Friday, March 28, 2014

Chocolate Cups (with a trick for melting)

I mentioned a few weeks back in my Caprese Pasta Salad post that I had helped to host a baby shower for my friend Ashley. One of the little bite-sized sweets that I decided to serve was mini chocolate cups filled with peanut butter mousse. A few friends were so excited about learning how to make these as well as my chocolate warming trick that I thought I would share with y'all too!

I went to a baking supply here in town and bought a couple little mini reeses style candy molds. I made a pit-stop at a craft store for a brand new paint brush with clear bristles (make sure it is a good quality so that it doesn't shed- the clear bristles are just to help you see through so you know its been cleaned out well). I melted 2-3 blocks of chocolate almond bark in a small glass prep bowl and using the paint brush, started painting a thin layer into the molds. I then popped them into the freezer for a minute to let them set up before repeating the process a couple more times until I could no longer see light through the candy when held up to the light. After the final trip to the freezer, I popped them out and set them aside. Here is where you learn about the trick: The chocolate coating was beginning to harden as I went along, which made me feel rushed, and its rude to rush the creative process, so I got inventive...

I would never admit that I tried this if it hadn't worked and yes, my husband thought I had gone crazy, but that was before he saw it working awesomely (thank God!) and began admiring my ingenuity rather than diagnosing my insanity. I grabbed my "Scentsy" style warmer and took the top plate off (the part that holds the wax) and placed my glass bowl of chocolate coating over the light instead. This was perfect! It didn't get too hot that the candy overheated and it did not get too hot to handle (for me - be careful testing this for yourself),  it was just right. As it got low, I even added a new block of candy and let it melt slowly as I continued working. Even when the candy coating hardened on my brush when I'd get distracted, which I always do, I would just brush it around the inside of the glass bowl and the heat would melt it right back down. I don't know what kind of projects you love to do that require melted candy coating but if you have a Scentsy style wax warmer...try this trick to keep your chocolate hot and ready! And yes, they sell official chocolate warming thingies somewhere I'm sure, but on a whim and without having to store another piece of junk I'll rarely use, I'll stick to my Scentsy. I love dual-purpose!

Here are my little chocolate cups...notice that the inside of the cups aren't as pretty as the outside. The inside will be hidden by whatever yummy filling you choose!

 **Obviously use caution when using this trick and do not leave it unattended**

Enjoy! XOXO~

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Homemade Pizza

One of my favorite new things to make in my new Big Green Egg grill (thanks mom and dad!) is pizza. I've used my pizza stone for years in my oven but getting it out on the grill is like opening a whole new world of possibilities. ::insert Aladdin's "a whole new world" song here:: (and here are the lyrics - thanks to incase you have no idea what I'm talking about) Anyway, what I love so much about using the grill is that it crisps up the perfect brick oven style pizza with that signature smoky essence. If you have a charcoal grill, I highly recommend you experiment with it and even try using lump charcoal instead of the Kingsford style briquettes. The lump charcoal doesn't require the chemicals or lighter fluid that the briquettes require and you get a cleaner char flavor. 

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2  tsp granulated garlic
1/4 cup olive oil

Garlic Butter (for brushing the crust at the end) 
1/4 cup butter
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic

Combine the yeast with the warm water and let it sit for 8-10 minutes. Place flour, salt and garlic in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle paddle attachment. Turn mixer to the lowest setting and begin pouring in the olive oil in a thin steady stream. Slowly add in the yeast water. Once all ingredients are incorporated well, divide into 2 equal portions, transfer to separate bowls sprayed with Pam or lightly oiled, cover and let rise for an hour.

Preheat oven or grill to 425 degrees and insert pizza stone (if you have one). Combine the melted butter, garlic, oregano, basil and salt. Lightly flour your work surface. Remove 1 portion at a time, lightly dusting the top with flour start using your fingers to press it out into the shape you desire. Avoid the center at first. Begin working just outside of the center pressing out all the way around a few times and then flip and repeat on the other side. Flip back over and now begin in the center working outward. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
Once you get them the size you want, mine are about 10-12 inches in diameter, place them on a pizza peel that has been dusted with corn meal or flour to keep it from sticking. Shake it back and forth in small motions until the pizza starts to slide a bit. Use one forward and back motion to shake it out onto the pizza stone. Let cook for 8-10 minutes. While the pizza is cooking, sauté garlic and butter in a small sauce pan. When pizza is done gently slide peel back under pizza and remove it from oven. Brush the crust with the garlic butter; cut and serve. 

1. A thinner crust with fewer toppings needs less cooking time than a thicker crust with more toppings so keep an eye on it while it cooks.

2. Feel free to choose the toppings that you want! Pizza crust is a blank canvas. I used the hot salami or pepperoni from the deli (I like the authenticity of the 4 inch slices), fresh basil leaves and dollops of ricotta over a homemade marinara

3. Don't use too much sauce or the crust will get soggy.

4. Get a chunk of mozzarella from the deli and shred it at home instead of buying the pre-shredded bagged stuff, you'll thank me for the creamy heaven you experience.

5. Make sure to get a pizza stone as they are relatively inexpensive. DO NOT put the pizza directly on the grill grate or oven rack, unless you love cleaning up messes!

This is the floured counter (I thoroughly cleaned my granite countertop before using it as my work surface), the pizza peel (some are metal), and my pizza stone. If you don't have a pizza peel, use an "air bake" cookie sheet (the kind with no edge and use that to slide it on and off of the stone)

This is my husband trying to remember how he used to flip pizza dough when he was 14 and worked at a pizza place....Epic Fail, but I think he gets an "A" for effort!


 Enjoy! XOXO~

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Candy Popcorn - GAC Exclusive

Check out this exclusive recipe in the GAC - Great American Country "Krystal Keith in the Ki
tchen" blog series: Get it here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Simple Rice Pudding

Ok here it is, the grand finale of Asian week...the dessert!

With my Chicken Lettuce Wraps appetizer and Beef and Broccoli entree, I rolled out one of my favorite desserts, Rice Pudding. I spent a week in Jamaica for a friends wedding a few years back and one of the desserts I discovered was rice pudding. I had never seen or tried it so the expectation in my head of what it was, couldn't be further from the actual dish. I was served a room temperature version in Jamaica and it was creamy and sweet, but not too sweet. I knew that would not be the last time I would enjoy that dish. I came home and continued to whip it up left and right. My favorite thing about this dessert is the versatility. You can enjoy it plain or add in anything you want: raisins, nuts, fruit, etc. It also serves as a yummy mid-day snack if you have any leftover!

1 quart milk (4 cups)
2 1/2 cups minute rice**
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
**You can use long or short grain white rice instead if you aren't a minute rice fan - just know that the cooking time is longer.

In a medium sauce pan combine the milk, rice and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and let cook, stirring regularly until the sugar is dissolved, the rice is cooked and the mixture has thickened to a thin oatmeal consistency. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and cinnamon. The mixture will thicken as it stands. Serve at desired consistency. If it gets too thick, stir in some warm milk. You can serve it warm or cold. I like it warm for dessert and cold as a snack.

Enjoy! XOXO~

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Skinny Breakfast Casserole - GAC Exclusive

Check out this exclusive recipe in the GAC - Great American Country "Krystal Keith in the Kitchen" blog series: Get it here.

(this is not part of The Barnyard Bistro's Asian Week)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beef and Broccoli

Asian week continues at the Bistro. I hope this week inspires you to branch out a bit from your comfort zone and try to cook something that you love ordering at a restaurant but have never tried to make at home.

Asian food always intimidated me a bit. My family never really experimented with it growing up so it wasn't a type of food I was raised learning how to combine ingredients for. Over the years I have played with ingredients I found in the Asian section of the grocery store and started to get the hang of it. I started with fried rice...the samurai's at the hibachi place make it look easy right?! No. It was always missing something. It took me probably ten or twelve tries to get the ingredients just right. After the fried rice came the chicken lettuce wraps I shared earlier this week. Then I started experimenting with a classic that didn't seem too daunting. Not to toot my own horn but...nailed it (toot toot). This is yummy. It is definitely a good toss together meal. The slightly sweet and subtly salty marinade on the top round are the perfect compliment to the fresh crisp broccoli. I served this with my quick fried rice, which I made as the beef was marinating. I was feeding out of town guests and this dish easily fed all four of us, with enough left over to feed 2 more.

1 lb top round, tenderized
1 lb broccoli florets
3 Tbsp oil (I used pecan oil but vegetable, canola, etc. are all fine)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp hoisin
2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
salt and pepper

Lightly salt and pepper the top round and slice it into 1/2 inch x 1/4 inch slices (you may need to butterfly it to ensure that it is good and thin). In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients EXCEPT broccoli and top round and pour the mixture into a gallon sized Ziploc bag; add top round and marinate for at least 30 minutes. Heat some additional oil in large skillet, (just a tablespoon or 2) and toss broccoli over medium heat until it is cooked through but still firm (approximately 5-7 minutes); set aside. Add meet to skillet and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until cooked through and the marinade has thickened. Add broccoli back in and toss together until broccoli is heated through. Transfer to a serving dish and top with sesame seeds.

Black Eyed Peas - GAC Exclusive

Check out this exclusive recipe in the GAC - Great American Country "Krystal Keith in the Kitchen" blog series: Get it here.

(This is not part of The Barnyard Bistro's Asian Week)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I got on an Asian kick this week thanks to my friend, who is Vietnamese, telling me her mom would be coming up soon and was planning to take us to the Asian grocery store and then teach us some of her favorite dishes. She didn't come up this week but still, all I could think about cooking was Asian inspired meals. I'm starting this week out with a top-notch appetizer and I'll follow it up with an Entrée on Wednesday and then close out the week with dessert. Asian Week on The Barnyard Bistro begins now...

From P.F. Chang's to Pei Wei to O Asian Fusion (our local spot) my number one appetizer to order is chicken lettuce wraps. Something about the sweet and tangy chicken wrapped in a crispity crunchity lettuce wrap makes my mouth water. This version is easy to make at home and makes a perfect mid-day snack as left-overs the next day!

1 lb ground chicken breast
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
1/2 cup chopped green onion
3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger (or 2 tsp of ginger paste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 head butter or iceberg lettuce (leaves separated, washed and dried)

Brown the chicken in a skillet breaking it into tiny pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add in the water chestnuts and green onion; toss to distribute. In a bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the lettuce. Toss to distribute sauce evenly and let cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to let the flavors incorporate into the chicken. Transfer to a serving bowl or dish and serve with leaves of lettuce (to be used as wraps)

Enjoy! XOXO~

Friday, March 14, 2014

Braised White Beans with Rosemary - The Quick Version

I don't know if I have ever mentioned my love for Zoe's Kitchen, but if I haven't, I should have and I will....right now:

I love Zoe's Kitchen! (See, there is was) If you aren't familiar with it, it's a fresh healthy Mediterranean restaurant that is popping up everywhere lately and I am an avid fan. Zoe first caught my eye in Nashville when I was looking for a quick, healthy bite to eat. It is not a "drive-thru" fast food restaurant but it is quite fast. I usually call it in or just stop by and grab it to-go. I started with their chicken kabobs and a side of pita and hummus. Moved on to their orzo tabbouleh as a side, and then finally landed on their braised white beans. Now, I almost always order the white beans as a small meal. (Side Note: they also have the biggest and best chocolate chip cookies can spend a whole day eating one). I always looked forward to lunch in Nashville because it meant that I had a chance to eat at Zoe's again.

A few months back I was driving to my local grocery store and loe and behold like a shining beacon...I saw what I thought was a Zoe's sign on the horizon. Ofcourse...I forgot all about groceries and had to investigate. It was in fact a Zoe's kitchen...In MY hometown. I suddenly got very hungry and decided that a 3pm lunch was exactly what I needed, afterwhich I proceeded to text all of my friends to formally introduce them to what would likely become their new favorite lunching location.

The other night I needed a quick and easy side dish to some grilled chicken I was making and all I could think of was the buttery, rosemary infused braised white beans from Zoe's and I decided to create a quick version...long version still to come.

3 cans white beans (great northern)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 sprigs of rosemary, removed from stem and roughly chopped
3 Tbsp finely diced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Drain and rinse beans. Heat olive oil, butter, rosemary, onion and garlic in a medium saucepan and let simmer together for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, beans, salt and pepper and gently stir. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes.

Because we are using canned beans, which are overly tender to begin with, do not stir too often or too aggressively to avoid ending up with mashed white beans....which will still be tasty...just not as pretty.

Enjoy! XOXO~

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Caprese Pasta Salad

My dear friend Ashley is having a baby and this weekend all the girls (and a bunch of other family and friends) gathered to shower her sweet bundle of joy with gifts! (And drink beer and roast marshmallows) I'll share a few pics at the end of the post so you guys can check out all the decor but, of course, I'm here to talk about the food...

Pasta salad is a great way to go when feeding a big group of people but I am not always a big fan of it just because I can't fathom the idea of eating mayo covered pasta, so I switched it up! I came up with this Caprese Pasta Salad because Ashley is a fan of all things caprese. She always makes yummy skewers with tomato, basil and mozzarella when we have pot-luck get togethers so it was the perfect pasta salad to serve at her shower. Incredibly simple and absolutely delicious!

4 cups Rotini Pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup pesto (I included a homemade recipe below, but store-bought is also fine)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups fresh mozzarella, diced (you can also use baby buffalo mozzarella)
2/3 cups pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

Basic Basil Pesto: (makes about 1 cup)
5 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt

If you are making the homemade pesto:
In a blender or mini food processor, puree the basil, olive oil, garlic and just over half of the pine nuts. add in the remaining pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and salt; pulse a few times and viola!

Boil pasta until al dente (cooked through but still slightly firm), rinse with cool water and drain off any excess water.  Using a rubber spatula, toss the pasta in the pesto until distributed evenly. Add in remaining ingredients and toss again, until evenly distributed. Serve and enjoy!

Some more baby shower pics:

Love my girls! This sweet baby boy will be spoiled rotten with this crew!

It was woodland themed...hence the giant deer.

We used this as the centerpieces for the tables too!
I played with marzipan for the first time and made these little characters for the top of the cake! I used my Buttercream Icing recipe and made it "ombre" (I tinted the icing darker green the further down on the cake I got)
My little woodland characters up close and personal...

Enjoy! XOXO~

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Simple Cinnamon Rolls

As I made these, I sent updates and the instructional video to my sweet friend and guinea pig over at Sweat & Sequins. Her hubby, Invisible Dave's response to all of the teasers? "I'm so glad you are friends with her." While she is the recipe tester...Invisible Dave gets to be the taste-tester so for the sake of this post, we are nick-naming these cinnamon rolls "Invisible Dave Cinna-Rolls" in honor of his commitment to sacrificing his fab figure for the sake of The Barnyard Bistro.

My great-great-grandmother owned and operated a bakery so although I do have an incredible "from-scratch"  cinnamon roll recipe, it is time consuming.  As you guys is pretty busy right now (Thank God for getting to chase my dreams) so I don't always have time for the traditional version and opt not to pop open a can of the pillsbury version for guests, and here lately I've been having surprise overnight guests pretty often. For such occasions, these are a simple and perfect way to give a warm welcome to the bellies of my favorite house guests.

Oh! I just realized that I didn't explain Invisible Dave's name...He somehow managed to avoid meeting me for the first 2 years of my friendship with his dear wife. We do live 10 hours away so I don't hold it against him but somehow he was always out of town or working when she and I scheduled our Nashville date nights. I started to believe he didn't exist, but alas...he appeared...and he is real and precious and you can see them in my Daddy Dance With Me video...they are the bride and groom, and yes, it is their real wedding, adorable crying dad and all!

Now go enjoy my easy squeezy, deliciousleezy cinnamon rolls! (yes...I made a word...Merriam-Webster, I'm comin' for ya)

The Rolls:
12 Rhodes white dinner roll dough balls (I buy them at Walmart in a 36-pack), lay out to thaw without touching one another.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cups chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted

The Icing:
4oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 lb powdered sugar
1/2 stick margarine, room temperature
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
a few drops lemon extract

Combine the sugars, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cut each ball almost in half and then stretch out flat and roll until 1/4 inch thick. Brush with butter, generously spread brown sugar mixture, roll up, brushing a bit of butter at the end, and place in a pie dish coated with 1/4 cup of the melted butter (demonstrated in video). Don't be shy with the mixture - put more than the video shows...I was doing it one handed while videoing so I shorted that one a bit! (oh well!) Turn oven off and place the rolls onto the bottom rack of the oven with the door slightly opened. This will help the rolls to rise quickly. Remove from oven when they have doubled (about 15-20 minutes). Preheat oven again, this time to 325 degrees. Drizzle remaining butter over the top and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, tops will be a beautiful golden brown. While baking, combine the ingredients for the icing in a bowl. Remove rolls from oven and slather with icing. Serve warm...and provide extra know you want more...

They have risen ::cue choir of angels::

I can't think of anything more beautiful right now
This makes me happy...with a capital H
Time to buy bigger britches...