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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Since Jason has to work until 11pm, I decided for New Years Eve, we would stay in (obviously). I typically go to bed very early, but since a new decade doesn't come along very often.....err once a decade I guess, I will stay up. After all, it's our last NYE before our kiddo comes along.


I usually have some snacks on hand. Jason eats around 7:00 pm and by the time he gets home, he is ready for more food or a meal. Chips and salsa are common, but I wanted to do something special for him this year. He loves spicy food (as do I) and when I told him that a friend of mine had made stuffed jalapenos a few weeks ago for a potluck, I saw him literally salivate.

To surprise him, I made stuffed jalapenos. The recipe is from my coworker Sarah (thanks Sarah!) and they are truly delicious. I won't indulge tonight because if I ate any, I would probably be paying the price with heartburn in the morning. Jason can enjoy the whole pan if he wants to.

These are very easy to make. Honestly, the thought of mixing cheese and then cramming it into peppers wasn't very appealing. Oh what we do for love. All total, I think I spent 30 minutes cutting, de-seeding, mixing and stuffing. They were very very easy.

Depending on how spicy you like your jalapenos, you might want to rinse them before stuffing. I didn't do this, because like I said, we like spicy in our house. You can also change out the cheeses depending on your taste. Instead of smoked cheddar, use regular. Instead of Swiss, use mozzarella or even Havarti. Go crazy! And if you like things really really spicy, add some Tabasco to the cheese mix before you stuff.

This really isn't a recipe that you can follow exact measurements, so be flexible and add as little or as much cheese and other ingredients as you want. I put estimates on what I used in my batch.

These are the perfect finger food and the next time I have to bring an appetizer somewhere, I am going to bring these! Delicious!

Stuffed Jalapenos
from: Sarah

Jalapenos (about 12-15 whole), canned, drained.
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
3 oz. prosciutto, chopped

1. Vertically slice the jalapenos to halve them. Remove all the seeds and veins.

2. Mix all the remaining ingredients together.

3. Stuff approximately a tablespoon of the cheese mix inside each of the halved jalapenos.

4. Place the jalapenos in a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes (until the filling is nice and light brown) in a 350 degree oven.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Homemade Gifts

I am going to our family Christmas party on January 1st (it's a tradition) and this year, we were all tasked with bringing 15 identical gifts. Now, if you were to buy 15 gifts, that could get expensive. Plus, it's also hard to find a gift that a whole family can enjoy and get use out of. Even if you spent $4 per gift per family, that is $60! I love my family to death, but with a new baby and Christmas over with, I was looking to save some dough.

I looked online for some clever gift ideas that I could make. A few years ago, I made cookie mix and soup mix and put them in jars. I wanted to do something similar but that would take less ingredients and less money. Enter cocoa mix. Who doesn't like hot cocoa?

I found a recipe online and what do you know? It made 15 cups of mix. If you multiply that by 3, that gives you 45 cups of mix. Enough for 15 quart jars with room leftover to add marshmallows or mini chocolate chips to the top of the jar.

The ingredients are very simple. Powdered milk, cocoa powder, sugar and dry dairy creamer. I figured that was easy enough and I could easily make 15 jars in an afternoon. Just add a cute bow or fabric to the top of the jar along with the instructions and that makes a nice gift.

Here is the mix all stirred up and ready to be jarred.

Here are some tips that I used to make this cocoa mix:

* Buy the ingredients in bulk. I went to our local grocery store and bought all the ingredients from the bulk bins. This saved me a ton of money. The dry ingredients (including the marshmallows) were approximately $34. Keep in mind that I have leftovers of some things such as the powdered milk and mini marshmallows.

* If you have time, buy the mason jars from a second-hand store. I didn't have enough time or energy to stalk the local Goodwill, so I bought new. They were $10 for a dozen and I happened to have 3 jars of my own that were from another homemade gift foray several years ago.

* Use a funnel. I don't have one, but I improvised. I made one out of cardboard and it worked really well. A real actual funnel would have been better.

* Make sure your mixing vessel is large enough. My mixing bowl is not that big so I used a giant stockpot.

* Wipe down the jars on the inside before you add the topping. This makes it look prettier and less "powdery". I think it makes a big difference.

* Wipe down the outside of the jars when you are done. I found that the ingredients were a little sticky and it made a mess of my kitchen.

Total cost to make 15 jars: $44 and some change. Less than $3 per jar! I don't think I could have bought a gift that everyone would appreciate for less than $3. I could have saved a little more money had I bought the jars used. With a good cleaning, they would have been good as new.

Keep in mind this mix goes a long way. Each jar has 3 cups of mix. Each cup of cocoa takes 1/3 of a cup of mix. That means there are 9 servings per jar. I don't think that's too bad!

All packaged up and ready to go! I just need to add ribbon and the instructions on how to make a cup.


You can experiment with this cocoa mix by altering the type of powdered creamer. I just used plain, but wouldn't it be yummy to substitute vanilla creamer or maybe even Irish Creme? If I make these again, I might try that.

Hot Cocoa Mix
from: http://www.allrecipes.com/

10 cups dry milk powder
4 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup powdered non-dairy creamer

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry milk powder, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and non-dairy creamer. Stir until thoroughly combined. Makes about 15 cups of mix.

2. For one serving, place 1/3 cup of the mix and add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir.

or, Pachey's method for jarring:

Pour approximately 3 cups of mix into each quart jar and top with mini marshmallows or chocolate chips to fill jar.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Baking Extravaganza

Happy Holidays! Today was my holiday baking day. Originally, my sister and I were going to bake together, but she has to work most days before Christmas. Darn retail job! Instead, we decided that we would each bake three cookies or goodies and then swap. She would get half of mine and in return, I would get half of her's. Sounds great right? Only half the baking and you get double the treats!

I decided to make the very traditional Christmas cookies. Well traditional in my house at least. I remember all of these cookies as a child growing up. My mom was a stay-at-home mom while her and dad were still married and she would make these three cookies as well as others over the holidays. Spritz, Peanut Butter Blossoms and Chocolate Crinkles. Peanut Butter Blossoms are those fun cookies with the Hershey Kisses on the top of them. You can find the recipe online pretty much everywhere.

Two out of the three of these require rolling. Meaning, you form the cookies into little balls by rolling them in your palms. The joke with the Chocolate Crinkles is that you get "poopy fingers" while rolling. Sophisticated huh? Hey, I never said we were a classy family.

The Spritz requires a cookie press, so if you don't have one, you are out of luck. I suppose you could try and form them another way, but really, a cookie press is the best.


Here are some of the tools that I used today:

My cookie press. Now, I have seen those Pampered Chef ones and even tried several other kinds. Nothing comes close to this model. It's Italian and it works beautifully. My Spritz were pressed in no time flat.

My "vintage" Betty Crocker Cooky Book. I say "vintage" because it's a reproduction that was reissued a few years ago. My mom actually has an original copy from 1960-something.

My fabulous mixer. A Christmas gift from my husband a couple of years ago. I would still be in the kitchen mixing dough if it wasn't for this bad boy.

My Air Bake cookie sheets. I never thought I would love baking pans so much in my life. Jason got these for me last year and I thought "big whoop, I already have cookie sheets". These are great! The cookies cook evenly, the bottoms don't burn and they make for a consistent cookie. Way way better than the ones I already had. I can't sing the praises of these enough. I swear I am not an employee of Air Bake.

Roasting pan. An essential tool when you are making a quadruple batch of Spicy Chex Mix. I could nearly see the tears in my husband's eyes last night when I announced that he would have Chex Mix by the time he got up today.


Time to bake! I started off by unwrapping all the Hershey Kisses this morning while drinking my coffee and catching up on the interweb. I grabbed some butter from the fridge to come to room temperature while I unwrapped. Butter is obviously easier to mix when it's warmer.

Next I made the Chocolate Crinkle dough. It needs to chill for several hours before you can form the cookies. I can't tell you how accomplished I felt when I had dough made by 9:30!

The dough doesn't really look extraordinary. Just like thick brownie batter. Into the fridge it went!


Moving on to the Chex Mix. Here are all the ingredients it takes.

Thank goodness for Costco. They sell the cereal in a three-pack all ready to go. In our house, we like cheese crackers (Cheez It's are the best) instead of the bagel chips that the recipe calls for. Also, you will notice the addition of Tabasco. That's right. It wouldn't be spicy unless you add some actual spice! The more the better. It's nice when you have an afterburn after eating Chex Mix.

In Jason's house growing up, his mom used primarily margarine for cooking. I find this concept completely foreign, but because I love my husband (aka he will complain unless I use margarine), I buy margarine especially for the occasion. I could probably sneak butter in instead, but trust me, the man would know the difference.

While the Chex Mix was baking, I started on the Spritz dough. I am a traditionalist and use almond extract for my Spritz. This is how my mommy did it and I can't change after all these years. To be festive, I add green or red food coloring to my dough. I used the tree plate on my cookie press, so green food coloring it was.

These really are beautiful cookies when they are done. With a slight almond flavor, they are very light and buttery. Of course, feel free to substitute whatever extract you wish. Peppermint would be fun. So would lemon or even vanilla.


Moving on, the Peanut Butter Blossoms were up. I whipped these up in no time. My only complaint with the Blossoms is that the recipe doesn't make nearly enough. I would have doubled it, but really, do I need five dozen cookies? I don't think so.

Here is what they look like after being rolled in the granulated sugar but before baking and before you smoosh the Kiss on the top.

After baking. I think these are honestly my favorite cookie. I shouldn't resort to making them only one time a year. I love how the cookie stays soft for a few days afterwards. And something happens to the Kiss to keep it slightly soft too. Who can resist a yummy peanut butter and chocolate cookie? Not me!


Close up of the Peanut Butter Blossoms. I am going to need to hide these from Jason. I can always use the excuse that I am pregnant and the baby requires cookies right?


My third and final cookie of the day were Chocolate Crinkles. Like I said, the dough needs to be chilled for several hours, so I didn't start these until around 2:00. The only pain with these is trying to keep the dough chilled enough while you are working. The more chilled, the less "poopy" your hands get. Now, in my family (I am sorry if I keep saying that, but my way is the best. Tee hee), we are rebels and don't follow the directions exactly. The directions state to cover the dough with the powdered sugar BEFORE you roll the balls. However, it makes for a much prettier cookie if you form the balls and then roll them in the sugar. Plus, you get a nice dusting of powdered sugar when you eat them. Yum!

Here are what the Crinkles look like before they are baked. They look like chocolate snowballs.

And after they are baked, the cookies are sufficiently crackled and coated with powdered sugar. You can't argue that they aren't pretty cookies. Plus, they are chocolate. Nothing says goodness like chocolate does.


I am sad to see half of the cookies go, but we can't possibly eat them all. It would be dangerous to keep that many sweets in the house. I know my sister will appreciate them. Here is her batch all packaged up and ready to go. Don't they look yummy?




Now without further ado, here are all the recipes.

Spicy Chex Mix
from: General Mills Cereal

6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons (or more depending on how hot you like your food) Tabasco sauce
3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Wheat Chex
1 cup peanuts
1 cup pretzels
1 cup cheese crackers

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Melt butter or margarine in large roasting pan in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Spritz
from: Betty Crocker Cooky Book

1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/4 cups flour

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, egg, salt, and extract thoroughly. Measure flour and work in.

2. Using 1/4 dough at a time, force dough through cookie press onto ungreased baking sheet.

3. Bake 6 to 9 minutes.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
from: Pillsbury's Best Butter Cookie Cookbook

1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Hershey's Kisses

1. Mix together in a small bowl; flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar. Add the egg and blend well. Add vanilla and blend well.

3. Shape the dough into balls (approximately a heaping teaspoon for each). Roll balls in granulated sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and top each cookie with a Hershey's Kiss, pressing until edges crack. Bake 2 to 5 minutes longer.

Chocolate Crinkles
from: Betty Crocker Cooky Book

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 squares unsweetened chocolate (4 oz. total), melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioner's sugar

1. Mix oil, chocolate and granulated sugar. Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed. Add vanilla. Stir flour, baking powder and salt into oil mixture. Chill several hours or overnight.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Drop teaspoonsful of dough into confectioner's sugar. Roll in sugar; shape into balls. Note: You can also form the dough into balls first and then roll in the sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

White Trash Dinner

Hopefully my title doesn't offend, but really, that is what we had. No, not beans and weinies or Kraft macaroni and cheese, although you are getting closer. No, we had something similar to Hamburger Helper. But my version didn't come from a box and it wasn't made with hamburger.


I was lazy today. I didn't feel like cooking. Actually this represents how I have felt a lot lately. Maybe it's the upcoming holiday where I bake like a fool. I just don't feel like cooking. Last night's dinner consisted of spaghetti and meatballs. While this dish did require me to boil pasta and heat up sauce, the meatballs were frozen. The hardest I had to work was opening all the packages.

So, what do you make when you are feeling lazy? Enter the crockpot. I love my crockpot. I use it all the time (obviously). I found this recipe out of my Rival crockpot cookbook. It has pictures for people like who need to see their food. Of course, the pictures always make the food look better. That and my crockpot runs super duper hot, sort of like my oven.

The hardest you will have to work for this recipe is pre-cooking the ground turkey. Oh, and opening all the cans. Geesh, I am breaking a sweat just thinking about how much work this was! That is really the biggest benefit of a crockpot. It's perfect for lazy cooks. While our dinner was cooking, I wrapped Christmas presents and watched Food Network. See? Perfect for lazy people.

This was okay. I think I cooked it too long. Again, my crockpot runs super hot. I had to turn the heat down after two hours to low. I would suggest adding something spicy if you decide to make this. Whether that be some Tabasco or maybe some green chiles (to make it Mexican style), I think it would give it a nice kick and offset some of the sweetness of the corn. Notice the addition of both ketchup and mustard? Like I said, slightly white trash no?

It's okay to go trashy once in a while. As long as you aren't pairing this dinner with a six pack of Budweiser, it's all good.

Turkey and Macaroni
from: Rival CrockPot Slow Cooker Recipes

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1.5 pounds ground turkey
2 cans (10.75 oz) condensed tomato soup, undiluted
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 can (16 oz) corn, drained
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can (4 oz) sliced mushrooms, drained
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in medium skillet; cook turkey until browned. Transfer turkey to slow cooker.

2. Add soup, macaroni, corn, onion, mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper to slow cooker. Stir to blend.

3. Cover; cook on low 7-9 hours or high 3-4 hours.

See? Doesn't it look like Hamburger Helper?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Is it a Cookie or a Pie?

I will let you decide. This recipe is inspired by a trip to the beach that my husband and I took a few months ago. We went to a restaurant for dinner and while dinner was good, dessert was MUCH better. I had honestly forgotten about this pie until Jason mentioned it a few weeks ago. "You know what you should make? That Toll House Pie from the beach". Oh dear. Once he mentioned it, I couldn't forget about it.


So, I went searching for a good recipe online. I think this one comes pretty close. It wasn't identical to the one at the restaurant, but with a little tweaking, I can get it to work.

I know it sounds weird. The same ingredients that go in the cookies go into a pie. Of course, it isn't exact. For one, you have to beat the eggs until super foamy. You don't do that for the cookies. Trust me on this, it's very good. I know it sounds bizarre to put cookie batter into a crust, but it really isn't cookie batter. It's a little thinner. If you were to add the walnuts (which I didn't), it would probably have been thicker.

Here is what the pie looks like before baking. See? Not as thick as normal cookie batter.


When it bakes up, the top will become very brown, and that is okay. It's what it's supposed to do. Let it keep baking. The last thing you want to end up with is an undercooked center. I prefer a warm slice of pie, so I cut into it about 20 minutes after it came out of the oven and it was perfectly fine. You can always heat it up in the microwave as well.

This was very good! If I need to bring a dessert with me to a potluck anytime soon, I might bring this. It's unexpected and delicious. After all, who doesn't love some Toll House Cookies, errr, I mean pie?


Toll House Pie

2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup (6 oz) Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell
whipped cream or ice cream, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixer bowl, beat eggs at high speed until foamy, about three minutes. Beat in flour, sugar, and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in softened butter. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour into pie shell.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted in halfway between the edge and center comes out clean, and top is golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

If using frozen pie shell, use deep dish style; thaw completely. Place on cookie sheet; increase baking time by 10 minutes.




Chili Take a Million

I love chili, and I love looking for new chili recipes. In one particular cookbook (where I found this chili recipe actually), I have made almost every single one. I think there are three or four that I haven't made. One day, I am sure I will.

Chili is one of those meals that is not only easy, but satisfying. It's so nice to be able to put items into a pan or a crockpot and just forget about it until dinner time. Plus, it contains a ton of protein so it's filling. Beans and meat and tomatoes. What could be better than that? Along with a nice corn muffin, it's a hit in my house. Jason and I both love chili. If you don't believe me, check out the prior posts about chili or soups that are almost like chili. See? I told you.

Not only is chili a favorite, but so is the cookbook I found this from. I love my Pillsbury cookbook. I have only made one or two recipes out of it that were a disappointment. Everything else has been delicious. This was another success. There was the perfect amount of meat to bean ratio. I thought it might taste weird with the addition of tomato soup, but not at all! I think it just added to the thickness of the recipe.

This is a relatively inexpensive meal to make because it takes mostly canned goods and less than a pound of meat. However, it feeds an army so it's very economical. Many of these items are ones that a normal family would have on hand in their pantry. Beans, taco seasoning, tomatoes and soup.

Like the recipe suggests, I drained the butter beans for a thicker chili. I also added quite a bit of Tabasco to the mix since we like spicy food. Of course, if you are not a fan of the spice, leave out the Tabasco. Serve this with a green salad and cornbread and you have a complete meal. That is exactly what I did.

Easy as 1, 2, 3. You cook the veggies and meat and throw the remaining items in the crockpot. Simple right? I do love to cook but I also love the ease and laziness of using my crockpot. Now, one day I will actually find a chili recipe that I will stick with. Or maybe not. Maybe I will just keep trying new ones.

Three-Bean Chili
from: Pillsbury One-Dish Meals Cookbook

1/2 pound ground beef or ground turkey
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, undrained, cut up
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (10.75 oz) condensed tomato soup
1 package (1.25 oz) taco seasoning
1 can (15 oz) dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 oz) great northern beans, drained
1 can (15 oz) butter beans, undrained *

1. In medium skillet, brown ground beef with onions and bell peppers until beef is thoroughly cooked. Drain.

2. In slow cooker, combine cooked ground beef mixture, tomatoes, tomato sauce, soup, and taco seasoning mix; mix well.

3. Cover; cook on high setting for 30 minutes.

4. Stir in beans. Reduce heat to low setting; cover and cook an additional 4 to 5 hours or until thoroughly heated.

Tip: For a thicker chili, drain butter beans.




Spaghetti With a Twist

Based on my prior posts, I am sure it is obvious just how much I love two things: Pasta and tomatoes. And I know that this little boy growing in me takes after his mom. He loves pasta too. Every time I eat pasta or anything sweet, he goes nuts! He kicks and moves and lets me know that he loves my dinner. That isn't the subject of this post though. I haven't had good luck finding new recipes from Cooking Light these past few issues, however, the month of December was a veritable gold mine! I think I pulled out at least a dozen recipes that I want to make. This is one of them.

I like this recipe for a number of reasons:

1. It was easy to make. Case in point, I made it on a weeknight (which I hardly ever do), and the tag in the magazine said this was a 30 minute recipe.

2. It took pantry staples that I had on hand: Olives, capers, pasta, marinara sauce and spices.

3. It was a different twist on spaghetti. Don't get me wrong, I could eat plain pasta with plain tomato sauce every day of the week. However, it was nice to try something new.

4. Jason liked it! He eats my pasta with a smile even though I know half the time he is a little annoyed. He does not share my love of pasta.

Cooking Light has gained my love back. Not that I ever lost my love for them. I just needed a kick start to find a new recipe. This was very easy and I love the fact that it's light. A serving of a cup of pasta and 3/4 cup of the sauce was a mere 445 calories. That isn't bad! Pair this with a green salad and a glass of milk like I did and you will be full for several hours. I didn't feel a bit guilty eating this.

I don't keep sherry on hand, but I imagine red wine would probably be fine. I just used water since it called for only 1/4 cup. That and the saffron, which is optional anyways, are the two ingredients that I didn't have on hand. I added about double of the red pepper since we like things spicy in our household. The results were a very nice spiced pasta kick.

Try this recipe! It's very very good. I have been eating the leftovers as well. They are just as tasty reheated.

Spanish Spaghetti with Olives
from: Cooking Light December 2009

8 ounces thin spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups choppen onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads (optional)
8 ounces extra-lean ground beef
1 2/3 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup sliced pimento stuffed olives
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Stir in oregano, celery salt, red pepper, black pepper and saffron. Crumble beef into pan; cook 5 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in marinara sauce, olives, sherry, capers, and 3 tablespoons parsley. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

3. Add spaghetti to sauce mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.



Chicken French Style

Okay, I want to know if cordon bleu is really French. When I was in Quebec, I don't recall seeing a cordon bleu on any menu. However, I might not have been looking very carefully. Also, answer this for me: If this is a French recipe, why do you use Swiss cheese? Would a French cheese be more appropriate? I do know that my family is French Canadian and chicken cordon bleu happens to be my dad's favorite meal. I have personally never made it but I have eaten the very tasty frozen ones from Costco. Knowing how much I love my crockpot, I thought I would give this recipe a try.

I would like to disclaim right up front: This is a recipe I will never make again. Not because it wasn't tasty. It's because they were a pain to make, and when you eat them, you have to worry about toothpicks unless you were smart and counted how many you put in each chicken breast. Jason and I both really liked this recipe, but again, it was a pain in the arse to make. Or pain in the hoosegow as my French Canadian Memere would say.

You can serve these little rolls on either rice or over egg noodles which is what we did. Also, depending on the size of your chicken breasts, you might only need 3 instead of the 6 it calls for. I was able to get a lot of my aggression out on these poor little chicken breasts. Like the regular, non-crockpot cordon bleu, you have to pound the breasts pretty thin.

The recipe calls for prosciutto and hopefully your's will be more cooperative than mine. In retrospect, I should have used ham. The prosciutto was so darn thin that when I peeled it off the paper, it just fell apart. Pain in the butt take one. I had to cut the cheese down a little bit so that it would fit on the chicken breasts. Pain in the butt take two. Next, the chicken had to be rolled up and secured with toothpicks. Pain in the butt take three, four and five. Seriously, PAIN IN THE BUTT.

I didn't want to use white wine, probably because I am lazy and that would have required me to buy some, so instead, I used some chicken broth that I had in the fridge. I feel the substitution was completely fine and I doubt it altered the taste.

I hope you are more successful than I am when making these. Again, they were good, but did I mention a slight pain?

Chicken Cordon Bleu Rolls
from: The New Creative CrockPot Cookbook

6 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
6 slices prosciutto
6 slices Swiss cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup white wine

On each chicken breast, place on piece of prosciutto and cheese. Roll up each chicken breast and secure with a toothpick. Season each roll with salt and pepper. Place in the crockpot. In a small bowl, whisk together the soup, milk and white wine. Pour this mixture over the chicken breast rolls. Cover; cook on low 4 to 6 hours (or on high 3 to 4 hours).


This is what the rolls look like when you cut into them. Yummy!

Even More Pumpkin!

Sorry about my lack of blogging lately. In between doubling up on classes, getting ready for the bean, not cooking a whole lot and the holidays, I have been a slacker. So, I will spend some time today updating.

I made this recipe several weeks ago. I had some leftover canned pumpkin in my fridge and I didn't want it to go to waste. After all, I can never pass up an opportunity to bake. I went in search of a recipe that was both healthy (because I am trying not to gain too much pregnancy weight) and tasty, well because let's face it, taste is the most important aspect.

I believe this is the first time I have used a recipe from cooks.com and I certainly wasn't disappointed. I found a lowfat muffin recipe (140 calories per muffin and only 4.6 grams of fat) that was really tasty. I only altered one thing and that was the sugar. I used half sugar and half Splenda. If you use all the sugar that the recipe calls for, it only adds a few calories per muffin. Not enough to worry about.

This was very easy to throw together. So much so that on a night before class, I whipped these up and brought in a batch for my classmates. It took less than an hour to make and bake and package them up.

I put the label for this recipe as a dessert and breakfast because I feel that pumpkin and raisins are appropriate all times of the day. So if you are looking for a quick breakfast, grab one of these muffins and a cup of coffee and you are all set!

These muffins don't have an overpowering taste of pumpkin. I love pumpkin, so it doesn't bother me how much is in a recipe, however, some people don't care for pumpkin. These muffins have a very nice pumpkin accent. It is one of the main ingredients, but even if you don't care for pumpkin, I think you would like these. They result in a very moist, muffin. I suggest eating them while they are still warm. They were the most tasty that way!

Be careful not to overmix the batter. Follow the directions and only mix until the flour is moistened. I really think the muffins were moist because of this. The more you mix, the tougher the muffins will be. Also, don't be afraid to add more spice than the recipe calls for. I always add a little extra cinnamon and nutmeg to things. It gives more depth (doesn't that sound fancy?) to the recipe in my opinion.

Pumpkin Muffins
from: www.cooks.com

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar (I used half Splenda and half sugar)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms of 12 medium muffin cups. Mix all ingredients just until flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon sugar over batter in each cup. Bake 18 to 20 minutes. Immediately remove from pan.

Aren't these beautiful when you cut into them?



Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Pumpkin

I told you that I have wanting pumpkin lately! It's fall after all and nothing says fall like pumpkin and spice. So, here goes. This recipe is one that I pulled out of Cooking Light this month. I am less likely to feel guilty about baking if the recipe is one that is from Cooking Light. Maybe it's all in my head.

The picture is what drew me to this. A delicious looking cake with a nice cream cheese frosting. While cream cheese frosting isn't my favorite, I can make special exceptions. Plus, the best part? It's light!

My picture didn't turn out quite as pretty as the one in the magazine, but that's okay. Case in point:

My cake is flatter then the picture. I do have to say though, I cut this piece from the flattest part of the cake. The rest is much more springy and less condensed. Operator error I am sure.


The end results were very good! And anything when I can use my Kitchenaid is a good thing. Confession: I sometimes look for recipes that calls for a mixer just so I can use mine.

This is a moist cake made so by the canned pumpkin. It really is the star of the cake. After all, it wouldn't be a pumpkin cake without the pumpkin. The brown sugar gave it richness that white sugar couldn't, and the fact that it doesn't have much fat (butter) in it, is what makes it light.

The frosting does have a lot of powdered sugar and butter and cream cheese in it, but you aren't eating that much icing. The majority of the serving size is cake. Plus, the pieces are cut small which also helps in keeping this cake well under 200 calories a piece.

Frosted Pumpkin Cake
from: Cooking Light Magazine November 2009

Cake:
10.1 ounces flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
cooking spray

Frosting:
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package (8 ounces) 1/3-less fat cream cheese
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

3. Combine brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, to sugar mixture; beat well after each addition. Add pumpkin; mix well. Fold in flour mixture. Spread batter into a 13x9 inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

4. To prepare the frosting, combine 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cream cheese in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until well combined. Spread frosting evenly over top of cake.

Pumpkin For Breakfast

Remember when I said that fall is in the air? You know what that means? It's time for pumpkin! Starbucks has had their Pumpkin Spice Latte out for a few weeks now and I will admit that I have indulged. Quite a few times actually.

I made two pumpkin recipes this weekend. One was enjoyed this morning at breakfast. It's a recreation of Starbucks' latte. How did it turn out? It was okay. Of course, it wasn't nearly as good as the real thing, but it saved me money and a trip out of the house at 8:00 in the morning.

I prepared this recipe last night and chilled it in my baby crockpot in the fridge over night. My lovely husband then took it out of the fridge and started it at 6:00 this morning (he works swing shift and usually comes to bed around that time). So, when I woke up, I had my delicious coffee beverage waiting for me.

I would suggest using much stronger coffee than I did. While it was good, I prefer my coffee to actually taste a little like coffee. So next time I make this, it will be with the stronger stuff. Also, I imagine whipped cream would be delicious on this. I wouldn't know. I am trying not to gain too much weight during this pregnancy, so I omitted the whip. I am pretty sad about that because I think the whipped cream really adds to the flavor.

Overall, this was easy and yummy. I have some leftover for my breakfast tomorrow which makes me doubly happy.

Crockpot Pumpkin Spice Latte
from: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/crockpot-pumpkin-spice-latte-recipe.html

2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons white sugar (I used Splenda instead)
2 tablespoons (yes tablespoons) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brewed espresso or 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee

This will make enough for two people to have a big mug with a bit leftover. If you are having friends over, adjust the recipe accordingly. I used my baby crockpot (for dips and small things) for this, but you can double and use a bigger crockpot.

Add the coffee/espresso and milk to the crockpot. Whisk in the pumpkin, spices, sugar and vanilla.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours if everything is cold. Whisk again.

See? Mine is a little pale. Use STRONG coffee!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall Is In the Air!

When I think of fall cooking, two things immediately come to mind: Crockpots and pumpkin. Today was one of those days. I made something in the crockpot and I made something pumpkin. Not together however. That will have to wait until breakfast tomorrow. Stay tuned on that one.


I love my crockpot. It is probably my most used kitchen appliance next to my coffee maker and microwave. As you can see from prior posts, it gets a LOT of use in this house. What could be easier than throwing ingredients in in the morning and turning it on? Jason giggles because I use it so much, but he clearly loves the results.

This is a recipe I normally wouldn't make. I am not sure what caught my eye about it. Probably the fact that I love Thai food and peanut butter. So I figured why not? I have never made anything Thai inspired so it was worth a shot.

The ingredients aren't that far out there either. I didn't have to buy fish sauce or chili paste. As a matter of fact, I had all the spices on hand. All it takes is some soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes. Who doesn't have those things in their kitchen?

I will admit that I had to buy a few of the ingredients it calls for. I had regular peanut butter in the house, but Jason has been begging me to buy some chunky, so I obliged. I also had to buy the actual peanuts. Yes, I realize they are a garnish, but I wanted that extra crunch on top. Plus, I had to buy the turkey and the cilantro.

This was very very good. Not overwhelmingly peanut butter. I think that's probably due in part to the broth and soy sauce. Yes, you could taste the peanut butter, but you could also taste the other ingredients too. It was nice and spicy, just how we like things in this house.

I would recommend using either rice noodles or ramen (without the flavor packet) if you make this. I used just regular pasta, but I think rice noodles would be better. I didn't think about it at the time so I just bought thin spaghetti. Oh and my grocery store didn't have turkey tenderloins that weren't crazy marinated ones. So I just used turkey cutlets which were perfectly fine. You just dice the turkey up anyways.

Try this one, it's yummy! Fall is definitely in the air! Wait until you see my next post. That one DEFINITELY proves that fall is here.

Thai Turkey and Noodles
from: 365 Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker Recipes and More

1 package (about 1.5 pounds) turkey tenderloins, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into short, thin strips
1.25 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 green onions, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter (not natural style)
12 ounces hot vermicelli pasta
3/4 cup peanuts or cashews, chopped
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Place turkey, bell pepper, 1 cup broth, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 3 hours.

Mix cornstarch with remaining 1/4 cup broth in small bowl until smooth. Turn slow cooker to high. Stir in green onions, peanut butter and cornstarch mixture. Cover and cook 30 minutes or until sauce is thickened and turkey is no longer pink in center. Stir well. Serve over vermicelli. Sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fancy Macaroni and Cheese

This is neither macaroni and cheese nor is it "fancy", however, that is what my husband called it, so there you have it. It will now forever be referred to as Fancy Macaroni and Cheese.


This is a recipe off the Food Network. It's from Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis. I can remember watching the episode when she made this. It had to have been three or four years ago. Honestly though, I doubt that lady eats any of this because she's so darn skinny! And judging by the ingredients in this, you would have to have some meat on your bones.

Just looking at the picture makes me wonder how anyone can stay skinny while eating this?
However, I should point out that there are ways of making it lighter should you feel the need. Don't use as much butter as it calls for, use lean ham instead of the proscuitto, use fat-free or 1% milk rather than the whole milk. You catch my drift. Plus, you can always eat a smaller serving (surrrrre, try that, I dare you.) if you don't want to feel guilty.

This recipe's base is a bechamel sauce, which is generally a roux with a little cheese added. If you don't know what a roux is, it's butter and flour with some milk to make a white sauce. I recently made another macaroni and cheese recipe using a roux. It's not a hard task to accomplish. Knowing how to make a roux will give you the baseline to make pretty much any mac and cheese you want. The cheese is a fontina, which is delicious! It isn't your typical cheddar which many macaroni and cheese dishes use. See? Look at all these concepts that prove that this is not macaroni and cheese! Plus, it uses rigatoni pasta and not elbows.

The only downside to making this is having patience to wait for the milk to thicken. Honestly, considering how easy the rest of the recipe is, waiting 10 minutes is no big deal. And hopefully you have an easier time julienne'ing (is that a word?) the prosciutto. Mine looked like a pile o' ham rather than neat strips. It worked out in the end. I just broke it up as it went into the pan.

Enjoy! This is creamy, rich and delicious! It isn't too bad heated up the next day as lunch leftovers either.

Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce
from: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/baked-rigatoni-with-bechamel-sauce-recipe2/index.html

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 quart whole milk at room temperature
pinch of nutmeg
sea salt and white pepper
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, julienned
1 pound rigatoni
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

1. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth (about 2 minutes). Always stirring, gradually add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (10 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup cheese, prosciutto and season with salt and pepper; set aside.

2. In a large pot, boil water, add rigatoni and cook until al dente. Drain. Return pasta to the pot and pour in bechamel sauce. Mix well.

3. Pour into a greased 13x9 inch baking dish. Smooth out top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup fontina. Dot the top with the diced butter and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

I love that my picture looks pretty darn close to the one on the Food Network website. I must have done something right!



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lazy Lasagna

This recipe is titled Lazy because I didn't actually assemble this lasagna today. I actually put it all together yesterday morning. Which was nice for me because then all I had to do today was bake it. This recipe is great for people who are lazy. Or, can I recommend that you assemble this and bring it to some nice new mother? I can't imagine anything better than having someone show up at my door with lasagna in hand. All I would have to do is bake it! Hint, hint.

In my cooking extravaganza yesterday, I threw together........Well, not really threw. That would have gotten messy. It was very easy to assemble, which makes me wonder, why do a lot of people hem and haw when having to make lasagna? It really wasn't hard. Maybe because they have to boil the noodles which are a pain? They do make those no-boil noodles nowadays. Easy and cuts down on the prep time. Or maybe it's because they make their sauce from scratch? They do make fairly decent jarred sauces these days.

I am sure I have made lasagna before, but I honestly can't recall a time where I made a real from-scratch one. My husband was shocked to hear that I was going to attempt. Maybe he better taste it first to make sure it passes muster. Yes, I admit. I have baked a ready-made lasagna before in times of pure laziness. Heck, those Costco ones are pretty darn good!

Notice where this recipe came from? I think this cookbook has made more appearances in my blog than anything else. What can I say? Most of the things in it are very good. With maybe one or two exceptions. This was not one of the exceptions. Meaning, it was very very good! My husband had two servings. I had one and a half servings. The only thing I would do differently is use maybe 1/2 a pound of sausage next time. The ground beef was a little bland, even though I added some spices to it in the cooking process.

The cheese was perfectly melted. The noodles, even though you don't cook them prior, were cooked. That concept is really strange to me but whatever! Very tasty. No complaints here!

Here is the lovely lasagna before baking.

Lazy-Day Overnight Lasagna
from: Pillsbury One-Dish Meals Cookbook
1 pound ground beef or mild Italian sausage
1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 egg
8 ounces uncooked lasagna noodles
1 package (16 ounces) sliced mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain well. Add spaghetti sacue and water; blend well.

2. In medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, chives, oregano, and egg; mix well.

3. In ungreased 13x9 inch baking dish or lasagna pan, spread 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce. Top with 1/2 each of the uncooked noodles, ricotta cheese mixture and mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 1 1/2 cups meat sauce and remaining noodles, ricotta cheese and mozzarella. Top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover; refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover; bake 50 to 60 minutes or until noodles are tender and casserole is bubbly. Cover; let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Here is the lasagna after. Not a huge difference although the cheese is gooey and melted and starting to brown around the edges. Just the way I like it!

Early Thanksgiving

It was early Thanksgiving at our house yesterday. Although I didn't actually roast a turkey, I did roast a chicken. Really, all I wanted was stuffing. Namely, the family recipe stuffing. It's so good. I get it maybe once a year (on Thanksgiving, imagine that!) so this was a treat.


Here is a picture of my lovely chicken and roast veggies:

I started a cooking extravaganza yesterday morning. I started out by making the stuffing and then moving on to Lemon Blueberry Bread, then Lasagna for tonight's dinner and then finishing off with Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup. In between chopping and stirring, I also managed to clean out my entire kitchen cupboards and re-organize them. I know, weird right?

This stuffing is very easy to make. If you are really lazy, I suppose you could use those premade bread cubes that they sell in the store. In my family, we always used to save the ends of breads, aka: The Heels. Or, if a loaf was starting to get a little stale, we would throw it in the freezer for the next batch of stuffing. Since our freezer space is limited, I just bought a cheapie loaf of wheat bread and toasted it up in the oven to dry it out. It worked perfectly fine!

Can you believe that with all the cooking I do I didn't have most of the spices in this recipe? I have never made stuffing at home so I didn't have the sage, rosemary or poultry seasoning. So I had to buy them. At least I will have them on hand for next time. When I was growing up, my Mom used to tell me that there's a song about these spices. Is that true? That is how she remembered which spices to add. Sage, rosemary and thyme. Or something like that.

I didn't stuff the chicken. I didn't want to mess around with that. So, I baked my stuffing in a casserole dish. Don't do what I did: Overcook the stuffing. I probably should have pulled it out of the oven at an hour rather than an hour and fifteen minutes. It was still edible, although dry. Heck, I was craving it. It could have been burned and I would have still eaten it.

Even better? I pulled it out of the refrigerator today and sliced some off to make myself a chicken and stuffing sandwich. Yay for leftovers!

Stuffing
from: My Mom
2 eggs, beaten
salt
pepper
medium to large onion, chopped
one tablespoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 loaves bread, dried, cubed
4-8 tablespoons melted butter
boiling water (enough to moisten)

* Add all ingredients together and mix with your hands. Stuff in bird or bake in a casserole dish.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bite Sized Goodness

I found this recipe from someone else's blog (http://www.adventuresinmyfreezer.blogspot.com) and I decided why not? After all, I love brownies. That is obvious based on the several brownie recipes I have posted before. Secondly, I figure this is portion control. Right? I can only pop one or two of these before I start to feel guilty.

These are very simple to make and awfully cute. I know my sister will agree. She likes mini things. Mini horses, mini dogs, mini cupcakes, you get the picture. As I was taking these out of the muffin cups, one accidentally broke. I can't tell you how disappointed I was. I had to eat it! Isn't that terrible? I ate it and it was mighty tasty.

These whipped up in no time. Being the nice person that I am, I am considering taking a batch of these to class with me on Wednesday. It depends on my mood and if I am feeling generous or not.

I would definitely recommend these and encourage you to make a batch. People won't be able to stop saying "awww, those are so cute!". Plus, they are really yummy with a glass of milk.

Two Bite Brownies
from: http://adventuresinmyfreezer.blogspot.com/2008/12/two-bite-brownies.html

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 mini-muffin cups (or an 8x8 pan).

In a large bowl, mix:
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar

Add:
6 tablespoons cocoa powder (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
Mix well.

Add:
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix well again.

Use heaping teaspoons to fill mini-muffin cups. Bake 10-12 minutes (watch carefully). For an 8x8 pan, bake for 25 minutes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Skeptical

That was how I considered myself tonight when I was assembling this dish. I will explain why later. As a whole, this dinner sounded tasty. After all, we like chili in this house (see previous bazillion chili posts) and we also like cornbread (see previous billion cornbread posts). So, I suppose if you put the two together they should work right? Well, in theory, yes. However, I had a disaster on my hands a year ago when I tried doing the two together in the crockpot.

This was a very easy recipe to prepare. You pretty much just brown the beef and dump the rest of the ingredients. That's it. Mix the cornbread, spoon everything into a dish and bake. I didn't have to buy many things to make this dish. Just the salsa and the cornbread mix. Everything else would be considered a pantry staple in my house which I had on hand.

This took a grand total of 45 minutes from start to finish to make. Considering you have to mix the cornbread and brown the beef and bake it, I would say that's a success!

Here comes the skepticism part. If you read the directions, it says to put the cornbread mix in the casserole dish first, and then the beef mix in the middle. I had to ask my husband if he agreed with this because I thought for sure the cornbread would all run towards the center of the dish and it would end up a big soupy mess. I almost put the beef mixture in first and then the cornbread on top, but I decided to follow the recipe (imagine that!). To my surprise, it worked! It baked up just as the recipe said it would and my husband was nice when he only managed a "told you so".

This is a good recipe and will probably be one I make again. After all, we eat chili and cornbread at least a dozen times a year. This way, you only need to bake it in one pan!

Chili Casserole with Cornbread
from: Pillsbury The Best of Classic Cookbooks

1 pound lean ground beef
1 jar (16 oz) chunky style salsa
1 can (15.5 oz) dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups frozen whole kernel corn
3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 package (6.5-8.5 oz) cornbread mix
milk (if required by mix)
margarine (if required by mix)
egg (if required by mix)
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon sliced green onions, optional

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in salsa, kidney beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder and cumin. Cook 3-4 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, prepare cornbread as directed on package using milk, and if required, margarine and egg. Spoon cornbread batter around outside edge of ungreased 2-quart casserole dish. Spoon hot beef mixture into center (casserole will be full).

3. Bake for 18 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese; bake an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and cornbread is deep golden brown. Just before serving, sprinkle with green onions.


Announcement Cupcakes

I wanted a fun way to announce to my coworkers which gender of baby I am expecting. So, I decided on cupcakes. After all, who doesn't love cupcakes? My plan of attack was to bring in cupcakes that were either frosted in pink or blue. I have to be honest, I am glad they will be blue because I am not a fan of pink.

These cupcakes were delicious! I know because not only did I lick the batter bowl, I also ate one after dinner tonight. Any time I want to make an easy but yummy cake or cupcake recipe, I resort to the Cake Doctor. If you haven't checked out her cookbooks, you are missing out! The whole theme of the book is to take a regular boxed cake mix and add things to it. Honestly, every cake I have made you absolutely cannot tell it's from a box. And when I tell people, they don't believe me.

This recipe is very versatile. The title in the book says it all: Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Ten Different Buttercream Frostings. If you cannot find a frosting that you like, you must be the most picky person on the face of the planet!

Being pregnant around chocolate is sheer torture. Not only did I have to smell these puppies baking, but I had to wait several hours to eat one. Really, they were staring me in the face all afternoon. Stupid chocolate cravings.

I decided on the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. I am usually not a fan of cream cheese frostings, but like I said before, it's the Cake Doctor. You really can't go wrong. Plus, I wasn't sure how picky my coworkers would be if I brought in Orange-Cocoa Cream Cheese or Crushed Peppermint Buttercream.

Try these cupcakes out. You won't be disappointed. And maybe you will bring them to work to announce something fun too!

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes
from: The Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor

22 to 24 paper liners for muffin pans
1 package (18.25 oz) devil's food cake mix
3/4 cup water
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

2. Place the cake mix, water, sour cream, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with the mixer on low speed for one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well combined. Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups, filling each liner three quarters of the way full (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners if any). Place the pans in the oven.

3. Bake until they spring back when lightly pressed with your fingers and a toothpcik comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottom of the pan using the end of the knife and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting of your choice.

5. Spread the tops of the cupcakes with frosting and serve.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioner's sugar

1. Place the white chocolate in a small glass bowl in the microwave oven on high power for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula until it is smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool.

2. Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the melted white chocolate and blend on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds. Add the vanilla and 2 1/2 cups of the confectioner's sugar, and blend on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 30 seconds more. Add more sugar as needed to make the frosting spreadable. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is fluffy, 1 minute more.

3. Use to frost the top and sides of the cake of your choice.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Angelic For Sure

This recipe is one that I picked up from someone on the Nest (thanks swmcat!). I am not sure why it took me so long to make, but I am glad I finally broke down and cooked it!

To me, the start of fall always reminds me of pumpkin candles, flavored coffee creamers and using my crockpot. Well, this recipe is definitely a crock pot one and it does remind me of fall. It's a heavier dish than something I would make in the summer. Don't get me wrong, it certainly can be made in the summer time.
Not only is this recipe easy, it's amazingly tasty! Angel Chicken indeed. It was angelic. The husband really liked it too and he's not a giant fan of pasta. How much easier can dump ingredients in crock pot and cover be? Of course, you still need to cook the pasta at the end, but it's angel hair. It doesn't take much more than 10 minutes to boil the water and cook the pasta.

If you are not a fan of mushrooms, the cream of mushroom soup can be substituted. You can always use cream of celery or cream of mushroom. If you don't have white wine, no problem! Use chicken stock or water. I didn't have any wine on hand, so I used the latter. If you aren't a fan of angel hair, substitute spaghetti or linguine. The possibilites are endless!

This will be a recipe that will get added to my repertoire. I liked it and Jason liked it. Plus, my cat liked it. She told us so when she licked our plates after dinner. Bravo Angel Chicken!

Angel Chicken
from: swmcat on the Nest

3 chicken breasts cut in half to make 6 small breasts
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 envelope (.7 oz) Italian dressing mix
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1/2 of an 8 oz. tub of onion and chive cream cheese
1/2 cup white wine or water
angel hair pasta

1. Put chicken in crockpot. In a saucepan, melt butter then stir in Italian dressing mix, soup, cream cheese, and wine. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve chicken and sauce over angel hair.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mmmmm, Breakfast

Here comes the first pregnancy craving. Well, not really, but before I went to bed last night, the thought of having coffee cake for breakfast sounded absolutely divine! So I looked for a recipe before bed and found one to make in the morning. The key was easy and have all the ingredients on hand. I was really hoping for one that was like the recipe on the box of the Bisquick container. I would have made that particular recipe, but I am low on Bisquick (mental note to add to grocery list).

This morning, I awoke very excited. I have been in a baking mood since our weather has been less than desirable. It's been cold and rainy so what better way to wake up than a hot piece of coffee cake and a cup of coffee?

This recipe was easy and I do have to say, it was very close to that Bisquick one that I love. Um, plus, I ate three pieces, so I can vouch for it's tastiness. It's a big pan, so let's hope I don't go overboard. While this is more of a breakfast food, you could certainly have it as dessert too. It's sweet which is the one requirement of a dessert in my house.

Here it is out of the oven.

The whole house smelled like cinnamon and sugar, which is perfectly fine for me. As the title says, it goes perfectly with a cup of coffee. I had some milk too which made me feel a little healthier. All in all, it's not terribly bad for you. As long as you only eat one piece, which I didn't. The topping is perfectly crispy and soft at the same time, and the cake part baked up beautifully.

All Recipes has done it again. A tasty dish that is easy to make. It seriously is my favorite site for finding tried and true recipes. One day I will probably run across one that isn't so great, but for now, I will take my chances.

Aunt Annie's Coffee Cake
from: www.allrecipes.com

2 cups flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk, or as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan. Make the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup flour, 2/3 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Crack an egg into a measuring cup and then fill milk to make 1 cup. Stir in vanilla. Pour into crumb mixture and mix just until moistened. Spread into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with streusel.

3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.


The corner piece in all it's delicious glory.



Pasta Night Two

Like I mentioned before, I have been on a pasta kick. Honestly, it's my go-to meal during the week. When my husband isn't home, it's easy to boil some noodles and heat up some sauce. Plus, the pastabilities are endless (bad joke, sorry). I often times stir in tuna, capers, kidney beans, various spices, cubed chicken, or vegetables. Obviously, I don't do all of those ingredients at once.


This very very easy. Trust me, I wouldn't make it if it wasn't. I mean, what could be easier than two steps? Plus, it's delicious and healthy. It's another of my Weight Watchers recipes. Even though I am not actively trying to lose weight, it can't hurt to eat healthier.

This is a good recipe for people that eat some meat, but not a lot (like me). My husband won't eat pasta unless there is some meat source in it or near it. I on the other hand, will eat any pasta, any way. This is a happy medium. It has some meat, but it's not the shining star. A little Canadian bacon goes a long way. Plus, the leftovers can be used for those tasty English muffin sandwiches.

This recipe takes pantry staples with the exception of the bacon. Honestly, you can leave out the bacon if you prefer to have a vegetarian meal. Canned tomatoes, onion and various spices are all this recipe needs. Serve it with a salad and some bread, and you have a very healthy meal. Okay, so leave out the bread.

I found out this dish is very good cold as well. I wasn't feeling so great one day and I had some of this pasta right out of the fridge. Who knew? My only suggestion is to up the red pepper flake contribution. We like our food spicy, so I almost tripled the amount I add it. Another trick I have learned is to smush it in your hand before adding. It releases the oils in the pepper. Hey, I saw it on the Food Network, therefore it must be true.

I better put pasta on the grocery list, because Lord knows I eat enough of it, and my stash is almost depleted.

Spaghetti Amatriciana
from: Weight Watchers

1 teaspoon olive oil
4 ounces Canadian bacon, diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, cooked al dente, water reserved
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon until browned. Stir in onion, raise heat to medium-high and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the red pepper flakes and tomatoes.

2. Toss hot spaghetti and 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water with tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Pasta Night One

I have been on a pasta kick lately. Probably because I can't stomach anything related to chicken. Since I can't seem to eat chicken, what is the next best.....Well, really it's the best thing to me in the first place. PASTA!


I am the type of person that can eat pasta every single day. Example, on Friday, I went to an Italian restaurant and had pasta. Saturday, the husband and I went to lunch and guess what I had? Pasta. Yesterday, I barely ate anything, so that doesn't count. And tonight, guess what was on the menu? Yes, pasta.

The recipe below was actually made last weekend. I just have been lazy and haven't posted. Don't let my laziness fool you. The spaghetti and meatballs were delicious. I have only ever made turkey meatballs, so I had to hunt for a real meat meatball recipe.

I am ashamed to admit that I didn't make the sauce in her recipe. I was trying to use up some jarred sauce that I had in the fridge. I know, jarred sauce. I am not a snob. I eat jarred sauce on occasion. As long as it on PASTA I could care less.

Elly's recipe is very easy to make and just like it states, makes about 25-30 perfect, tasty meatballs. I also admit that I was singing "On Top of Spaghetti" while making these. My husband thought I was nuts, but I digress.

Not only are these easy, but I liked the addition of the parmesan cheese. The added a little something extra. Plus, there were enough for leftovers. Jason ended up eating them the next night with some mashed potatoes. He said that they could very easily have passed for meatloaf if formed into a loaf rather than a ball. Mental note: Try this next time.

I didn't have any breadcrumbs on hand, so I made my own. I toasted some old bread and then processed it in the food processor. It worked well, but next time, I will use actual store-bought breadcrumbs. It saves extra dishes, that's for sure.

You could easily substitute the ground beef for veal, pork, ground turkey or chicken. I imagine any combination of the above would be tasty too. Enjoy these! They were fun to make and even more fun to eat!

On top of spaghettiiiiiiiii, all covered with cheeseeeeeeeee......

Meatballs

1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 pound ground beef
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon fresh
1/4 parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, a pinch of salt, and cook about 2-3 minutes before adding parsley and garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes more and set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, combine breadcrumbs and milk in large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

4. After 10 minutes, add the onion mixture, beef, egg, parmesan, salt, basil and pepper to the breadcrumb bowl. Mix well, but not for too long or you will toughen the meatballs. Form into 1-1.5 inch balls and place in a pan coated with cooking spray.

5. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or until done.

6. Add cooked meatballs to pasta sauce and simmer a little, while pasta is cooking.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I have been cooking lately, I assure you. I have just been making things that I have blogged about before. For example, last weekend I made Spaghetti Salad. Twice actually. I have already blogged about that. I also have made brownies recently (all of which I have blogged about). It's not really inspiring to write about nor read about things that I have already posted. So, here I am. I made a new recipe yesterday. Amazing!

I have a few zucchini from my garden. Stop. I must talk about this for a moment. Our weather this year has been bizarre to say the least. As a result, my garden stinks. Actually, it sucks. I got three zucchini from my three plants and a few tomatoes so far. That is it. I did get some peas and beans earlier in the season but they were so few to comment about. And about a dozen strawberries. Next year, I plan to do some things differently in my garden. I am only going to plant things I love. I will try peppers and cucumbers again, but I am going to move them to where they might do better.

Okay back to my thought. I had some zucchini to use, so I grated two of them into 2-cup portions and froze them. The third I used to make zucchini bread. My husband adores zucchini bread. However, he begged me to make his mom's recipe. While I love his mom's recipe, I have already posted about it. So, alas, I used another one that I have. It's from Martha Stewart. Sssssh, don't tell Jason. He thinks I made his mom's. The fact that he can't tell the difference is funny to me.

I love my Kitchenaid silicone bakeware. I have a loaf pan and it's always fun to pop your loaf out when it's done baking. The edges have gotten some use (you can see in the picture below). One day I will get more bakeware. Maybe for Christmas. Hint hint!

This zucchini bread is very easy and tasty. It could be modified to be more Weight Watchers friendly, but that isn't something I am worried about these days. More on that later. It has ingredients that you would have on hand in your pantry. The blend of spices really adds to the bread. Using grated zucchini with the skin on gives the bread a ton of moisture too.

So, no Weight Watchers for me. I had to actually discontinue my membership back in May. Why you ask? I am pregnant. They usually kick pregnant people out of Weight Watchers. This isn't to say that you can't still watch what you are eating while pregnant. I am certainly doing this. So far, I haven't gained any weight because I am a little "fluffy" to begin with. Yes, I probably should have lost another 20 pounds before getting pregnant, but whatever.

Back to food. This bread is delicious. With the addition of vegetables, it makes it slightly more healthy than eating a piece of chocolate cake with Crisco frosting. It also is much more rich because of brown sugar instead of all white. I also substituted canola oil for the vegetable oil. I do this in all my recipes since it's healthier than most other oils.

So, enjoy a piece (a small one) after dinner. Or with a cup of tea for breakfast. I did.

Zucchini Spice Bread
from: Martha Stewart's Every Day Food Magazine

1 3/4 cup grated zucchini, skins on
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a large bowl, combine sugars, oil, vanilla and eggs. Mix well. In a small bowl, combine flour, soda, powder and spices. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Fold in zucchini.

2. Pour into a 9x5x3-inch pan and bake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees.



Sunday, July 5, 2009

More Pie!

I hope you aren't disappointed, but this post is not about a dessert pie. Nope, this is a dinner pie. It's called a pie because essentially you are forming a crust in a pie plate using........wait for it.......spaghetti. Or in my case, angel hair.

I am very surprised at myself for not posting this recipe much much sooner. It's one of my favorites. Of course, it has all my favorite elements: pasta, tomatoes and gooey cheese. What more could a girl ask for?

This recipe came from someone named Terri Enberg (I hope I spelled her name right). I worked with her years ago at JK Gill. She brought this in for lunch one day and I had to have the recipe. It originally comes from the Oregonian's Food Day circular.

The great thing about this recipe is that it can be slimmed way down. For those on Weight Watchers or watching their fat intake, just substitute the cheeses with lower fat options. This is also a meatless dish, which tend to be lower cost to make. So not only is it great for people counting calories, it's great for people counting pennies.

I had all the ingredients on hand for this dish except for the ricotta. I would be willing to bet that you will also have many of these ingredients on hand. I always keep shredded cheese in the fridge, and I always have tomato or spaghetti sauce and pasta on hand.

So, without further ado: Pie!

Spaghetti Pie
from: Oregonian Food Day

8 ounces hot, cooked spaghetti, drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated and divided
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (1/2 of a 15 oz container)
1 cup spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 10-inch pie plate. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, toss hot spaghetti with olive oil. In a small bowl, combine eggs and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Stir into spaghetti. Pour spaghetti mixture into prepared pie plate, spreading to form a crust.

3. Spread ricotta evenly over the crust, but not quite to the edge. Top with spaghetti sauce.

4. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Top with shredded mozzarella and bake 5 minutes longer, until cheese melts.

5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan. Cool 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Pie!

I have never met a pie I didn't like. Well, maybe coconut cream......although, in a pinch, I will eat it. To be patriotic without being cliche (apple pie - not that there is anything wrong with it!), I wanted to make an Independence Day dessert that was "American". Who doesn't associate blueberry pie with America?

To be honest with you, I have never made a berry pie before. I have made pumpkin, apple, chocolate, spaghetti pie (see my next post) and even meat pies. Never a blueberry.

As much as I love making crust from scratch, I cheated here. I used refrigerator pie crust. Now before you scold me, have you tasted the Pillsbury stuff lately? It's very good! And unless you told someone it was store bought, chances are, they probably won't notice the difference. Another reason for my laziness with the crust is that I just don't have a place to roll out a pie crust. I don't need to post pictures of my kitchen again do I?

Luckily for me, I found blueberries at Costco. They were excellent quality, hardly any of them needed to be de-stemmed and only about three needed to be thrown away because they were mushy. Here's the only bummer: There were no blueberries left. I really wanted to make muffins or something. That's okay. I know where to buy large quantities of blueberries next time.

I went to the authority on baking for this recipe. Betty Crocker. She never seems to mess around when it comes to yummy baked goods. On another note, we nickname my sister Becky Crocker because she loves to bake. She even has an apron embroidered with Becky Crocker.

This was a very simple recipe to put together. Dump the blueberries, mix the dry ingredients, pour into the prepared crust, sprinkle with two other ingredients and bake. Voila! One delicious, very nutritious (with the exception of the sugar) pie. Did you know that blueberries are one of the best fruits you can eat? They are loaded with antioxidants. So, I didn't feel guilty when I stuffed my face with this pie last night.

Now, how is that I can never find my pie plate? I think it's because the times I do make a pie are at Thanksgiving and I typically leave the pie plate at my aunt's. I bet she has a huge collection of plates thanks to me. I should start writing my name on them in Sharpie or something. It is an expensive habit to continually buy pie plates.

Happy Indepedence Day! Now, where is that leftover pie?

Blueberry Pie
from: Betty Crocker

pastry for two-crust pie
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, if desired
6 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon stick margarine or butter

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pastry.

2. Mix sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in blueberries. Turn into pastry-lined pie plate. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Dot with butter. Cover with top pastry that has slits cut in it; seal and flute. Cover edge with 2-3 inch foil strips to prevent excess browning. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.

3. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Cool in pie plate on wire rack.

I have never seen a berry pie that is cut that isn't oozing out the side. Unless you are a food photographer. Or maybe a professional baker.