone-in version. Probably not the best choice. As usual, these were very dry and I could barely eat them. Even the sauce didn't make up for it - way too buttery for me. I'm not going to blame the recipe, but rather the cook. It just looked so promising that I think I might have to try it again with a few tweaks - boneless meat and less butter for sure.

Pork Chops with Blueberry Sauce

4 boneless pork chops
1/2c red wine
1/2c blueberries
2T butter
1 shallot, finely diced
1/4c water
1/2 of a lemon (zest and juice)
fresh parsley, chopped

(1) Preheat the oven to 425.
(2) Season both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper.
(3) Brown the pork chops, 1-2 minutes per side, in a skillet with about 1T olive oil.

(4) Place the pan with the pork chops in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
(5) Heat about 1T olive oil in another skillet and saute the shallots until golden brown.

(6) Add wine and water to skillet and boil down, about 2 minutes.
(7) Add the blueberries.
(8) When the blueberry skins begin to burst open, add the lemon zest and juice.
(9) Continue to boil until thick, then take off heat and stir in the butter and a pinch of salt.

(10) Serve sauce over pork chops, garnished with parsley.


Football sugar cookies

That Steelers loss the other week hurt. (Didn't hurt too much since they didn't exactly play well, but it still hurt.) I made these cookies for the big game, and was really happy with how they came out.

Once again, I used this sugar cookie recipe. I cut the cookies into jersey and football shapes. For the royal icing, I added in 1/2t of lemon extract to liven up the flavor. Once the outline icing was ready, I separated out two small bowls of it (for the lettering), and divided the rest between two larger bowls. Using the small bowls and food coloring gel, make one bowl yellow and one bowl white. In the larger bowls, dye one bowl brown and one black.

For the jersey cookies:

Once dry (overnight), use the yellow and white icing to write in player names and numbers, and to decorate the arms of the jerseys.

For the football cookies: 

Thin the icing, then used it to flood the cookies.

Once dry, use the white icing to decorate the stitching.

And if you're a Steelers fan (or just a football fan in general), check out this post from Bakerella. So amazing I was speechless.


Time to Vote!

The voting has started for the Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge. You can go here to vote for my "Red Hot Cupcakes". The voting box is on the right - just click on your favorite and submit!


Starbucks Berry Chai Infusion

A few years ago, Starbucks sold a drink called the Berry Chai Infusion. I was obsessed and got one at least 3 times a week (all thanks to giftcards from Christmas). Sadly they discontinued it at some point... I never really noticed when since all my giftcards ran out and I stopped going to Starbucks so much. Recently I've been craving one and found a recipe online that's a pretty good copy. Next time I make this, I'll add more Chai to it for a spicier drink and try a different type of juice. It would be good hot or cold, and a touch of cinnamon would really spice it up.

Berry Chai Infusion

8-10c water
3 bags black Chai tea
3 bags Wild Berry tea
8 packets Splenda
Pomegranate juice

Boil water in a pot. Remove from heat and add tea bags and Splenda.
Steep to taste. Remove tea bags using a slotted spoon.

Fill rest of mug with tea.
(I used Celestial Seasonings Wild Berry Zinger and Stash Chai Spice teas.)

Heat in microwave until steaming.


Dessert Wars AND Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge

I'm warning you now, this is going to be a long one. But keep reading because the finished product is so worth the time.

As some of you know, I love following dessert challenges on other blogs, but I'm usually either too scared to try out the wacky ingredients they come up with or I just run out of time to bake. This month, I found two challenges that fit so perfectly together, and as soon as I saw them I thought of the perfect recipe to fulfill the requirements of both.

Dessert Wars

The first of these challenges is for Dessert Wars. This is a blog that I very recently started following, and I was so excited to see that the February challenge ingredients were dark chocolate and hearts. The dessert can be anything, as long as it includes both dark chocolate and a heart shape. Check out all the awesome prizes you can win for this one:

The other challenge I'm using this recipe for is this month's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge. This month's theme is (you guessed it) chocolate! It has to be a chocolate cupcake base, and also needs to have a twist. The winner of February’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive the following awesome prizes:

So what did I make?

Cinnamon (Dark) Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Hot Buttercream

I figured that given the heart theme these would be a perfect treat for Valentine's Day. I spent my whole day Sunday trying to create something new, but it clearly was not the day for me to be baking. My first batch of cupcakes wouldn't cook in the center at all (though the edges did bake and they were quite tasty), then I ran out of buttercream, burnt some popcorn, and broke my ice cream maker. I mean really, I should have just left the kitchen then. But I was determined to make these cupcakes and make them taste and look good too.

Instead of trying to be adventurous, I went back to my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe (here's the link). I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder and added in 1T of cinnamon.

The key to this is really in the cinnamon red hot buttercream frosting. Otherwise they'd be plain old boring chocolate cupcakes.

This recipe is my mom's recipe that she uses to make cinnamon popcorn every Christmas. It's a great sweet treat to munch on and a perfect way to use the leftover cinnamon mix (just coat about 6qts plain air popped popcorn with it, pour it in a parchment lined pan, and bake on 250 for 1 hour, then cool and break apart) - just don't forget you had it in the oven and burn it like I did!

Red Hot Cinnamon Coating
1c butter
1/2c light corn syrup
9oz Red Hot candies (the hard little red things in the cake decorating aisle)

Put all ingredients into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 mins stirring very frequently.

As this is heating, start making your buttercream. I made mine with 1/2c butter and about 3c of confectioners sugar. Once ready, add about 1/4-1/2 of the red hot mixture. Since it will harden quickly, beat it in immediately, adding cream or milk as needed to get a good consistency. I used about 3T of cream in mine and a little over 1/4 of the red hot mixture. Once the cupcakes are cooled, pipe or spread the frosting on top.

Next, melt about 4oz of dark chocolate in a double boiler - I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet baking chocolates.

Pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag and use it to pipe heart shapes on a piece of parchment. Once dry, use these hearts, along with some sugar pearls (or any type of sprinkle), to decorate your cupcakes.

(excuse the glare - my apartment lighting is not the greatest)

And finally, the finished product:

The frosting on these was actually a nice salmon-y pink color, but for some reason every single photo looks orange. Maybe some day I'll invest in a real camera (but not until after I get myself a stand mixer).


Homemade Oreo Hearts

Now I've done homemade Oreos before, but given my Type A personality, I couldn't deal with the cookies in them being different shapes and sizes. I was looking through old posts from Bake at 350 the other day, and saw a post for her version of Oreos, and decided I needed to try again (especially since her's were so darn cute). Since I liked my version of the cream filling, I used that again, but tried her recipe for the cookies. And with it being Valentine's Day and all, I made these cookies in a heart shape!

These cookies are cut out cookies, so they require a little more work. I had a ton of trouble getting the dough to stick together, and it was obvious when they were baked. I'm not sure what my problem was, but even if they're hard to get to come together, the taste is totally worth the extra effort. These cookies are the perfect blend of sweet and salty, and would taste great by themselves.

Chocolate Cut Out Cookies

2.5c flour
1/2c cocoa
1/2t salt
1c butter (unsalted), softened
1c sugar
1 egg
1t vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350, and line baking sheets with parchment.
Stir together the first 3 ingredients, then set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Gradually add in the flour mixture.
Chill the dough for about an hour.
Roll dough onto a surface covered in flour and cocoa (evenly mixed).
Cut out the cookies with a heart shaped cookie cutter.
Press a smaller heart shaped cookies cutter into the center, but not the whole way through (only about halfway).
Bake 7-9 minutes, then let cool.

Meanwhile prepare the filling.
Fill the cookies using a piping bag, or by spreading in the center.


Valentine's Day Cookies

I know it's a little late, but if you're anything like me, you've had your Valentine's Day treats planned for weeks now and have been getting really excited to make them! There have been so many great posts on other blogs this week and I'm thinking I might have to start celebrating Valentine's Day every day so that I can try out all the great ideas I've seen.

This year I made a couple things - cookies, cupcakes and ice cream! I'll slowly be posting those over the next few days, but today I'm going to share my heart shaped sugar cookies with you. I wanted to make them look like candy hearts since those are one of my favorite candies, but my piping skills aren't quite up to par so they didn't come out as planned. (Still tasty though!)

I recently purchased this Ateco food coloring. While I really love the bright vibrant colors, it's been making my royal icing a weird texture, and it hasn't been getting quite as hard as normal.

Here's the sugar cookie recipe I used, and I cut them into various sized hearts. Once cooled, pipe the outline onto the cookies using royal icing. Use a few drops of your favorite food coloring gel to tint the icing whatever color you'd like. To make the icing taste a little better, I added 1/2t of lemon juice. About 1/2 of the royal icing recipe should cover cookies from the whole dough recipe. Reserve a small amount of the icing for lettering.

Fill the cookies with flood icing and let sit overnight.

The next day (when dry), lay a large piece of parchment on the counter or table and sprinkle a generous amount of sanding sugar in the center. I used both white and bright pink sugar, but the white definitely looked better since it was a contrast to the cookie color.

Using the reserved icing, pipe on any words you'd like, and an outline. Immediately dip the cookie into the sanding sugar, then let sit to dry. Once all of the cookies are decorated, pour the excess sugar back into the container.

For the mini cookies, I used the outline icing to fill in the center of the cookies, then pressed a little harder when I put them in the sanding sugar so the icing would spread to the edges in a heart shape.


Package each cookies in a cellophane bag to prepare them for your Valentine...or to ship them to your friends and family (get ready Mom & Dad).


Fudgy Oatmeal Bars

So this one was not my favorite recipe, but I'm also not the biggest fan of chocolate desserts unless it's in solid chocolate form. I mean, growing up so close to Hershey, it's not really possible to resist the Great American Chocolate Bar (remember that part of the song?). Anyway, when Jim and I were trying to decide on a dessert one night, he kept shooting down all my deliciously fruity and sweet suggestions. Eventually I gave in and agreed on these (because who can really go without dessert on a Saturday night).

His mom used to make these for him and as everyone knows, mom's cooking/baking can never be beat, so I'm not really sure how satisfied he was with these, but I was a happy girl. These bars are sweet and chocolatey and have just the right amount of texture from the oats, but boy are they rich. If you make these, be sure you have lots of friends to share them with because one little bar will be plenty to satisfy even the biggest craving.

Fudgy Oatmeal Bars
2c packed brown sugar
1c softened butter
2 eggs
1t vanilla extract
2.5c all-purpose flour
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
3c oats
12oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
14oz sweetened condensed milk
2T butter
1t vanilla extract
1/2t salt

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a large rectangular pan.
Mix brown sugar, 1c butter, eggs, and 1t vanilla in a large bowl.
Stir in flour, baking soda, and 1/2t salt, then stir in oats.
Reserve about 1/3 of the oatmeal mixture. Press the remaining mixture into the pan.
Heat chocolate chips, milk, and 2T butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate chips are melted.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1t vanilla and 1/2t salt.
Spread the chocolate mixture over the oats mixture in the pan.
Drop the reserved oats mixture by rounded teaspoons on top of the chocolate mixture.
Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes.
Cut into bars while still warm (but not hot).


BBQ Pulled Pork

For my birthday in August, my mom bought me a slow cooker. I've been wanting to use it, but wanted to wait until it got cold outside and I was craving a hearty meal. Well that time is finally here, and with long work days, it's nice to come home to a ready-made dinner.

This pulled pork recipe took me about 5 minutes to prepare the night before, and less than 5 minutes to get started in the morning. The apartment smelled SO good when I got home, I could barely wait for this to be done. Unfortunately it snowed the day I made this, so I wasn't able to get to the store to buy buns, but it was just as good on its own.

BBQ Pork Sandwiches
(makes 12)

4lb pork shoulder
3T brown sugar
1 1/2T paprika
1 1/2T salt
1 1/2T pepper
1t garlic powder
1c beef broth
2 bay leaves
20oz barbeque sauce

Mix together brown sugar, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Coat meat with spice mixture.
Put meat, broth, and bay leaves in slow cooker on low for about 10 hours.
Remove bay leaves and some fat. Shred pork.
Stir in barbeque sauce. Cover and cook about 2 more hours.
Serve on toasted buns.


More Ice Cream

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my goals for this year is to start baking and cooking with new ingredients. One ingredient I've really been wanting to try is vanilla beans, but they're always so expensive, especially when buying them from local stores. When beanilla recently had a sale on vanilla beans, I ordered a 10 pack each of Bourbon and Tahitian beans.
The first thing I tried making with these was vanilla bean ice cream. This used the same basic recipe as I used for peppermint ice cream, but I tried using half Splenda, half sugar. NOT recommended. The consistency of this ice cream was very weird and after freezing for several days, it was too hard to scoop, even after sitting out for a while. The recipe below is for the version using only sugar.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
3c heavy cream
3/4c sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean
3/4t vanilla extract

Pour 1c cream into a saucepan. Add the sugar and salt. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Add the pod to the pot.
Warm over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove saucepan from heat and stir in remaining cream and the vanilla extract. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Remove vanilla bean pod. Pour mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the instructions.

Once frozen, transfer to an airtight container to store.

Once frozen solid, your ice cream is ready to enjoy! Try it plain, or add some toppings.


Ice Cream

I love peppermint flavored candy...candy canes are one of the many reasons I love Christmas. Ever since November, when I first started seeing candy canes in stores, I had been wanting to make peppermint ice cream. Unfortunately, I didn't get around to it until after Christmas, and couldn't find and good candy canes anywhere. Luckily the round mint candies and soft peppermint candies work just as well.

This recipe uses a basic vanilla ice cream recipe, modified to add peppermints. Try varying the ratio of cream to milk to reduce calories and fat, or using Splenda instead of sugar. Just keep in mind this will significantly change the consistency of the ice cream.

Since this recipe gets better with time, as the peppermint gets absorbed into the ice cream, make it several days before you need it and keep in an airtight container in the freezer.

Vanilla Mint Ice Cream
3c heavy cream
3/4c sugar
1 1/4t vanilla extract
3/4t mint extract
crushed peppermint pieces

Pour 1c cream in a saucepan. Add sugar and a pinch of salt. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and stir in remaining cream and vanilla. Add mint extract.
Chill in fridge until cool, about 1 hour.
Freeze according to directions of your ice cream maker. About 5 minutes before finished, add in peppermint pieces.
Transfer to an airtight container and freeze.