Saturday, May 29, 2010

Winner of the Wusthof Knife

And we have a winner....

Alyssa Griffeth said...

I have Henkels knives and while I LOVE them, I think I would love Wusthof even more! I have heard such fabulous things!

Congratulations Alyssa! Please email me your address at Wusthof will send your knife shortly.

Thank you for entering everyone. Stay tuned for more fun giveaways in the weeks to come.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Bars

Looking for something quick and delicious to take to a Memorial Day barbecue?  Look no further.  These Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Bars will be the first thing gone.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Bars
(My Kitchen Cafe) adapted from 24 Hour Menu

1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chunks
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional – I left these out)

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside. Beat butter, sugars, egg and vanilla till fluffy and add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chunks and walnuts. Press into a greased 9×13 inch pan and bake for 18-20 minutes until light golden brown. I have also doubled the recipe and pressed into a large sheet pan (11X17) with great results.

{cooks note}

Do not overbake these.  If anything, underbake slightly for the best results.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Picture update

Sorry if you couldn't see the pictures on the previous post.  They should be fixed now.  Thanks.

Vanilla Bean Paste: Guest Blogger Kelsey Nixon Egan

When I was at BYU, I came across a cooking show on the local college station.  The cooking show, "Kelsey's Kitchen" was captivating in many ways.  She made cooking look like so much fun--and even easy.  I asked Kelsey to do a guest post today on one of her favorite ingredients, vanilla bean paste.  First, let's learn a little bit about her.

Kelsey got her start in the food media industry when she created her own college cooking show, "Kelsey's Kitchen" emphasizing fast, fun and affordable meals. Over the course of two years, Kelsey produced and hosted 100 episodes featuring recipes that were simple yet satisfying.  

After graduating with a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Brigham Young University, Kelsey attended Le Cordon Bleu – Hollywood where she earned her professional culinary arts degree. This degree paired with training from the French Culinary Institute provided internship opportunities at Martha Stewart Living and on Food Network's "Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee." Kelsey was a finalist on season four of “The Next Food Network Star" where she made it to the top four and won the “Fan Favorite” vote. Kelsey has had original recipes published in Bon Appetit Magazine and Cosmo Girl in addition to having an original recipe featured on the "Fresh Catch of the Day" menu at over 600 Red Lobster restaurants nationwide. Kelsey has also enjoyed working with PYREX over the past year acting as a spokesperson for their new line of bakeware, cookware & tools. 

Kelsey's passion for food has led her to create recipes that target the beginning cook. She believes in cooking “by the book” - breaking down the basics; teaching proper technique and making anyone feel comfortable in the kitchen.  Now she partners with Spike Mendelsohn, DC restaurateur and former “Top Chef 4” contestant, in a series of Web videos on Food2 that offers two takes on classic dishes – Kelsey’s “by the book” approach and Spike’s “off the hook” spin.  

Recently, Kelsey competed on the premier episode of Chef's vs. City on Food Network in addition to judging for the upcoming season of Iron Chef America. 
Kelsey recently lives in New York City with her husband Robby where Kelsey spends her days developing recipes and cooking up a storm.

Every good home cook has a few tricks up their sleeve. You know, secret ingredients that take a dish from good to great.  One of my “secret ingredients” that I seem to rely on when making all things delicious is vanilla bean paste. 

I first discovered vanilla bean paste while working at Sur la Table teaching cooking classes. The culinary director that I worked under was shocked when he found out that I wasn’t familiar with the product. He immediately whipped up what I believe is one of the best ways to showcase the amazing flavor that is packed into this product…fresh whipped cream. It didn’t take long for those little pods speckled throughout the fluffy white peaks to start calling my name. 

In culinary school I would literally save money to make a vanilla bean purchase. Vanilla beans aren’t cheap and were only saved for special occasions. One of the many things that I love about Vanilla Bean Paste is that the price point is very reasonable and it can be used just as you would use vanilla extract. There is no doubt that you will notice the extra boost of pure vanilla flavor and your friends and family will rave about your vanilla baked goods. 

When it comes to using vanilla bean paste, I have entirely replaced pure vanilla extract for the paste variety. I think the appearance of the black speckled pods adds character, authenticity, and flavor (of course). I feel that the flavor of this superstar ingredient is best highlighted in simple recipes. Sugar cookies, rice krispie treats, crème brulee, and whipped cream are just a few of my favorites. 

I like gifting vanilla bean paste as it is somewhat of a unique gift and pairs perfectly with a plate of simple sugar cookies. Whether it’s your birthday, a holiday, or you simply believe that you’ve earned a little something, treat yourself to a bottle of vanilla bean paste and you won’t be disappointed. 

Super Soft Sugar Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 eggs
8 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
approximately 4 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together butter and sugar. Add remaining wet ingredients; eggs, sour cream & vanilla. In a separate medium bowl combine salt, baking soda & baking powder. Slowly mix into wet ingredients until combined. Finally, add flour slowly, adding more or less if needed.
Let the dough chill for at least an hour, although longer is preferable. (I suggest sticking it in the freezer for 5 minutes before rolling out) Roll out dough on a well floured surfaced and cut into shapes. Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size.
*Keys to the cookies: Roll the dough at least 1/4 inch thick and don't overbake.

Kelsey blogs over at Food For Thought.

I love Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste the best.  Go here for a list of retailers near you.  Go here to buy online.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Most Important Kitchen Tool...and a Giveaway

Have you heard of Wusthof Knives before?  I have envied their knives for a long time now and longed to get my hands on one.  Recently, they gifted me with one of their beautiful Classic Santoku knives so I could do a product review.  Ever since opening it I have been in knife heaven.  This knife is seriously amazing.

I've had good knives before, but this is the mother of them all.  I can't imagine what their other knives can do. One of the best parts about Wusthof is their warranty.  Behind every good knife is a warranty.  They also have great sharpeners to help keep your knife in tip top condition.  Go to their website for more information about all of their products.  For this review I put together a few different foods, that to me, need good knives if you are going to cut them up the right way.  It really is true -- a knife is the most important kitchen tool.   Are you ready to get chopping and slicing?  Let's begin.

 The knife looked so good in the box when it arrived, that I just had to take a picture.

 Doesn't it look powerful?

 First up, cutting fresh mozzarella cheese.  If you do not have a good sharp knife for this, you might as well rip the cheese apart with your bare hands. The beauty of this knife is in the hollow edge which creates pockets of air to prevent extra thin or soft slices from sticking to the blade.  Fresh mozzarella cheese has finally found it's match. 

 The knife really does glide through the cheese.

 No sawing, or extra hard pushing to get the cheese to cut.

 Just for kicks, I used the knife to cut a tomato. Normally, I use a serrated knife, but I thought I would give this a try.  Perfecto!

 I made a homemade pizza using this recipe for crust.  I place the fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced turkey bacon (with the help of my new knife, of course), fresh tomato, crackled pepper and Parmesan.
 Next up, the onion.  With the right knife, cutting an onion will not be the dreaded kitchen chore anymore.  Just watch.

 I love this knife so much, I cried when I was done.  The onions might have helped me out a little.  Okay, bad joke.  On with the next...

 Meet a fresh pineapple.  These are SO much better than cracking open a can of them.  Oh, and having a good knife helps too.

 No sawing to cut through the skin of this baby.  Just a gently push down and away it goes.

Be sure to cut off the hard middle core.

 Slice off the hard skin.

 It's really that easy.

 Once you have the skin and core cut off, it's time to slice all of the wedges up.

 Thank you knife, for making my life easier.

 Last, the all mighty watermelon.

 I cut through that baby watermelon in the blink of an eye.  

 See how clean that cut is?

 Want to learn how to cut a watermelon correctly?  Go here for a wonderful tutorial.  Who knew it could be so easy.  

Fresh summer fruit, cut right in your own kitchen.  

Do you want to get your hands on one of Wusthof's fabulous knives?  Go here for a list of stores. 

Wait, I'm not done.  How would you like to win the knife featured in this post?  Well, you can.  The team at Wusthof has generously offered one up for grabs.  Just leave a comment stating 1) your experience with a Wusthof knife in the past, or 2) how one of their products would change your life in the kitchen.  

Leave your comment by Friday May 28th at 11:59 pm.  Winner announced on Saturday. Good luck!

Bake It Pretty Giveaway Winner

The winner of the Bake It Pretty $25 e-gift card Giveaway is:

S. Schuller said...
I love the green cardboard berry baskets, but there is, like you said, SO much to oooh and aaah over! I love this new-to-me site.

Sarah, email me at to redeem your e-gift card from Bake It Pretty.  Have fun shopping!
Thank you for all of your comments.  Check back often for more tasty recipes and awesome giveaways.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Retro Double Timer

I'm pretty sure I need this.  Can be found here and here.

Happy Friday. Don't forget to enter the Bake It Pretty giveaway.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

4 cans chicken broth
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 7-ounce can diced green chilies
1 cup mild salsa
1 clove garlic, diced
2 cups frozen corn
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch of cilantro
3 limes, juiced

fresh avacado
sour cream
grated Cheddar/Monterrey Jack cheese
tortilla strips

Tortilla Strips:
Cut corn tortillas into thin strips.  Cook in hot oil.  Lay on paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Combine all ingredients into a crockpot and let cook for a few hours.  Stir occasionally.  Divide into bowls and garnish with toppings.

{cooks note}

We are kind of picky about chicken tortilla soup at our house.  I have made many different versions, but this one hits the spot.  I combined a few different recipes together, and added a few extra ingredients that we like.  It's easy and basic--just what I like.  This soup can also be prepared in a large pot.  I like to put everything in my crockpot for a few hours and call it a day.  Either way, it will turn out just great.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bake It Pretty Giveaway

Bake It Pretty wants one of YOU to win a $25 e-gift card to their pretty little online store.  There is so much to choose from.  My cart is always full.  Go take a look at what they have. 

I am 100% in love with these.  I really want these, this and all of these too.  And about everything else they sell.  Really, go take a look.  

You have until Sunday May 23rd at 11:59 pm to leave a comment stating what your favorite item is on their site. The winner will be announced bright and early Monday morning.

Ready, set, go! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Icing

Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Icing
from Ina Garten


  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
  • Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.
Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing:
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

{cooks note}

I made these a few months ago for Blake's Birthday Party.  His request.  They are really good cupcakes with lot's of flavor.  I left out the coffee (coffee is a flavor enhancer for chocolate).  To add an extra touch, I would add chopped peanuts to the top like Ina does. Blake wasn't down with that, so they were left off.  You get the idea, though.  Don't you just love the liners?

 I bought these liners at one of my favorite online baking stores--Bake It Pretty.  They have the most lovely items to package up your baked goodies in.  I couldn't pass these up on my last order.  It's practically impossible to shop there without continually adding items to your cart.  Trust me.  Their prices are so affordable too.
 These baking cups stand up by themselves.  No muffin tins required.  
A sea of chocolate peanut butter goodness.
Try these out for your next little get together.  You won't be disappointed...and neither will your guests.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Menu Planning and Pantry Staples

Pantry 09 by 7thswan.

I share a lot of the same ideas as My Kitchen Cafe does when it comes to menu planning and pantry staples.  Take a look at her great tips for better planning in the kitchen.

Friday, May 14, 2010


The winner of the Cox's Honey Giveaway is:

Alyse and Bob said...
I love honey drizzled on my Mom's homemade biscuits right out of the oven. mmmm! I love your food blog and want to try some of your recipes. You are amazing!

Please email me (thecooknextdoor(@) your address and Cox's will send your honey right away.
Thanks for entering everyone.  There is more where this came from, so stay tuned.....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mud Pie--With a Secret Concoction

Today is the last day to enter the Cox's Honey Giveaway!  Hurry and enter here.

Mud Pie
from Me!

1 package Oreo's
2 tablespoons butter
1 package graham crackers (one of the packages that comes in a box)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1/4-1/3 cup milk
1 gallon good quality ice cream (I use 1/2 vanilla and 1/2 dutch chocolate)
1 8-ounce container of cool whip (or fresh whipped cream)
1 recipe for chocolate sauce (you can buy chocolate topping also)

Chocolate Sauce
from Grandma Lybbert

1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup butter, plus 2 tablespoons
3 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Over low heat in double boiler, melt cocoa and butter together.  Then add sugar and milk alternately, make sure sugar is dissolved.  Add salt and vanilla.

Make the chocolate sauce and let cool in fridge for a few hours.  Crush all Oreo's in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin or some other utensil that will crush the Oreo's.  I like the pieces to be in bigger chunks for the most part.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add to the zip lock bag of Oreo's. Close bag and mix around with hands to combine the two.  Pour all of the Oreo mixture, reserving 1/2 cup for later, in a 9x13 or bigger dish.  The bigger and taller the better.  I used a Tupperware container that was roughly 91/2"x131/2" and 3" tall.  Drizzle about 1 cup of chocolate sauce over the Oreo crust.  Take out the ice cream and let sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to let soften.  Cut ice cream to fit container.  Lay the Vanilla first and then add the chocolate.  Once the ice cream is done, put in freezer for a few hours to harden.  

To make the  peanut butter/graham cracker mixtures, add the peanut butter, crushed graham crackers (I crush them in their little package with my fingers), powdered sugar and milk to a bowl and mix with a spoon to combine all ingredients.  You may have to had more milk.  The consistency should be fairly thick (comparable to cookie dough).  You want to be able to spread it fairly easy on top of the ice cream layers.  Once the ice cream has hardened up some, spread the peanut butter mixture over it and add more chocolate sauce (1/2-1 cup).  Stick back in freezer for another couple of hours.  

Add the cool whip or fresh whipped cream to the pie and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup crumbled Oreo's on top.  Finish off by drizzling more chocolate on top.  Put in freezer until ready to serve.  

Makes enough for 12 large servings.

{cooks note}

This is my little twist on mud pie.  It really doesn't get any better than this.  You will gain weight by just looking at it.  I like to use really good ingredients, because for me, it's all or nothing.  I would use Schwan's ice cream, but I got a really good deal on the Blue Bell, and here in the South, Blue Bell is where it's at for people.  I used Homemade Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate. Can you say heaven?  I had a mud pie once with the peanut butter/graham cracker mixture, but now I can't remember where.  I just kind of made up the measurements and went from there.  When I made this particular mud pie you see in the pictures, I was in a huge hurry because it was very last minute; therefore, it didn't have time to harden in the freezer like it normally would.  The pictures definitely do not do it justice.  You just have to trust me on this one.  This is something that I can only make about twice a year, so I decided that I will just have to make due with these pictures for now because my waistline can't take another one of these at my house.  If you take this to a party, you will be the hero. I promise.  Oh, and I highly suggest using a container with a lid for storing in the freezer to prevent it from getting a layer of frost on the top.  

The star of the show!  Who does't LOVE Oreo's.
 The first layer.  Crumbled Oreo's with homemade chocolate sauce drizzled over the top.  Please don't skimp.
 Softened ice cream.  I just turn my containers upside down and they slide right out.  I then just them with a large knife and layer them in the dish.
 One of the secret ingredients to making this mud pie a success.
 Crumbled graham crackers, powdered sugar and peanut butter.  Add the milk to combine all ingredients together.
 After the first servings. In Texas, things start to melt really fast.
The best Mud Pie you will ever have.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Simple Stir-fry

Don't forget to enter the Cox's honey giveaway.  End Thursday at 11:59 pm.

Simple Stir-fry

Yield: 1-2 servings

1-2 chicken breasts, sliced thin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon peanut or sesame oil
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, julienne
1/4 cup green bell pepper, julienne
1/2 cup snow peas, sliced thin
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons Asian sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup baby bok choy, sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch slices
1/4 cup mandarin oranges, peeled & segmented
1/4 cup green onions, thinly slice on a diagnol

Place chicken strips in a medium size bowl. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and toss with cornstarch to coat. Heat oil in large non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger, stir 30 seconds. Add chicken; stir fry until chicken is beginning to brown an is almost cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Add bell peppers, snow peas and onion; toss for 1 minute. Add sweet chili sauce, soy sauce and rice vinegar; boil until sauce thickens slightly, tossing to blend, about 1 minute. Stir in bok choy, mandarin oranges, and scallions. Stir-fry just until bok choy is just wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving dish and top with remaining green onions.

{cooks note}

This recipe for stir-fry is so simple...just as it states in the title.  I love all of the fresh ingredients.  I have made this with chicken, shrimp and beef--they were all delicious, but my favorite is the chicken.  Please put this on your menu soon.  My family loves it!

Fresh, fresh, fresh!

This is so good, I made it 3 times in a week and a half.  Our choice of rice is jasmine.

{*all images from kelseyskichen)