15 September 2007

Halloween Popcorn Balls


While it is only September, this is the time of year I start getting excited for the holidays - I blame the stores who put out decorations in August, but still! With than in mind, I've been browsing through old magazines and watching for festive recipes I can try. I started out looking for more soups and stews and anything that contains pumpkin when I came across this recipe. I figured it is simple enough to get things started, and can potentially be a perfect snack for our road trip tomorrow - so here goes nothing!

INGREDIENTS

1 bag microwave popcorn, popped
1 C candy corn
10 oz mini-marshmallows
1/4 C butter
Non-stick spray

DIRECTIONS

Mix popped popcorn and candy corn in a large bowl.
In a medium sauce pan over med-low heat, melt butter. Once melted, add marshmallows and also cook until melted and smooth, stirring often.

Pour marshmallows over popcorn and candy corn, mixing well.
Spray hands with non-stick spray. Form popcorn balls, about 2 in diameter and place on wax paper. Marshmallow mixture is EXTREMELY sticky so use palms to shape into a ball.

Store in air tight container for up to 3 days.
Enjoy!

Swedish Meatballs

These were one of my all time favorites as a kid, although my mother used to make them with hamburger patties instead of meatballs (and serve it with mashed potatoes instead of egg noodles, but still). With it being September and getting ready for fall, I notice my taste buds change and I start craving different foods - this being one of them. However, this is not one of those fancy recipes that takes a large amount of time which means its perfect for a quick dinner.

INGREDIENTS

30-40 meatballs, pre-cooked (I used frozen store bought and just heated them up)
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
1 can milk (fill soup can)
1 tsp liquid smoke
Egg noodles (or mashed potatoes)
Parsley (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Combine soup, milk, and liquid smoke in slow cooker. You can add additional milk if you want a thinner gravy. Mix well. Add meatballs and cook until thoroughly heated. I heat on high for about an hour then place on warm until we are ready to eat.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Strain.

Serve with meatballs and gravy on top of noodles, garnish with parsley if desired.

24 August 2007

Tony P's Seafood Guac-tail

A few weeks ago I had the honor of being in my step-sisters wedding out in LA. She, of course, was a beautiful bride - but that's a different story for a different time. While there, we ended up at Tony P's Dockside Grill near Marina Del Ray for a nice lunch on the coast. After debating on whether or not we wanted an appetizer, we saw they offered a Seafood Guac-tail and knew that was the one to go for since my husband is a huge Ceviche fan and I am completely addicted to guacamole - this seemed like the best of both worlds. They brought it out in a deep sundae glass with a small fork surrounded by tortilla chips. With our first bite, we knew this was a something we wanted to try at home. It was the fresh flavors of the tomatoes and avocados and the perfect addition of the shrimp and blue crab - perfect for a nice, warm, sunny afternoon! One thing to note, I used imitation crab meat in mine since I'm not sure where to find the blue crab meat - but it was still de-lish.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 C Tomatoes, diced
1 T cilantro, chopped
3-4 T red onion, diced
juice of half a lemon
juice of half a lime
2 serrano peppers, seeded and diced
2 avocados, diced
4 oz crab meat
12 cooked shrimp, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Mixe all ingredients together, chill for at least 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.


14 July 2007

Don't be a hater!


I know, I know, I know ... it's been over a month and I haven't posted anything new - how sad! Here is where I admit I go through stages, and lately its been the one where we have either been out of the house, whether its for some sort of party or just eating out, and where dinner has been something I've already posted or not worthy of posting (ie. taco's or some other non-recipe item). The good news is once I get back into my rhythm of posting again, you know you can expect new recipes fairly often for a while ... although I hate to admit with this weeks menu, I don't think this is the week I'll be starting, although I do have some ice cream batter in the fridge we're hoping to place into the handy, dandy ice cream maker we got last summer and STILL haven't used ... so anything is possible. I know my wonderful husband wants banana ice cream, so who knows, maybe this week will be filled with all sorts of wonderful desserts.

In the meantime, we've been spending some quality time with our new camera, and here are just a few of the shots we've taken so far:

This is my best friend and I getting ready for a bachelorette party, sadly we live about 1,000 miles apart and see each other once a year if we're lucky. How I wish she'd moved closer!

This is our from our backyard - the sunsets over the lake are truly amazing!
Here, one of Texas's very own, Bluebonnets.
And for the finally - I made my poor husband play animal cop and save on the LARGEST FROG I'VE EVER SEEN! He was sitting in the middle of our road and I almost hit him driving home - but luckily I didn't and instead told my husband to go get the shovel and save his life. I'm still amazed at how big he was.




03 June 2007

Not-Quite-Quiche Mini Muffins


Mmmmm breakfast foods! I love breakfast foods but actually don't eat them often because of the cholesterol in eggs and bacon, the sugar in pancakes and waffles, and with my husband working nights it just doesn't work well for us - but today was different. I tried this recipe last week actually and while it was okay, I knew I could do better. Plus, I'm always looking for a reason to use my mini-muffin pans or my pampered chef cookie/muffin scoops.

When originally searching, I was looking for a quiche recipe and realized I didn't have the pie crust or the patience to try and make one. I stumbled across this recipe and read the reviews - seeing that its not quite your traditional quiche, but its a quick and easy way to get something similar. I have a feeling this is going to be a recipe to stick around for a while since now only are they good fresh out of the over, they are good reheated as well - always a bonus!

INGREDIENTS

6 strips of Bacon, sliced (or half a package)
4 eggs
3/4 C Baking Mix (like Bisquick)
1 1/2 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
2 C FRESHLY shredded cheese (I use cheddar and muenster)
1/2 tsp onion powder

DIRECTIONS:

Fry bacon and drain on paper towel. (I use a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat)

Mix eggs and baking mix in a bowl. Add parsley, onion powder, and cheese. Notice the stress on FRESHLY shredded cheese, it tends to mix in better than pre-packaged shredded cheese. Add bacon and mix to combine.

Scoop batter into mini-muffin tin (do not use paper inserts). Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Do NOT over cook since the eggs will get rubbery.

We serve ours with Sirachi hot sauce to add a little kick to it. I was a little hesitant at first, but learned quickly that this is in fact GREAT, and is the only way I'll eat them now.

02 June 2007

Quaker Granol Bites


Yum. I received my free trial of these Quaker Granola Bites in the mail and set them on the counter for a few days, basically forgetting about them. Until Yesterday. As I stated in my previous post, my husband was up late, meaning he would sleep late, leading to dinner being later, and ultimately causing me to snack - which brings us to these little morsels of GREATNESS. I have to admit these were far better than I imagined, and I will in fact be purchasing these for work snacks.

The little pouches have 90 calories per pack, 0g of trans fat (3.5g total fat though), and have 10% of your daily value of fiber - and fiber is good.

I tried the chocolate ones and loved them, my stepsister told me the peanut butter ones are also de-lish (I am not a huge peanut butter fan, but I might be will to give these a whirl anyhow), and I can only image the cinnamon ones are addicting too.

So, go out and get yourself a box!

Slow Cooker Brats


Here we have a perfect example of using ingredients for more than one dish to ensure we don't waste the leftovers. What makes this dish even better is that you make it in the slow cooker so you can be busy doing other things or you don't have to have a specific dinner time - which was our case. My husband works nights and normally gets up about the time I get home, but on this day he had a hard time sleeping and ended up mowing the lawn in the middle of the day, meaning he slept past our normal dinnertime. Rather than forcing him to get up and eat or have to deal with leftovers, I just popped this into the slow cooker so it was ready once he wanted to eat (and luckily he's not much of a breakfast person, so this for his first meal is a-ok with him).

This is also one of those easy meals you can get all the ingredients for and not worry about the fresh items going bad - just freeze the brats, buy the sauerkraut you can keep in the pantry and if you're like us and normally have beer on hand, great, if not, omit the beer.

*Note: I was excited one day finding Boar's Head sauerkraut, however I was disappointed in the flavor, or rather lack there of. I love their cold cuts, but won't be getting their sauerkraut again.

INGREDIENTS

5-6 Brats
1 Jar of Sauerkraut
1 bottle of dark beer (again, I suggest Shiner Bock)

DIRECTIONS

(This is the easy part!) Place Brats in slow cooker, cover with sauerkraut and beer. Cook for 4-5 hours on low.
Serve with mustard on a place, in a bun, in a tortilla, or any other way you'd like!

I did put these one more morning before I left for work and we had them when I got home, the flavor was find but the brats feel apart when trying to remove them with a fork. The flavor was fine but I prefer them to hold their shape a little better.

31 May 2007

Roast Beef Reubens

This is one of those recipes I had to make my own since I'm not a big fan of the normal Reuben ingredients - I'm picky about corned beef and really only like it the way my mother makes it, I'm not a big Thousand Island dressing gal, and I pretty much loathe rye bread (wow - I've talked a lot lately about things I DON'T like!). What's even more is I couldn't STAND sauerkraut as a kid and in fact opened all the windows in the house to get the smell out - yet now I like it in certain situations but shhhhh, don't tell my mom!

I decided to try these sandwiches for my wonderful husband who has ordered a Reuben at various restaurants and thus far has only found it at one place where he really likes it - and that just happens to be a bar: The Flying Saucer. This is actually one of our favorite places to go, but that's another story for another day. On to the goods:

INGREDIENTS

***These are all done by personal preference so I don't have measurements.

Bread - I used 9 grain bread because I couldn't find pumpernickel. I think any heavier bread will work.
Deli Sliced Roast Beef
Swiss Cheese slices
Sauerkraut
Spicy brown mustard (or other of your choice)
Olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Place sauerkraut in small saucepan over low to medium heat.

Heat a grill pan over medium to medium high heat.

Assemble sandwich such that there is a slice of cheese on each slice bread, then top with roast beef, mustard, and sauerkraut. Combine halves to make full sandwich and brush the top side of one piece of bread with olive oil.

Place the sandwich oiled side down in the grill pan and place another pan or panini press on top. Cook until cheese begins to melt and bread has been toasted.

Brush olive oil on the top side of the bread and flip sandwich (fresh oil side is now down). Again place weight on sandwich and cook until cheese on bottom melts. Serve immediately.

This sandwich goes GREAT with a darker beer - our favorite is of course Texas' own Shiner Bock.

28 May 2007

7 Random Foodie Facts

In response to my new place on the Foodie Blogroll and my new search obsession, it appears there has been a challenge for all members to list 7 random facts about themselves - so here goes!

1. I won't eat anything that is looking at me and I was ooged out the first time I had to peel LEGS off a shrimp - and I LOVE shrimp. What this means is I won't go into a seafood restaurant and pick out my lobster - if Snapper (he now has a name) is alive when I walk in, then I need to believe he is alive when I walk out. This does NOT mean I am a vegan or refuse to eat meat, I just can't be made to feel guilty while doing in. This also means if my husband catches dinner in our lake, he MUST turn it into meat before asking me to cook it. Yes, I am a little bit crazy, and he loves me anyway.

2. On the same topic, I don't eat meat that is still on the bone - and this has nothing to do with the "animal-likeness" it has. This comes from me being picky and the fact that meat on the bone has too much stuff that appears as something OTHER than meat to me - ie grisle, etc. So, in fact I WILL eat it, but I end up eating about half of it because the remaining portion is questionable in my eyes. This also holds true for buffalo wings, but I don't like buffalo sauce, celery, or the blue cheese dressing - so this snack is completely lost on me.

3. I can make an entire meal out of potatoes - and often did as a kid. A trip to a buffet-style restaurant ended up with a plate of roasted new potatoes, mashed potatoes, french fries, and a baked potato. Oh - and a roll, so I guess my love is carbs more than potatoes, but still.

4. I have a cat, well, actually 2 cats, but I have one cat that barks. At night. About 15 minutes after I go to bed. I will be just about to sleep and I'll hear her, dragging her toy down the hallway and barking. This cat can NOT meow and earned her name Squeakers. But, she can bark. Loudly. It is quite possibly the funniest cat noise I have ever heard.

5. I have a job where I cannot wear perfume, make-up, scented lotions, hair products, or contacts. I love it. I also find it quite humorous when I meet another lady who hears this and claims that she could NEVER have a job like that. Strange I think since it shortens my morning, allows me to go to the gym at lunch and shower without the extended time to finish myself, as well as saves LOADS of money since I don't go through this stuff so fast. On the other hand, it makes me lazy on the weekends and I have to admit I wear make-up less than every weekend. Luckily, my husband loves me and knew this to begin with.

6. I can touch my tongue to my nose. No further explanation needed.

7. I have no idea if I am allergic to poison ivy - which my dad tells me means I'm not, but still. My mother is HIGHLY allergic and my dad is not, so it seems like I have a 50/50 chance - but who is going to PURPOSELY play in poison ivy just to find out? Not I.

So, there you go. Now you know a little more about me and my quirkiness. And - you also know why you will not see a lobster recipe or a chicken leg recipe any time soon.

Mediterranean White Fish and Couscous



After my husband and I got married in October, we vowed to do "China Sunday's" to encourage us to 1) sit down to dinner together at the table and 2) use the wonderful china we received at our wedding. We are also hoping this catches on to more days of the week and becomes a normal evening dinner before we have children since I don't want to raise them with eating out all the time or eating in front of the TV. This routine of China Sunday went to the wayside for the past month or so due to a variety of circumstances, but we are eagerly trying to start it up again - and while today is Monday, it was a holiday so we considered it our Sunday.

With this in mind and not feeling manwich and taco's are China worthy, I made a menu for the week and this seafood dish was the winner for today - partly because I felt it had the best presentation potential and partly because I didn't want to freeze the fresh fish. Knowing that my husband loves olives and fish, and my doctor (as well as the rest of the health world) has told me to eat more fish, I felt this would be a great addition to our normal meal rotation - and it was a hit.

As with all recipes, feel free to substitute and alter as you see fit, but remember that changing what is listed may not always yield satisfactory results. I hope you enjoy!

COUSCOUS
INGREDIENTS

1 C water
1 C couscous
1 C halved grape tomatoes
1/4 C chopped olives (I used green, although the recipe called for kalamata)
3 Tbl chopped red onion
2 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
Juice from half lemon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 large clove crushed garlic
1 Tbl olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS

Bring 1 C water to boil. Add couscous, stir, cover, and remove from heat. Allow to sit for about 5-6 minutes then fluff with a fork.

Mix couscous with remaining ingredients in large bowl, ensuring it is mixed well. Set aside while you prepare the fish.

WHITE FISH

INGREDIENTS

4 white fish fillets such as Mahimahi or tilapia
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
12 Lemon slices (about 1 1/2 lemons)

DIRECTIONS

Prepare parchment paper for fish fillets. I use the Cooking Light method of cutting a large heart shape into the paper, placing the fillet in the center and fold paper over it, then begin rolling the edges together starting opposite the point, then using the point end to seal it.

Sprinkle both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and place onto the parchment paper. Drizzle about a Tbl of olive oil and top with 3 lemon slices. Seal the parchment paper and place on a baking sheet.

Bake for about 12-13 minutes at 425. Remove and serve immediately with couscous.

27 May 2007

Slow Cooker BBQ Pork


Wow. This is one of those recipes you wonder how you got along without. Simple and yet so amazing. You can bet this will be added to our standard rotation. We served this up with a side of potato salad and come fresh corn on the cob and it was the perfect spring dinner following a busy day. I have a feeling this is going to make some absolutely marvelous left overs as well.

INGREDIENTS

~3 lb pork loin
1 can beef broth
1 bottle BBQ sauce
Onions (optional)
Buns

DIRECTIONS

Trim fat form pork loin and place in slow cooker. Top with beef broth and add water until entire loin is submerged. Depending on how it fits, you can always add another can of beef broth. Cook on low for about 4-5 hours.

Remove from cooker and shred meat with forks. Since this is to be sued as sandwich meat, use this to determine how much you'll need to shred the meat.

Drain broth into separate bowl and place shredded pork back into cooker. Mix in bottle of BBQ sauce and add broth if you feel it needs more juice. Cook on low for 1-2 hours.

Serve on buns, topped with onions or your choice of other toppings.

26 April 2007

Mom's Chocolate Oatmeal No Bakes


These are great cookies to make, especially when you have something else baking and can't use the oven but still want to make cookies. These are also some of my favorite cookies from my childhood - and remain that way today. They don't have your typical cookie dough texture and remind me more of a fudge mixed with oatmeal, so how can you go wrong? These are perfect for those cookie exchanges or gift tins at Christmas, or even just satisfying a sweet tooth on a weeknight.


INGREDIENTS

1/2 C Butter
*Add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter
1/2 C Milk
2 C white sugar
1/2 C peanut butter
1/4 C cocoa
1 Tbl Vanilla
3 C Oats

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients except oats in saucepan, bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute to ensure sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add oats and mix well. Spoon mixture onto wax paper and allow to cool. Store in air-tight container.

18 April 2007

Hokie Hope


While I am not VT alum (MSU Spartan actually) and don't know anyone that attends this school, I still want to show my support to those who have been impacted by this horrible tragedy. So rather than reflect one what's happen or talk more about this awful event, I will leave you with this - a chance to show your support with something as simple as wearing a t-shirt, a hat, a sweatshirt, etc. We are all part of the Virginia Tech family at this time.

31 March 2007

Fresh Veggie Pizza


This is one of those meals I crave in the spring and summer when the weather is nice and the fresh veggies are great. It's something my mother used to make for us and was an easy way for her to get us kids to eat our vegetables. Also, several of the items I use come in low-fat or non-fat options, helping to make it healthier. The only downfall is that it doesn't save well so leftovers aren't that great - of course we never end up with any leftovers anyhow!

INGREDIENTS

1 can crescent rolls
4 oz cream cheese
8 oz sour cream
powdered ranch mix
shredded cheddar (or other cheese of your choice)
diced fresh veggies

DIRECTIONS

Roll out the crescent dough onto a cookie sheet and make sure to press the pre-cut edges together to form your pizza crust. Bake it according to the directions and allow to cool.

Mix cream cheese, sour cream, and ranch mix together to form the sauce of the pizza. Spread it on the cooled crust. Top with your shredded cheese and fresh veggies.

Another option is to top it with the ranch sauce, then cut it into pieces and allow everyone to top it with the cheese and veggies as they like.

WARNING - this can be messy if you load it down like we do, so make sure to have forks and napkins handy!

13 March 2007

Simple Apple Crisp

Image from Eagle Brand

What could be better than old fashion Apple Crisp? Simple - a quick version of apple crisp with vanilla bean ice cream on top! My husband's family was coming over for dinner and I needed some sort of easy dessert (since my dinner plans were a little more involved) - this recipe was PERFECT! Of course, my husband also loves cinnamon apples, so this took that into account as well.

INGREDIENTS

2 cans apple pie filling
1 tsp cinnamon

1 C quick oats
1 C all-purpose flour
1C brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C butter, melted
honey

DIRECTIONS

Combine the pie filing and 1 tsp cinnamon - spread evenly in a baking dish. In a separate bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except honey - mix well. Spread topping evenly over pie filling and drizzle with honey.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

11 March 2007

Blueberry Crumb Muffins


In my search for something slightly different than normal blueberry muffins, I came across a recipe for these - Blueberry Crumb Muffins - and I have to admit they are great. I made a few changes to try a healthier version, and the end result was nothing to be disappointed about.

INGREDIENTS

Muffins
2/3 C all-purpose flour
2/3 C whole wheat flour
1/3 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 C vegetable oil
3 egg whites
1/2 C milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C blueberries

Crumb Topping
1/3 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C butter, softened (not melted)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C brown sugar

DIRECTIONS
Combine flours, sugars, salt and baking soda. Add oil, egg whites, milk, and vanilla until thoroughly mixed. Gentle fold in blueberries, being careful not to smash them.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full (into either baking cups or greased muffin tins).
Combine the crumb topping using a fork. Place a small amount onto each filled muffin.

Bake muffins at 375 for 22-25 minutes (11-13 for mini muffins).

07 March 2007

Macjak Chicken


This is one of those recipes I've heard raves about from a variety of people, so we're renaming it for them - a combination of Mackie and Divjak (Macjak) - this recipe is also lovingly known as Garlic Cheddar Chicken. I was truly amazed at just how easy this was, which I think we'll all agree is a GREAT thing, especially for week nights. Whats even better is how delicious the house smells while cooking this, if you like garlic of course. We served this with asparagus (steamed and top with butter, garlic powder, and sea salt) and a doctored up version of Kraft's Caesar Pasta Salad. This pasta salad is one of my favorites since its not a mayonnaise base. I try to use either Enova oil or olive oil with it. Tonight, I added some fresh dill (left over from the egg salad) and some diced tomatoes and red onions - which my wonderful husband stated added a great freshness to the salad. If you haven't tried this salad, I highly recommend it for any occasion you want something quick - and as always, feel free to doctor us as you like.
On to the chicken!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 C Butter
4-5 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 C grated Cotija (or regular Parmesan)
3/4 C Bread Crumbs
1 1/2 C Shredded Cheddar
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
8 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

***I use Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs and omit the parsley and oregano.

DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in a shallow fry pan over low heat, add minced garlic and mix well. Heat at least 5 minutes for garlic to soften.

In a shallow bowl, mix breadcrumbs, cheeses, and spices (including salt and pepper).

Dip each chicken breast in the butter mixture, coating on both sides. Then dredge through the breadcrumbs to again coat on both sides. Place in an oven safe dish. Repeat for each chicken breast. Drizzle any remaining butter over chicken breasts and top with any remaining bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Eat.

04 March 2007

Egg Salad with Dill

While discussing what to eat for brunch this morning, we had the Food Channel on (of course). Ina was making a variety of items and one happen to be her Smoked Salmon and Egg Salad Tartines. My husband and I looked at each other and the debate was solved - we wanted egg salad! I normally make this by just mixing hard boiled eggs with Miracle Whip and voila! - but this was better, it has stone ground mustard and fresh dill - how can anything with fresh dill be bad? This was so quick and tasty it will replace my boring old egg salad recipe (unless of course I don't have dill).

INGREDIENTS

12 Large eggs
1/2 C Miracle Whip
2 tsp Stone Ground Mustard
1 Tbl Fresh Dill, chopped
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
Wheat Bread

DIRECTIONS

Since I hate recipes that don't include ALL cooking instructions, I'm including my egg boiling as well.

Place eggs in bottom of pot and fill with cold water to ensure eggs are completely submerged with a little extra water. Bring water to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover, and let eggs cook for 20 minutes. Once time is up, transfer eggs to an ice bath to cool (and help prevent yolk form turning green). Let eggs cool at least 10 minutes.

In large bowl, mix Miracle Whip, mustard, dill, salt, and pepper.
Peel eggs and process in food processor until all crumbly. Transfer eggs to large bowl with Miracle Whip mixture and combine. Feel free to adjust amount of Miracle Whip for egg salad consistency you like. Then - Make Sandwiches! I prefer toast, but its fine on regular bread too. Enjoy!

26 February 2007

Fresh Salsa Cheat


I love salsa almost as much as I love my husbands guacamole and over the years I have made several different batches. I use to chop everything by hand - ughh! To make it worse, I enjoyed the salsas, but the flavor was never quite what I was looking for, it was always missing layers of flavor so I kept trying. And trying. And trying.

Then I found what I was looking for - my husband's mother and uncle both made a homemade salsa with the layer of flavors I was looking for so of course I asked for the recipe. I about fell out of my chair when they told me the secret. "Start with a jar of Pace" *GASP* What? So they told me again, start with a jar of pace and add your own ingredients, them mix them all in the blender and Voila! Fresh flavored salsa in a matter of minutes. This solved so many issues for me it was unbelievable - part of the reason I don't like jarred salsas is the chunks of cooked (I DO NOT like chunks of cooked tomatoes in anything - odd, I know) AND it allowed me to have that fresh flavor I enjoy so much. Add to that how easy this is and I knew it was the end to my "homemade salsa in a flash" search. Plus, you can change the flavors by changing the salsa you start with as well as the fresh ingredients you add, but here is my basic method.

INGREDIENTS

1 average size jar of your favorite salsa
2-3 roma tomatoes
1/2 - 1 red onion
2-3 fresh peppers (Serrano, Jalapeno, etc)
Handful of fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS

Chop tomatoes and onions into manageable pieces to add to blender / food processor. Seed peppers. Combine all ingredients in blender / food processor and process until smooth. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Matty's 'mazing Guacamole

Normally Sunday night is reserved for a grand dinner served on our china and enjoyed at the dining table ... well, not yesterday. We were all set to get our surround sound set up after being in our house for almost 2 years so we spent the day in the attic ... and lost our battle, which really doesn't matter here other than it explains why we wanted a quick dinner. Sooo - we decided on Taco Night which is one of my FAVORITE'S, especially when my wonderful husband makes his oh-so-tasty guacamole. Yum. Seriously, yum! And to think growing up I never ate guac - how crazy was I!?!?! And what makes this even better is when served with the lime Tostito chips - let's just say perfection.

***Note: all measurements are approximates, we never measure for this. Feel free to add as much or as little as you want - I like mine chunky with lots of stuff besides avocados.

INGREDIENTS

2-3 avocados
1/4 C diced red onion
1/4 C diced roma tomato
1/8 C fresh cilantro
1-2 Serrano peppers, seeded and diced (can use jalapenos)
juice of 1 lime, fresh
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder

DIRECTIONS

Peel and seed avocados and place flesh into a bowl. Use 2 forks to chop / smash avocados until desired consistency. Add onion, tomato, Serrano, and cilantro and mix well. Squeeze limes to add juice, watch for seeds. Add garlic powder and salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.

NOTE:

Avocados should be slightly soft to the touch, enough to give way when pressed but not super soft. I think of it almost like chilled cream cheese.

Roma tomatoes are best since they remain firm even after being diced.

If using garlic SALT, omit the remaining salt.

20 February 2007

Mardi Gras Hooray!

Three years ago today, my cousin and I (pic above) made the trek to New Orleans for the great celebration of Mardi Gras. On our first full day there, we found a balcony along Bourbon that you could pay to be on for a few hours, so for anyone who hasn't been, the balcony's basically run the crowds so they are the place to be.


There were a few other people up there, one of who we ended up talking to and quickly learned his uncle owned the place - GOOD PERSON TO KNOW! We chatted for a while and he invited us back later that evening, so of course we came back and spent the night indulging in free beverages and the greatest entertainment of throwing beads at people (yes AT them, not necessarily TO them). Anyhow, to make a long story short, 3 years later I am now married to the guy who's uncle owned the business with the balcony we met on and Mardi Gras has special place in our hearts.

On to the food! I know I said I was going to post a Jambalaya recipe but I have to admit, it was less than I hoped for so I'm not posting the recipe. However, we have made Shrimp Etouffee on several occasions and while I haven't made it lately, I still have the recipe to post. I was amazed at how simple this one is and how good it came out, so I hope you enjoy it to!

SHRIMP ETOUFFEE

INGREDIENTS

1 lb shrimp, devined
1/4 lb butter
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (I do red for color)
1 rib of celery, diced
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 C water
1/4 C parsley, chopped
1/4 chives, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Creole or Cajun seasoning to taste (start with a tsp and go from there)
Cooked white rice

DIRECTIONS

Saute onions, peppers, and celery in butter until soft. Stir in shrimp, seasoning, parsley, and chives and cook thoroughly.

Dissolve cornstarch in water and add to pan, stirring constantly. Let simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve over white rice.

***Note: water and cornstarch can be adjusted to create a thinner or thicker sauce depending on personal taste. Crawfish can be substituted for shrimp.



18 February 2007

Lemon Spritz Cookie Press Cookies


For Christmas, I received a cookie press kit and I have to admit I had NO idea what to do with it. Luckily, it came with a few recipes, one of which I tried tonight. These are light cookies that are good plain or would be even better with a little lemon frosting - or filling if you make them into sandwich cookies. I would add the frosting, but I don't need to extra sugar! While making these cookies, I've learned a few things about my handy dandy little cookie press:

1) If the recipe calls for zest, make sure to use one of the discs with larger holes. My first attempt ended in the zest getting stuck in the holes and then the cookie wouldn't form correctly.

2) You have to clean the grease off the cookie sheets between batches. If there is the grease (butter) from the previous set, the dough won't stick to the cookie sheet.

3) Don't refill the cookie press if there is still a seal of dough at the disc - you end up with a big air pocket in the middle and the cookies again don't form correctly.

4) This is totally my fault - if your cookie sheet comes with instructions to reduce ALL recipes by 25 degrees, don't forget. My first batch got a little OVER baked. Oh well.

INGREDIENTS

1 C Butter, softened
3 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1 C Sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp Vanilla
1 1/4 tsp lemon zest (I used 1 lemon, will use at least 2 next time)
3/4 tsp Lemon Extract
2 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and mix until fluffy. Add egg yolk, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon extract. Mix well. Gradually add flour and salt and mix completely. DO NOT CHILL DOUGH.

Set up cookie press (select disc) and put dough into press. Press cookies onto UNGREASED, COOL cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

***Extra's: dough can be colored by any food coloring, or you can use a mix of colors by creating various small colored logs that are placed into cookie press together. These will be great around holidays or other events where you can play with various shapes and colors.

17 February 2007

A Tribute to Ray


Ray was a man I worked with for a little over a year and he passed away earlier this week unexpectedly. It's been a sad and numb few days as my work group mourns his loss and at the same time attempts to cover his duties until we determine the best way to either delay projects or find a replacement. The service is being held tomorrow and at this point it still doesn't seem real. We expect to walk past his desk and see him, or to have him stop by to chat a little before heading home. We remember stories he'd share of his children or how he had to coax his cat to come out and play. In times like this you remember the small things, how he brought in Pixar's Cars to let you borrow because you mentioned once in passing you'd like to see it. Or how every time he choose lunch it ended up being fish. Or how no matter how many times you worked with him on one particular program, it always seemed to get the best of him so he'd ask again. I guess for me what I feel is the worst is that none of those memories are as vivid as the memory of the instant I learned he passed away. I'll never forget how numb I was, or the phone call asking me to come to the conference room - when I knew what was going to be said. In that short minute walk, those thoughts were flowing through my head and I knew, I just KNEW - but even now I still am in some denial. How could someone I was talking to Monday, some one who was at work and normal on Monday, be gone now? It just doesn't seem right. I guess we all know it is part of life, that death is inevitable and unpredictable, and unfair, but its the one thing that no matter what else happens, it'll be there. And while I mourn, while we all mourn his sudden loss, I have the joy of remembering a conversation we had a short time ago, when he told me he enjoyed the chance to work with me and enjoyed knowing me. And as silly as it may be, knowing I made his life a little brighter makes me feel good and helps me through the grief a little easier. If nothing else, remember that little piece and use it - tell those around you how important they are to you and how you enjoy having them in your life. You never know when you'll run out of tomorrows.

Ray, this one's for you (written by my grandfather, Stanley Stefanski):

FRIENDS & ASSOCIATES
Passing through life is like a thread in a piece of cloth.
Some threads are strong others are weak.
Some are deeply colored to withstand time and weather while others are slightly tinted on the surface and fade at the least provocation.
Some are bright colored while others are dull colored, but each is beautiful to behold in a place all their own.
The most beautiful cloths are multicolored with colors that make an impression on all who experience the privilege of contact with them.
Since beauty is also expressed through the sense of touch, some cloths are soft and cuddly, while others are coarse and sturdy but each with its use in life – since one would not do in the place of the other in a specific need.
Some cloths remain in the memories of all who saw or felt them, all their lives because of the colors or feel.
Others are forgotten in accordance with the old motto “out of sight, out of mind.”

My only wish out of life here on Earth, is that as I go through life – just as a thread weaves through other threads to make a cloth – that the pattern I help to make will be preserved in the minds and souls of all I come in contact with.
I would like to be the colored thread that adds a bright spot to a sad place, like bright flowers in an otherwise dark forest.
I would like to be the touch of dark in an otherwise too bright area, which makes the difference between irritation or a warm, friendly atmosphere.
I would like to be the neutral color between bright and dark, so that each would be beautiful in its own way individually.
I would like to be the raised part of the pattern when it’s necessary for a rough texture, and the smooth part when it will enhance the pattern.
All this I would like so that when my thread runs out – God will say on my judgment day – “Every thread you touched while weaving the cloth was made better because of your contact with them which is life lasting.”

Valentine's Dinner

Let me start by saying I married the best man in the world. Valentine's week was a bad one this year, not because of my husband, but because of other things that we had to deal with. However, this year my husband decided that he would take care of Valentine's Day and luckily, he had the evening off. We had decided a while back that we would NOT be going out to eat since it seems most places have a set menu and jack up the prices for everything - this along with the crowds just is not what we consider a nice, relaxing night. We'll save our trip to the Melting Pot or other yummy restaurant for another night. Meanwhile, my husband decided to make this scrumptious dinner for us at HOME that we could easily enjoy in our pajama's. So while I had to work late, he was able to start dinner.

We ended up having quick broiled Filet Mignon with sauteed mushrooms, steamed asparagus topped with butter and garlic powder, and garlic mashed potatoes boiled with chicken bouillon. He also bought a bottle of Cline Red Zinfandel that was really pretty tasty. We had ever intention to follow it up with the chocolate souffles with hot fudge sauce I tried earlier, but we had already stuffed ourselves as well as ran out of time. All in all, we didn't miss it anyhow! I have included some of the tricks used for this meal below.

Steak - marinated with steak season and a little Worcestershire, broiled on each side for about 8-10 minutes (depends on thickness and how you like it cooked).

Mashed Potatoes - boil them with a few cloves of garlic and a couple chicken bouillon cubes. Drain most of the water once the potatoes are done and mash with butter and milk. These have enough flavor that gravy is NEVER needed.

Asparagus - cut off the hard ends, place in a steamer in a pot of boiling water. I usually turn the stove off once I put the asparagus in and let the heat from the burner and the water cook the asparagus. This keeps it from getting over-cooked so it is still crunchy. We then switch it to a bowl and top it with butter and garlic powder.

I have to admit, there is nothing better that a marvelous steak, grand mashed potatoes, yummy asparagus, a nice glass of wine all served on your wedding china and enjoyed IN pajama's with the one you love. I couldn't have asked for a better Valentine's Day.


Cinnamon Banana Muffins


I love bananas. Love them. However, I buy them and for some reason I am bad about eating them, which is crazy since I love bananas. So, I end up with a lot of very ripe bananas which means making lots of banana items. This leads to my latest - banana muffins with cinnamon chips - yummmmm.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C White Sugar
1/4 C Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3-4 ripe banana's, mashed
1 tsp Vanilla
1 egg
1/3 C butter, melted
1 C Cinnamon Chips (or chocolate)

DIRECTIONS

Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well blended.

Add banana's, vanilla, egg, and butter - mix just enough to blend. Add cinnamon chips and again mix just until blended. (Very little mixing helps lead to fluffy muffins so take care not to over beat).

Drop by spoonfuls into either greased or lined muffin tins. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 (15-20 for mini muffins).

The Best Damn Slow Cooker Chili


Chili is one of those meals I grew up with that never had a set recipe. My parents always used a little of this and a little of that - never giving it the same flavor twice. This was fine as a kid since they always made it and the chili always tasted great, but when it comes time to make it yourself, the lack of recipe makes it quite a challenge. I tried a little of this and a little of that over the past couple years and while my chili always tasted good, it never tasted GREAT, so the search continued. Until now. This is by far one of the best chili recipes I've ever found. And, while I still do measure exactly and the ingredient list may change slightly, I still have the main base which always leads me to a wonderful finish.

INGREDIENTS

2 Lbs beef stew meat
1 can black beans, drained
1 can pinto or kidney beans, drained
1 can chili beans in spicy sauce
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 onion, diced
2 bell pepper, seeded and diced (any color or combination - I use 1 red and 1 green)
2-3 green chile peppers, seeded and diced
1 Tbl bacon bits
4 cubes beef bouillon
1/2 C beer
1/4 C chili powder
1 Tbl Worcestershire
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl dried Oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar

TOPPINGS (optional)

Frito's Corn Chips
Diced onion
Sour cream
Shredded cheese

DIRECTIONS

Place beef in slow cooker, add all other chili ingredients and stir to mix. Simmer on low at least until meat is cooked. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. I will mix all the ingredients the night before then place the removable pot in the refrigerator so I can just put it in the cooker and simmer all the next day. Works perfectly for a week day meal that is ready when you get home.

CAUTION - make sure your slow cooker is larger enough for all ingredients.

11 February 2007

What's new

I haven't made many "new" recipes lately, but I have a few planned for the near future, so be patient! I have an amazing chili recipe I want to make tomorrow as well as some slow cooker BBQ beef and a Jambalaya to try just in time for Mardi Gras - keep your fingers crossed that they come out tasting great. Meanwhile, we have been a little crafty at home AND added to our family with a new cat.

We picked up Tugboat Charlie (Tugsy - above) on Sunday Feb 4th - he's about 3-4 years old and weighs about 16 pounds. We brought him home, set the carrier on the floor and open the door, thinking it would take him a little time to get adjusted - WRONG! He immediately came out, sniffed around a little and laid on the floor. A few minutes later he joined us on the couch, climbed into our lap and started purring - and has been like that ever since. I was amazed as how quickly he became comfortable here. Now, if we could just get our other cat, Squeakers (below), to get along with him everything would be grand. Hopefully with time.


On this same Sunday, we were able to pick up our new dining table. As we were taking the pieces out to put it together, we learned it was not exactly what we ordered and had cushions instead of solid wood seats. At first, we were going to take it back but really didn't want to deal with the hassle nor did we want to wait any longer to get the new one, so we decided to just recover the cushions instead - I mean, this can't be TOO complicated, could it? We went and picked out new fabric, then headed to the hardware store to pick up a staple gun and staples. A few hours and a blister later, we were finished - and highly impressed with the outcome! One the right is the original cushion - it was almost a yellow and looked AWFUL with our decor. On the left is the recovered cushion, a dark greenish-gray suede like material - and looks perfect! My husband decided he liked the recovered cushion even better than the solid wood, which of course makes me happy. And what's even better? I have enough fabric left to make a matching table runner. Three cheers for a wonderful Sunday!!!


30 January 2007

Cilantro-Serrano Pesto with Grilled Chicken and Penne


We've become big fans of pesto so I'm always on the look out for more recipes to try, and this one is a hit. I was a little leery of the ingredients at first, but after that first bite I was hooked. The hardest part of this recipe is grilling the chicken which is pretty easy, so you can only imagine how difficult it is - all in all its perfect for a weeknight or anytime you need a quick meal. We served it up with a nice mixed green salad and glass of wine.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 C Fresh Cilantro
1/2 C Fresh mint
1/2 C Cotija Cheese
3 Tbl pecans
1 tsp kosher salt
3 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
2 Tbl EVOO
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp black pepper
3/4 Lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
Cooking spray
6 C cooked penne
2 C sliced cherry tomatoes

DIRECTIONS

Place cilantro and next 6 ingredients (through chiles) into a food processor and process until smooth. Slowly add EVOO until well blended. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in vinegar and black pepper.

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat chicken with cooking spray and add to pan. Cook completely, about 5 minutes on each side. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Add chicken and penne to pesto, mix to coat. Top with tomato slices.

***NOTE: I was a little hesitant about the tomatoes, but they add great flavor and work well with the rest of the flavors. Sooo yummy!

28 January 2007

Double Chocolate Souffle w/ Fudge Sauce




In the past few years I have become more and more confident with my cooking skills, but I had to try a souffle. I remember hearing as a kid how tough souffles could be and how often they would "fall" so I had always avoided this particular dessert ... until tonight. I had spotted a recipe in my wonderful Cooking Light magazine a while back and made a note to buy the necessary items for it. For some reason, tonight seemed the time to attempt it - especially since my husband had come home form work this morning and stayed up for a while, which meant he would be sleeping for a majority of the day, giving me time alone in the kitchen. So, I gathered up the recipe and all the ingredients and went to work - and much to my suprise, these little pillows of chocolate came out wonderful! If you are like I was an afraid of the flat souffle, don't be! Give these a shot, you just might be amazed!

INGREDIENTS

SOUFFLE
Cooking spray
1/2 C and 2 Tbl white sugar, divided
3 Tbl flour
3 Tbl unsweetened cocoa
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 C milk
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg yolk
6 large egg whites

SAUCE
1 Tbl butter
1/3 C white sugar
2 Tbl unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbl flour
1/2 C milk
1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Position oven rack to lowest setting and remove middle rack. Preheat to 425.

SOUFFLES
Lightly coat 6 (8 oz) ramekins with cooking spray (I used shortening). Sprinkle even with sugar to give batter something to cling to when rising.

Combine remaining 1/2 C sugar, 3 Tbl flour, 3 Tbl cocoa, and salt in saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a whick. Gradually add 1 1/4 milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes until slightly thick, continuing to stir. Remove from heat and add 3 oz chocolate - stir until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature (~ 15 minutes or so). Stir in vanilla and egg yolk.

Place egg whites in large mixing bowl, beat on high until stiff peaks are formed - DO NOT OVERBEAT. Gently add 1/4 of egg whites to chocolate mixture, gently fold in. Continue with remaining mixture until all egg whites are mixed in. Gently spoon mixture into remakins, filling about 2/3 or the way. (I put all this in 4 remakins - they overfilled upon cooking) Lightly tap each about 2-3 times on a hard surface to level.

Place filled ramekins on baking sheet and place into oven at 425 - immediately reduce heat to 350, leaving souffle in oven. Bake 40 minutes.

FUDGE SAUCE
Melt butter in sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 C sugar, 2 Tbl cocoa, and 1 Tbls flour; stir well with whisk. Gradually add 1/2 C milk, continuing to stir with whisk. Bring to a boilk and cook 1 minute to thicken. Remove from heat, add 1/2 oz chocolate and stir until smooth. Serve warm with souffles.

Divjak's Secret Chicken Parm


One of my good friends taught me this recipe not too long after moving to Texas, and I can't be more thankful. I know some of my measurements are slightly different and I've altered it a little, but the base recipe came from Mr. Divjak so I'll give him the credit here. This is always a hit but a little time consuming so we keep it for the weekends - and make enough to have leftovers for the rest of the week! We always make our own sauce to go with this dish and then have a bunch remaining for pasta and such at a later point. Its easy to divide into containers and freeze, then pull it out and heat it up for a quick dinner on another night. You can always use store bought sauce if needed - just don't tell anyone!

INGREDIENTS

SAUCE

1-28 Oz Can Contandina Crushed tomatoes
2-15 Oz Can Contandina Tomato Sauce
2-8 Oz Can Contandina Tomato Paste
5-6 Large Italian Sausage links (mild / spicy to your liking)
Dried spices - oregano, parsley, basil, garlic powder, onion powder

CHICKEN PARM

2-3 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half (to make 2 thinner breasts)
2-3 Eggs
Milk
Flour
Bread crumbs
Grated parmesan
Oil

DIRECTIONS

SAUCE

Broil sausage on both sides to cook thoroughly. Allow to cool ~10 minutes, then cut in half.

Meanwhile, combine all remaining sauce ingredients in a large pot and heat over low, add spices to taste. Add sausage after its been cut and continue to simmer. Be aware of spatter.

CHICKEN PARM

Pout milk in shallow dish, beat egg(s) in separate shallow dish, pour flour on large plate, and mix 2:1 bread crumbs to parmesan on another plate. Set up milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs near stove.


In large baking dish, put layer of sauce to cover the bottom, set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Take chicken breast, dredge it in milk, then in flour, then in eggs, then in breadcrumbs to ensure entire breast is coated. Move to heated oil and fry a few minutes on both sides. Do not over cook to burn (chicken does NOT need to be cooked thoroughly at this point). Transfer chicken from pan into baking dish. Repeat with each chicken breast, adding more of any ingredient as needed (if more oil is needed, make sure to allow it to fully heat before placing chicken in it).

Add desired amount of sauce and sausage pieces to baking dish, making sure to cover chicken breasts with sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and mozzerella if desired. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Make sure chicken is cooked thoroughly prior to eating. Serve chicken with sauce - Enjoy!
***NOTES
Allow sausage to cool before cutting, this prevents the juices from getting out and keeps the sausage moist.
Broiling time will depend on oven and placement of sausage in oven, keep an eye on the sausage to keep it from burning. You can omit the sausage of desired.


Mmmmm M&M Cookies!


These are traditional cookies and my weakness anytime passing a mall cookie shop, not only because their so tasty, but because they add a little color and fun to the moment. What's nice about these is being able to make them to fit a theme, and in this case it was a baby shower. We were doing everything in pinks and browns (since the bundle-to-be is a little girl) so I took the packages of Valentine M&M's and picked out all the red candies, then I separated all the brown one's from a normal package to get the pink and brown mix - yes, this was rather tedious and time consuming, but in the end I felt it was worth it. I know have a bag of red M&M's which I can use for Valentine's Day, so it works out perfectly!


INGREDIENTS


1 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C butter, room temp
1/2 C shortening
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 salt
1 1/2 C M&M's

DIRECTIONS

Cream together sugars, eggs, butter, shortening, and vanilla. Add flour, salt, and baking soda. Fold in 3/4 C of M&M's.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Slighty push a few candies into the top of each cookie.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and enjoy!

17 January 2007

Amazing Herbed Pretzels


I'm a huge snacker and sadly have to admit that snack foods are my weakness - potato chips, tortilla chips, salsa, queso, guacamole, crackers, cheese, chicken dip, hummus - you name it and at one point, I'm sure it's been in my hand. At times I attempt to fight this snacking urge, and reach for carrots and bell peppers rather than the salty goodness, but it's not often I am able to say no to such wonderful items. Luckily, I found this pretzel recipe, which may not be as great as veggies, but it HAS to be better than eating fried, greasy, salty potato chips dipped in fattening, creamy sides. Just one warning, we think some how this mixture of spices causes a reaction that leads to an addiction and quickly you'll realize that you ALWAYS want some of these bitesize munchies available.


INGREDIENTS


3 Lbs Small Pretzels (waffles tend to work the best)
1 Tbls Garlic Powder (not salt)
1 Tbls Dried Dill
1 Pkg dry Ranch Seasoning (I think its 3 Tbls)
1 C Oil
DIRECTIONS

Mix all but pretzels in a bowl.

Place pretzels in a large, oven safe dish. Pour seasoning over pretzels and stir to coat.

Bake at 250 for 15 minutes, stir, and bake another 15 minutes.

Eat.

So simple. So totally simple. And so good. I hope you enjoy!

Oh-My-Snickerdoodle-Dandy!

Who doesn't love the Snickerdoodle goodness? Cinnamon and sugar covering a soft, flavorful cookie? Yummmy! So far everyone who has tasted these thinks the are great, and what's even better is they are fairly simple (even more so now that I have my wonderful Kitchen Aid Mixer!). I tend to whip these up when I'm bored, so its a good thing my husband is a cookie monster and eats most of them before I can indulge too much. These are also part of my so-many-cookies-have-chocolate-I-need-some-no-chocolate-recipes group of cookies.

***Note: You can swap 2 tsp Cream of Tartar and 1 tsp Baking Soda for the 3 tsp baking powder if desired

INGREDIENTS

1/2 C butter @ room temp
1/2 C shortening
1 1/2 C white sugar
2 Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
2 3/4 C Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt (reduce if using salted butter)

2 Tbls sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 C sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Blend in flour, baking powder, and salt.

Shape into small dough balls; I use about a tablespoon of dough and make smaller cookies.

Roll dough in cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on cookie sheet. Slightly flatten with back of spoon.

Bake 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

***As always, make sure to store cookies in an air-tight container after cooling.

Penne and Vodka Sauce

On days when you want to splurge, when heavy cream is not against the diet, and bacon is for more than just breakfast, this is an AMAZING dish. Unfortunately, since these wonderful ingredients are involved, I don't make this very often for fear of needing to buy bigger clothes. Yes, this should be post at sometime OTHER than the beginning of the year when so many of us are focusing on eating healthy and avoiding foods high in fat and calories, but the cold weather just doesn't warrant a salad so, here it is.

INGREDIENTS

3 Tbls Olive oil, divided
9 oz Bacon, diced
1 bunch green onions, diced
1 C Vodka
1 1/2 C Heavy cream
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 Tbl Italian Seasoning (or basil and oregano)
1/3 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 Tbls chopped parsley
1 Lb Penne

DIRECTIONS

Heat 2 Tbls olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy; spooning out excess fat.

Add remaining Tbls olive oil and heat. Add green onions and cook until soft (about 3-5 minutes).

Add vodka, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by about half (important to reduce/remove alcohol taste in sauce).

Add cream and again cook until reduced by about half.

Add the tomato sauce and italian seasoning, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep sauce warm until pasta is cooked.

Serve sauce over penne and sprinkle with parsley and parmigiano-reggiano. Enjoy!

***CAUTION: Sauce may splatter, if this happens, reduce heat.

This sauce is great over cheese stuffed tortellini also.

16 January 2007

Lasagna on a cold, winter night


After a weekend of miserable winter storms in Texas, including freezing rain and icy bridges, I woke up this morning to the smell of burning heat. Turns out the motor in our heater needed to be replaced due, luckily my husband and his father will be fixing it tonight. Meanwhile, the heater is OFF and the weather is still in the freezing range, which of course means my house is getting colder and colder. So, since my in-laws are coming over to a cold house, its only fair that I make dinner, and prevent frostbite, I'll BAKE something to help add heat - so the consensus is lasagna. What a perfect cold weather food!!!

So here it is, one of the first recipes I ever discovered AND one of the reasons I enjoy cooking so much now. The one comment for the recipe is that I'm a big fan of sauce, and I think this one is a little shy on the sauce so I always add more, but never record how much - go figure. Hopefully I can remember to take some pictures to add here before we dive into the lasagna head first!

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
12 dry lasagna noodles
2 eggs, beaten
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

In a skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef, onion and garlic; drain fat. Mix in basil, oregano, brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until al dente; drain. Lay noodles flat on towels, and blot dry.

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, parsley and 1 teaspoon salt.
Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover noodles with 1/2 ricotta mixture, 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese and 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat. Top with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese over the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

***I always divide the left-overs into serving size pieces and put them in the freezer; they are PERFECT to take for work lunch. I do notice the sauce seems to reduce this way and they always seem slightly drier later on. I'll continue to play with the recipe to get the perfect amount of sauce and update it on here when I do.

15 January 2007

The Best, Most Divine Chocolate Pudding Cake in the World


My favorite, most treasured recipe - this is it. I remember the taste and texture and aroma of this dessert from my childhood and it's a recipe I stumbled on accidently a few years ago. I don't think I'll even find something as delightful as this. It is great fresh out of the oven, served cold a day later, or even re-heated in the microwave - all perfect. Serve it with vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream - or my favorite - all by itself. Once you've tried this, you'll be hooked. Welcome to heaven...


INGREDIENTS


3/4 C Sugar
1 C Flour
1/4 C Cocoa Powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C milk
1/3 butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C Cocoa
1 1/4 Hot Water

DIRECTIONS


Combine 3/4 C sugar, flour, 1/4 C cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk, butter, and vanilla - mix until smooth. Pour into ungreased 9x9 baking pan.

Mix together remaining 1/2 C sugar, brown sugar, and remaining 1/4 C cocoa. Sprinkle over batter in baking pan. Pour hot water over - DO NOT STIR.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes; pudding portion is EXTREMELY HOT! Enjoy!

Oatmeal Scotchies


These marvelous cookies remind me of one of my favorite people, my stepsister Melissa. She makes cookies every year around Christmas to give out to family, and this just happens to be one of the types she makes. What I love about them is the butterscotch chips ... and the cinnamon ... and the oatmeal ... well basically everything. What I also like is that while I love chocolate, these are one of the few cookies I make which is different BECAUSE there isn't any chocolate in it. Strange, I know, but true.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 C Butter (room temp)
3/4 C Brown Sugar
3/4 C Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
3 C Oatmeal
1 pkg Butterschotch Chips

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add oats and chips. Bake 7-8 minutes at 375. Allow to cool slightly then transfer to cooling rack. Enjoy!