Food & Drink

Sea Salt Scotch Truffles

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Holy moly, this is the truffle to end all truffles.  You guys.  These truffles are rich, chocolatey, and has the perfect amount of booziness.  What’s not to like?  This recipe combines really simple ingredients, requires very little hands-on time, and looks so, so good.  They make great holiday gifts or bring them to your next holiday party and be everybody’s new BFF.

I believe the secret to this recipe is using really good alcohol.  I’ve had alcoholic desserts before that used subpar alcohol, and it always had this “burning” aftertaste at the bottom of my throat.  I think if you use good Scotch in this recipe, it’ll be so velvety smooth and will add just the right amount of kick to this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dark chocolate, chopped (I use an entire bar of 72% dark chocolate Pound Plus from Trader Joe’s.)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup Scotch
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Topping Ideas

  • Coarse ground sea salt
  • Milk chocolate
  • Sprinkles
  • Cocoa powder

Method

  1. In a large glass (or metal) bowl, combine dark chocolate, heavy cream, and butter.  Place bowl over a simmering pot of water (alternatively use a double boiler).  Stir until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in Scotch and sea salt.  Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours (or until firm).
  3. Using a small cookie scoop (approximately 2 tsp), scoop out the truffle mixture.  Roll the ball between your palms to make them round.  Roll them in the toppings of your choice.  Refrigerate for another 30 min to set the toppings.

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Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Philly

Cake

Cake – $$
8501 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19118

Since moving to Philadelphia a year ago, a lot of friends traveling through the city have asked me for recommendations.  My response is usually “uhhhhhh idk”.  It’s not that I don’t want to be helpful, but I’m a creature of habit and I tend to frequent the same 5 spots over and over.  I’m trying to be a little bit more adventurous and try more things.  I’m hoping this section of the blog will be a hub that will turn into a Philly Guide – Annie edition.

If nothing else, it’ll always have pretty pictures :)

First up – Cake.  My favorite neighborhood in Philadelphia is hands down, Chestnut Hill.  It’s super duper cute and quaint.  It has tree-lined, cobblestone streets with boutique shops along both sides.  One storefront always stood out to me – Cake.  It’s not necessarily the name that stood out, but the fact that the entire store is basically a greenhouse.  I looked it up and discovered that it’s a brunch/bakery eatery and I quickly put it on my list.

Today, on my husband’s 29th birthday, we finally visited.  The greenery inside is very inviting, and the food is top notch.  We also finished our brunch with a peanut butter chocolate tart, which was super rich and a perfect end to a fabulous meal.

Food & Drink

Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

HELLLLLOOOOO triumphant return! Typing this is so surreal. I guess I should rewind and take you back to the beginning. Blogging, especially blogging about food, is not new to me. I started blogging in 2014 as a stress relief when I was in grad school. It was my way of channeling my creative energy in a non-academic way. I kept at it off-and-on after I graduated, and in 2017, I stopped. I went back to school and did another graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania. Guess what? They make you earn that Ivy League diploma. I basically had no time to do anything creative. Did it drive me insane? Absolutely. Now, I’m on the cusp of starting my career, so I thought this is the perfect time to start over. Thanks for joining me :) Now let’s get to the good stuff.

If I got $1 for every time I tell someone to buy an Instant Pot, I wouldn’t need to rely on the lottery to win big. I love my Instant Pot so much (almost as much as my husband and my dog, combined). This past summer, it got insanely hot here in Philadelphia, so I cooked the majority of our meals in the Instant Pot. (I’m sorry, but I just can’t eat cold salads all day every day).

Now that fall is officially here and it’s sweater weather, I thought it is high time to reintroduce the mac and cheese, Instant Pot edition.

Since I’m “adulting”, I really shouldn’t rely on Kraft Mac & Cheese when I want a warm bowl of gooey cheesy goodness (although if you made some for me, I’d eat the whole thing). I really love this recipe because there’s nothing I hate more than standing over a hot boiling pot of pasta. The Instant Pot can perfectly cook my pasta. When it is done, mix in cheese and milk, tada! Dinner is served (or breakfast, lunch, and dessert. It’s that good).

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta (I used small elbow macaroni, but you can use whatever you have!)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz mild cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 2 oz parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cup milk (or half & half)

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on to ‘Sauté’ function. Melt butter and sauté garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn off IP.
  2. Add water and salt. Make sure the water just covers the pasta. If it doesn’t, add more water until all the pasta is covered. Set IP to Manuel (high) for 4 minutes. (Do 5 minutes if you are using a larger pasta, like penne).
  3. Do a quick release when pasta is finished cooking. Drain if there is excess water. Stir in cheese and milk until pasta is thick and creamy.
Food & Drink

Stuffed Shells

DSC_3693This is my all-time favorite potluck dish.  You can do the majority of the prep ahead of time if you wish.  It is such a crowd pleaser.  I’ve yet to bring this to an event and come home with leftovers.  This recipe will yield two 13×9 dishes.  Make this for your next potluck, and I guarantee you will receive so many compliments and recipe requests.

You can use your favorite pasta sauce, or reach for the jar pasta sauce in your pantry.  Just make sure it is a sauce that you absolutely love, since the ricotta-stuffed shells have a mild flavor and will take on the majority of the flavor from your pasta sauce.

A 12oz package of jumbo shells will have anywhere between 40-45 jumbo shells.  I’ve accounted 3-5 for casualties during the stuffing or boiling process.  I usually will eat 3 shells with a side salad, and I’m happy as a clam.

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Servings: 10-12

Ingredients
– 12oz package jumbo shells
– 6 cups marinara sauce
– 2 (15oz) container of ricotta (or homemade)
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– 3 tbsp parsley flakes

Method
– Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Cook jumbo shells at half the time as stated on the directions.  Drain and let cool.
– In a large bowl, whisk eggs with a fork.  Mix in ricotta until well-combined.  Add salt, mozzarella cheese, and 2 tbsp of the parsley flakes.  Mix until well combined.
– In the two 13×9 casserole dish, spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of each casserole dish.  Take each cooled jumbo shell, spoon the ricotta mixture into the shell.  Place the shells filling-side up in the casserole dish.  Repeat until you used up all your shells and your casserole dishes are filled.
– Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the shells.  Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of parsley flakes over the sauce.  Cover the casserole dish with foil.
– Preheat the oven to 350F.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes.

Food & Drink

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

This year, I gave up flour for Lent.  That means goodbye cookies, cakes, bread, and pasta.  Hello rice and potatoes!  I’m surprised by how many delicious dishes I am able to eat without breaking Lent.  One of my favorites –  Vietnamese spring rolls.  I always order these when I go out to a Vietnamese restaurant.  Spring rolls, unliked their fried cousins, are light yet filling, filled with veggies, and is incredibly flavorful.

Spring rolls typically have mint leaves in the rolls.  However, I’m not huge fan of eating mint leaves, so I opt to leave that out.  What I love about this recipe is that you can be super creative with this.  You can put whatever veggies you want in them.  Just make sure they are chopped up in similar size.  This recipe will yield about 12 spring rolls, enough to serve 6 people (or 4 very hungry people).

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Servings: 4-6

Ingredients
Spring Rolls
– 4 cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
– 8 lettuce leaves, thinly sliced
– 1 bunch fresh cilantro
– 4oz rice noodles
– 8-10 spring roll wrappers

Crispy Tofu
– 1 package extra firm tofu (~12-14 oz), drained and pat dry
– 3 tbs cornstarch
– 3 tbs vegetable oil
– 2 tbs peanut butter sauce (recipe below)
– 1 tb soy sauce (use GF if desired)
– 1 tb brown sugar
Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce
– 1/3 cup peanut butter
– 1 tb soy sauce (use GF if desired)
– 2 tbs honey (use agave for vegan)
– 1 tb lemon juice
– 1 tsp chili bean paste (optional)
– 1/4 cup hot water
Method
1. Cook rice noodles according to package instuctions.  Drain and set aside.
2. Combine all the ingredients of the peanut butter dipping sauce.  Slowly add the hot water to thin this out.  You might not need all 1/4 cup.  The consistency should be easy-to-pour but still a little viscous.
3. Cut the tofu into thin slices.  Coat with cornstarch.  In a skillet over medium heat, pan fry the tofu in vegetable oil.  Cook each side until golden brown.  Take 2 tbs of the pre-mixed peanut butter dipping sauce and mix with an additional 1 tb soy sauce and 1 tb brown sugar.  Pour this over the tofu and cook until all the sauce is absorbed.
4. Prepare a shallow plate with hot water.  Soften the spring roll wrapper in the hot water (5-10 seconds).
5. On a dry plate, place one sheet of spring roll wrapper.  Place cucumbers, cilantro, lettuce, rice noodles, and tofu on the bottom of the wrapper.  Wrapping like a burrito, fold in the sides, then roll up.  Serve with dipping sauce.
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Food & Drink

Slow Cooker BBQ Turkey Meatballs

I don’t really like handling meat, so on the rare occasion that I do make a meat dish, I try to make it as easy as possible.  When I was perusing on Pinterest, I saw a slew of meatball recipes for beef or pork.  But I typically only cook poultry at home, so I thought of developing a recipe for turkey meatballs that can be made in a slow cooker.

I love BBQ sauce in general, so I thought of cooking the meatballs in a BBQ sauce instead of the traditional marinara.  This pairs beautifully with vegetables and potatoes.  Using garlic and ginger is so important in this recipe.  I have found that turkey and chicken usually need garlic and ginger to counter the “smell”.

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients
Meatballs
– 1 lb ground turkey
– 1 egg
– 1 small onion, finely diced
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1 small piece of ginger, minced
– 1/3 cup bread crumbs
– Salt & pepper, to taste

BBQ Sauce
– 1 cup BBQ sauce
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1/2 tsp salt

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Method
1. Mix all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Shape into meatballs.  Heat 1 tsp of oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Brown the meatballs on all sides.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce ingredients.  Place BBQ sauce and meatballs into the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until meatballs are cooked through.  Stir halfway through.  You can use additional BBQ sauce as a glaze when serving.  Garnish with your favorite herbs, if desired.

*Note:  I use a homemade BBQ sauce, so I added paprika and salt for extra flavor.  If you are using a store-bought sauce, you do not need to add paprika/salt unless you want a bolder flavor.  When you are browning the meatballs, they don’t have to be fully-cooked.  They will cook the rest of the way in the slow cooker.  Just make sure you get a nice color on them so they don’t stick together in the slow cooker.

Food & Drink

Homemade Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs is one of those pantry items that seems cheap, but really isn’t.  A can of breadcrumbs typically costs from $1-3, which doesn’t seem that bad.  But what if I can tell you that you can make the same amount for only pennies?  Man, Progresso is really rolling in the dough (haha).

The breadcrumbs will keep about 1 month in a sealed container.  This recipe is most representative of the Panko (Japanese) style breadcrumbs.  You can add a teaspoon of Italian seasoning to make it taste like an Italian-style breadcrumbs.  I typically will make this in a big batch and use throughout the month.

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Yield: 1 cups

Ingredients
– 2 slices of white bread
– 1 tsp Italian seasoning (optional: for Italian-style breadcrumbs)

Method
1. Rip the white bread into small pieces and place in a food processor.  Process until fine crumbs form.  If you are adding Italian seasoning, process the seasoning with the breadcrumbs as well.
2. Toast in a 300°F oven for 10-15 minutes, until light brown.
3. You can toss the breadcrumbs back in the food processor and pulse until your desired consistency.  Let cool and store in an airtight container.