Thursday, December 16, 2010

Milk Chocolate Gingersnaps

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Excuse the "brown on brown" picture here but this was taken right before my desserts class started and I was in a hurry.  I am so excited, though, because I have asked for a really cool light for Christmas to help with my food photography.  Can't wait to take some much better pictures! 
I have to tell you a funny story about these cookies.  These have become a must when baking for friends and family during the holidays.  They are fantastic!  Last weekend I was a baking fool and spent all of Saturday and Sunday within the confines of my kitchen.  My plan was to double this recipe which would make about 60 cookies.  So I whipped them up and when I went to scoop and roll them in the sugar I could tell the consistency was not right.  I double checked the recipe and I had QUADRUPLED the BUTTER.  What?!?!  By the time I started on these Sunday afternoon I think I had lost my mind a little reading "a cup of this, a teaspoon of that, etc" all weekend!  So I got out my gigantic plastic pop-up Pampered Chef bowl that Ben said I'd never need and put all the dough in that :) Then just doubled everything but the butter and added that to the bowl.  There was so much that I just had to use my hands to mix it all up.  So instead of 60 cookies I made 120!  It turned out to be a good thing, though, because I just put them in the freezer and have been adding them to plates for friends AND the kids and Ben have been able to eat them without me slapping their hands and saying "These are for our friends and family not us!"  :) 
Check out the site http://www.recipegirl.com/ because it is really great.  She has so many holiday cookie recipes that I want to try!

MILK CHOCOLATE GINGERSNAPS

2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
1½ cups (about 9 ounces) milk chocolate chips
¼ cup granulated sugar

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and brown sugar until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. Add egg and molasses and mix until blended. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate. Mix in the chocolate chips.

3. Spread granulated sugar on a large piece of wax or parchment paper. Roll a rounded Tablespoon of dough between the palms of your hands into a 1¼-inch ball. Roll ball in sugar. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Bake cookies one sheet at a time until they feel firm on top but soft in the center and have several cracks, about 14 minutes.

4. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Use a wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: About 30 cookies

Cooking Tips
*Cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
**Finished cookies may also be frozen until ready to place on cookie platters.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Italian Mac-N-Cheese

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Are you ready for some major comfort food?  Pasta is definitely a comfort food to me and this dish is up there in my top favorite pastas.  I started making this years ago when Rachel Ray was just getting popular and everyone was in love with her.  I must say that I've tried many many of her recipes and pretty much hated most of them but this one was exceptional.  This is one of her "30 Minute Meals" too which makes it even better!  Honestly, though, it only takes 30 minutes IF you have everything chopped and prepped before you start.  So misleading!  Italian sausage, mushrooms, creamy sauce, tomatoes, cheese...mmmm!!!  I love how the parmesan gets crispy on the top.  Ben and I fight over the crunchiest pieces!  I looked up this recipe on the net just for ease of putting it on the blog but it's been changed a little.  I wouldn't change a thing so I am giving you the original version.  This is the perfect meal for a cold winter night! 

ITALIAN MAC-N-CHEESE
Source: Rachel Ray

1 lb Penne pasta
1 lb bulk Italian sausage (not the sweet kind!)
2 TB Extra virgin olive oil
1 TB butter
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
12 fresh button or baby portabello mushrooms
Salt and Pepper
2 TB all purpose flour
1 C chicken stock or broth
1 C heavy cream
8 oz shredded Italian 4 Cheese Blend cheese
1 can (15 oz) plain diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 C parmesan cheese

Cook pasta 9 minutes or until it is al dente (not quite done).  Brown and crumble sausage, drain, set aside.  Add EVOO to the same pan over medium heat and add butter, garlic, and mushrooms.  Season with S&P liberally.  Saute 3-5 minutes until mushrooms are golden brown.  Add a little more olive oil if the mixture gets too dry while browning.  Preheat broiler to high.  Add flour and stir to make a roux.  Whisk in chicken stock and heavy cream.  Bring to a bubble then stir in half of the cheese blend.  When cheese melts, add tomatoes.  When sauce boils add pasta and sausage then transfer to a baking dish.  (9x13) Add remaining cheese and grated parmesan to the top.  Cook until browned.  This will only take about 5-10 min on top rack under broiler so keep an eye on it.  Serves 6-8


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Apple Pie Bars

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Call me crazy but I'm not a big fan of apple pie.  It's just rare for me to eat one that is really, really delicious and perfect.  It's not worth the calories unless it's that way!  Usually it's just blah to me so I'm more of a cherry, chocolate, and banana cream kind of girl.  I found this recipe last year and it sounded so interesting to me.  Apple pie in bar form?  I had to try it!  I LOVE these so much.  They taste just like a really good apple pie.  They are a labor of love but not hard to make, there's just quite a few steps.  Have some friends/family in mind to share these with when you make them because it makes a lot.  Happy baking! 

APPLE PIE BARS
http://www.recipegirl.com/

CRUST:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

FILLING:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
12 Granny Smith apples (about 6 pounds)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup water, as necessary

TOPPING:
3 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

1. Prepare the crust: Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a 15-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. With an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour, spices and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan and 1/2 inch up the side in an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and set. Let cool on a rack.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a very large, deep skillet melt the butter with the brown sugar. (If you don’t have a large skillet, divide between 2 skillets). Add the apples to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet and add up to 1/2 cup of water to the pan to prevent scorching. Let cool.

3. Prepare the topping: In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using fingers (wash your hands and take off your rings first!), squeeze the butter into the oats & sugar and crumble together until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press the mixture into clumps.

4. Assemble the bars: Spread the apple filling over the crust. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking, and keep an eye on it to make sure the top isn’t getting too browned. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.

Makes 4 dozen bars

Cooking Tips:
*For this recipe, the 15×17-inch rimmed baking sheet is easiest to use. It fits perfectly in this pan. If you don’t have this pan, you can try and wing it using a couple of smaller ones.
**This recipe makes a large quantity. Make sure you have lots of people to feed
***The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for up to a month (they freeze well- try putting them in individual zip bags for impromptu snacks or as an easy addition to your child’s lunch box).











Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

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I have been making this amazing chicken pot pie for about 7 years now.  It is so delicious that I don't bother trying a different version.  The first time I made this was the first time I'd ever made a sauce from scratch and I remember being so proud of myself.  I practically have this memorized now!  You could replace the chicken with leftover turkey which would be a great and yummy way to use up leftover turkey from your holiday meal.  You can even make these and freeze them before baking for a quick meal later on.  I rarely have frozen mixed veggies so I usually just add frozen corn, frozen peas, and finely chopped fresh carrots.  I also think rotisserie chicken is the best in this.  If I don't have one, though, I just throw some chicken breasts in the crock-pot with seasonings (salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, rosemary) and a little water and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6.  Enjoy!

CHICKEN POT PIE

Ingredients:
2 pie crusts (I use Pillsbury pre-made)
1/3 C butter
1/3 C flour
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 C water
2/3 C milk
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 C cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
1 heaping C frozen mixed veggies

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425.
Melt butter in saucepan.  Stir in flour, garlic, and S&P until blended.  Gradually stir in water, milk, and bouillon.  Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes.  Mixture will be thick.  Remove from heat and stir in chicken and veggies.  Pour into pie crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pumpkin Doughnuts

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I love fall!  I feel like I've missed out on so much of it, though, because of my surgery.  That was my time to bake not recover from an appendectomy!  I had planned a fall desserts class to teach for my church's women's group a couple of months ago.  There was no way I was going to let this darn surgery spoil my fun of doing it so I did it anyway and it was so much fun.  I knew most of what I was going to make for it but wanted to do one more thing that was different using pumpkin.  I found these and they were perfect!  I am a doughnut lover.  I mean I will never turn down a doughnut!  Don't be intimidated by making your own doughnuts.  These are pretty easy in my opinion.  You just make the dough, chill it for a few hours, roll it out, cut your circles and holes, fry, then glaze.  Not too much right?  :)  They are worth it and I hope you enjoy them as much as my family did!  If you want to see a step by step version with pictures just click on the link under the title below.  My version is slightly different only because I used a glaze instead of a dusting of powdered sugar.

PUMPKIN DOUGHNUTS
http://pinchmysalt.com/2009/10/29/pumpkin-doughnuts/#more-3901

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon molasses
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
Canola Oil (for deep-frying)

GLAZE:
1/3 cup butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons hot water or as needed

Glaze instructions: Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in sugar, hot water, then vanilla. Keep whisking over med-low heat until there are no clumps in the sugar. Let cool a little before dipping the donuts in.


1. Whisk first 9 ingredients (flour through cardamom) in a medium bowl to blend well; set aside.

2. Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended (mixture will be a bit grainy). Beat in egg, then yolks, then vanilla. Gradually beat in buttermilk and molasses, then beat in pumpkin, in four additions.

3. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in 4 additions, blending gently after each. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

4. Lightly flour two baking sheets. When dough is well-chilled, lightly flour a work surface. Starting with about 1/3 of dough, gently press it out to a round that is 1/2- to 2/3-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out dough rounds. Using 1-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out center of each dough round to make doughnuts and doughnut holes. Arrange doughnuts and holes on the baking sheets as you go. Gather dough scraps. Press out dough and cut out more dough rounds until all dough is used. If dough is very sticky, dip the round cutters into flour before cutting each doughnut.

5. Line a couple of baking sheets with paper towels to drain doughnuts. Also, set out a couple of wire racks to place the doughnuts on after glazing. Pour oil into large deep skillet or dutch oven to a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pot and heat oil to 355°F to 365°F. Fry doughnut holes in 2 batches until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Fry doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain temperature, about 1 minute per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain. While doughnuts are still warm dip tops in glaze then set on wire racks to drain off excess.

Note: If you don’t have cardamom or don’t want to spend the money (it’s a little pricey), just omit it. It does add great flavor but they are still very good without it.

Also, I didn't have a doughnut cutter so I used a biscuit cutter then a water bottle that I cut the main body off of for the holes (does that make sense?).




Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rosemary Au Gratin Potatoes

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I'm back!  Sorry for the absence but I had an APPENDECTOMY on October 28.  Crazy huh?  The Thursday before Halloween too!  It was awful and the recovery is still happening.  I guess it takes a while to get over all the meds they pump into you and the anesthesia.  I have an awesome mother-in-law who started packing as soon as she found out and drove the 12 hours to get here.  She wouldn't let me lift a finger for the week she was here!  I am happy to almost be back to normal and of course to be cooking again.  Today I'm sharing with you a recipe I made up for Rosemary Au Gratin Potatoes.  I have tried several recipes and they were all ok but lots of times came out dry.  I like my au gratin potatoes to be creamy and flavorful!  I made this back when I had family and friends visiting and there were thumbs up all around.  It's not the best picture but I was exhausted and thought this was better than nothing!

ROSEMARY AU GRATIN POTATOES

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 C cheddar cheese, divided
1 C monterrey jack cheese, divided
3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch slices
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1.In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add the cream. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add 3/4 C cheddar cheese and 3/4 C monterrey jack cheese and stir until melted.  Remove from the heat. Stir in the rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and potatoes.

2.Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and remaining cheddar and jack cheeses. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender.

Serves 8

Monday, October 25, 2010

Oven Chicken Risotto

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This is such an EASY dinner!  I was really hoping it would turn out to be a winner because of how quick and simple it was.  I love finding ways to use rotisserie chicken because they are always so flavorful, moist, and versatile.  You're probably thinking what I was thinking, "Risotto?  But that is time consuming!"  This isn't your traditional risotto that you have to stir, add liquid, stir, add liquid and so on.  My kids liked this too so it was a winner all around at our house!  Just serve with a veggie (I did green beans) and some kind of bread and you have the perfect busy weeknight meal. 

OVEN CHICKEN RISOTTO
(Southern Living Magazine)

Ingredients:
2 TB butter
2 1/2 C chicken broth
1 C uncooked Arborio rice (short grain)
1/2 small onion, diced finely
1/2 tsp salt
2 C chopped rotisserie chicken, any flavor
1 (8 oz) package FRESH mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 C cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 C shredded fresh basil
Freshly cracked black pepper (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place butter in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish; bake 5 minutes or until melted.  Stir in broth and next 3 ingredients. 
Bake, covered, for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Fluff rice with a fork.  Stir in chicken, mozzarella, and tomatoes; sprinkle with shredded basil and pepper.  Serve immediately. 
*Make sure the chicken is heated before adding it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Italian Love Cake

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I have a problem.  I guess it's more like a confession that I need to make.  Ok, here it goes....I have hundreds of recipes in my "to try" file.  I am totally obsessed with collecting recipes!  This cake is a reason why my obsession can become a problem.  I have had this recipe for about 5 years and after finally making it, realized I had wasted those years of my life having never tasted it.  It is one of those desserts.  One that people will ask you to make.  One that will be your "go to" cake to make for guests or take to potlucks and parties.  It's one that you won't ever forget about amongst all of your other dessert recipes.  It's cool to watch it bake so keep your oven light on.  The chocolate "swallows" the ricotta and it ends up on the bottom.  With all that said, GO MAKE IT! 

ITALIAN LOVE CAKE

Ingredients:
1 (18.5 oz) package chocolate cake mix (any variation will do)
2 pints part-skim ricotta cheese (or whole if you're feeling naughty)
3/4 C white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 (3 oz) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 C milk
1 (12 oz) container frozen whipping topping, thawed

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare cake mix as directed on box.  Grease a  9x13x2 inch baking dish then pour batter in.  Set aside.

Combine ricotta, sugar, vanilla, and eggs.  Blend well.  Spread mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter.

Bake for 75 minutes if using a glass dish or 90 minutes if using a metal dish.

Blend pudding mix and milk until thickened.  Blend in whipped topping.  Spread over cooled cake.  Keep leftovers refrigerated.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shrimp Avacado Pasta Salad

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 I found this recipe  a couple of weeks ago and was so excited to try it.  We ate it as our main dish because it is very hearty and filling.  My kids liked it!  I love the combo of bacon and avacado then add the shrimp and creamy dressing and this is just perfect to me.  It makes a lot and would probably feed 6-8 adults.  It was way too much for us even with Ben and I eating it for lunch the next day.  It doesn't keep long either because of the avocado.  Read the instructions well beforehand so you don't make the same mistake that I did.  I chopped the lettuce and threw it in before realizing that I was supposed to served the salad ON TOP of the lettuce. I'm seriously the biggest clutz in the kitchen!  It was an easy save though.  Oh, and I added chopped fresh basil which was delicious but definitely optional.  Hurry and try this before the warm summer days are over!

SHRIMP AVOCADO PASTA SALAD

Ingredients
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked penne pasta
1/4 pound bacon
1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 avocados - peeled, pitted and diced
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups shredded lettuce
1/4 C chopped fresh basil (optional)

Directions
1.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place pasta in the pot, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain. Rinse under cold running water to cool.

2.Place bacon in a skillet over medium high heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain and crumble.

3.In a large bowl, gently toss together the pasta, bacon, shrimp, avocados, Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, tomatoes, and red pepper. Serve over lettuce and garnish with basil.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Almost-Famous Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

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Fall is almost here and I am so ready for it.  This summer flew by! I hardly ever make soup in the summertime so I've been waiting to make this for a few months now.  Have you ever been to Panera Bread?  It's a bakery-cafe chain that is soooo yummy!  If you haven't been you must try it!  They're Cinnamon Crunch bagels are to die for.  So is their broccoli cheddar soup!  I was skeptical that Food Network was able to copy it but it tasted just like it.  I didn't serve with sourdough bread bowls but Panera does that and it makes it even better.  I made a bit of a mistake with this and blindly followed directions :)  I should have checked the tenderness of the broccoli before blending it.  It wasn't quite soft enough so the soup didn't taste as smooth as it should have.  I was in a hurry ok?!  So make sure the broccoli is very soft before starting the blending process!

ALMOST-FAMOUS BROCCOLI-CHEDDAR SOUP
(Food Network Magazine)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
6 TB unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 C all-purpose flour
2 C half and half
3 C low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 C broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 large carrot, diced
2 1/2 C (about 8 oz total) grated sharp white AND yellow cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish

Directions:
Melt butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 or 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth.  Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.  (Check it!)  Discard the bay leaves.  Puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth; you'll still have flecks of carrot and broccoli.  Return to the pot.  (Our puree soup in the pot with an immersion blender.)

Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted.  Add up to 3/4 C of water if the soup is too thick.  Remember to taste test for seasoning!  Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese. 

Tip: If you blend the soup in a blender you must follow these instructions.  If not, you will have hot soup all over yourself and your kitchen!  Pour only enough soup to fill the blender halfway.  Leave the lid off or the smaller opening that is within the main lid.  Cover with a kitchen towel and hold the towel on with your hand loosely.  Blend.  This allows steam to escape so you won't have a soup explosion :)


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BBQ Jalapeno Poppers

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Have you heard of Pioneer Woman?  If you haven't you must go to her cooking blog at www.thepioneerwoman.com/cooking and check out her huge collection of amazing recipes and hilarious commentary. She is my inspiration! Her blog is a huge success and she has now been on many tv shows, magazines, and has her own cookbook.  They're even making a movie about her!  I was so excited to make these bacon-wrapped jalapenos.  I totally forgot to brush them with BBQ sauce the first time I made them (as seen above) but I now know it is a must!  These are great because it makes 36 and freezes well.  You can make a whole batch, freeze them, then take as many out as needed at the time.  Let them thaw completely, though, before cooking them.  I've now made them in the oven and on the grill and I like them both ways.  When grilling just keep them over low heat for about 30 minutes.  I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

BBQ JALAPENO POPPERS
www.thepioneerwoman.com/cooking

Ingredients:
18 whole Fresh Jalapenos, 2-3 Inches In Size
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 C grated cheddar cheese
1 green onion, sliced
18 slices thin bacon (regular), cut into halves
1 C BBQ sauce
Toothpicks
Preparation Instructions:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

If you have them, slip on some latex gloves for the pepper prep. Cut jalapenos in half, length-wise. With a spoon, remove the seeds and white membrane (the source of the heat; leave a little if you like things HOT). In a bowl, combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and chopped green onion.

Stuff cheese mixture into each jalapeno half. Wrap jalapeno with bacon pieces (1/2 slice). Secure by sticking toothpick through the middle. Be careful not to stretch the bacon too tightly around the jalapeno, as the bacon will contract as it cooks.  (At this point, you can freeze them, uncooked, in a Ziploc bag for later use).
Brush the surface of the bacon with your favorite barbeque sauce. Chutney or apricot jelly work well too!

Bake on a sheet pan for 1 hour, or until the bacon is sizzling. 

Serve immediately, or they’re also great at room temperature.

Poppers can be assembled up to a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge before cooking.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lemon Blossoms

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Doesn't the name of these just catch your attention?  It did mine when I was browsing on Food Network's site and found this Paula Deen recipe that had 5 out of 5 stars and over 700 reviews.  Lemons, Paula Deen, and dessert have to be good together right?  I had been looking for an excuse to make these and finally made them for our end of summer play group potluck.  They were amazing!  There were only a few left and Ben was so happy that I brought a few more home because he had been begging for more the night before.  He said that it was his new favorite dessert!  That was coming from someone who really doesn't love citrus desserts too.  You will love these! 

LEMON BLOSSOMS
Paula Deen

Ingredients:
18 1/2-ounce package yellow cake mix
3 1/2-ounce package instant lemon pudding mix
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Glaze:
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray miniature muffin tins with vegetable oil cooking spray. Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and oil and blend well with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour a small amount of batter, filling each muffin tin half way. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn out onto a tea towel

To make the glaze, sift the sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, zest, oil, and 3 tablespoons water. Mix with a spoon until smooth.

With fingers, dip the cupcakes into the glaze while they're still warm, covering as much of the cake as possible, or spoon the glaze over the warm cupcakes, turning them to completely coat. Place on wire racks with waxed paper underneath to catch any drips. Let the glaze set thoroughly, about 1 hour, before storing in containers with tight-fitting lids.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Herb Roasted Pork

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This isn't my picture but the one with the recipe online.  I forgot to take a picture because we were so hungry and ready to eat!  I have tried many many pork loin recipes and this is now our #1.  My search is over!  I used 2 smaller one pound tenderloins (instead of the roast in the recipe).  A good pork tenderloin is better than any kind of chicken in my opinion.  You have to use a meat thermometer and it will come out perfectly. 

HERB ROASTED PORK
(adapted from http://www.allrecipes.com/)

Ingredients
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (5 pound) boneless pork loin or 2 lbs of pork tenderloin
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2.In a bowl, combine sage, salt, pepper, and garlic. Rub thoroughly all over pork. Place pork in an uncovered roasting pan on the middle oven rack.
3.Bake in the preheated oven approximately 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. (A roast could take hours but my 2 little tenderloins took about 45 min)
4.Meanwhile, place sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, water, and soy sauce in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to bubble and thicken slightly. Brush roast with glaze 3 or 4 times during the last 1/2 hour of cooking. Pour remaining glaze over roast, and serve.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Anything with the word chocolate twice in the title HAS to be good right?  That's what I thought when I found this recipe.  It definitely delivered!  Very very good.  Almost like a brownie cookie.  If you are a chocolate lover like me then you will be adding this recipe to your favorites!

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
3.Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until set. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Curry Kebabs

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This picture is terrible but I really want to have a picture with every recipe. I am learning how to use my camera now though! This recipe is so simple and delicious! Don't be afraid of the mayo because my sister hates it but loved these. You'd never know that they were marinated in it!

CURRY KEBABS
serves 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
8 oz whole button or baby bella mushrooms

Directions:
1.In a large ziploc bag, mix the mayonnaise, garlic, curry powder, chili powder, ginger and S&P. Place the chicken in the mixture, zip the bag and massage it until it is all coated. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
2.Preheat the grill for medium-high heat.
3.Thread chicken pieces and mushrooms onto skewers and discard marinade.
4.Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill skewers, turning often, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until chicken juices run clear.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sopapilla Cheesecake

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I owe this one to my friend Kim who introduced this to me about a year ago.  I finally made it a few weeks ago when we were on vacation in Utah.  It is SO simple but amazing!  Whe you look at the list of ingredients you just can't imagine how delicious it will be until you eat it.  It is good hot, room temperature, or cold!  I was in a hurry when I made it so I didn't roll out the crescent rolls for the top and it turned out just fine.  A few months ago I actually saw crescent rolls dough in a can that was in one big sheet with no perforations.  Next time I'll look for that to make it all simpler.  You'll love this!  Just don't think about the calories and enjoy!

SOPAPILLA CHEESECAKE

Ingredients:

3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese
2 cans crescent rolls (pillsbury is best, the others don't work as well)
1 cup and 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter

Directions:1. Heat oven to 350 and spray a 9 X 13 in ch pan
2. Mix cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and vanilla till smooth
3. Roll out 1 can crescent rolls and place in bottom of pan. Press together seams
4. Spread filling on top
5. Spread other can of crescents on top (I find if you roll it out a little and pinch the seams together, it's easier)
6. Melt butter and pour on top. Mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle on top.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving.  (If you can wait that long!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Smoky Ranchero Corn

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I'm back! We had a great vacation in Logan, UT with the Hancey family. I know I gained a few pounds because we ate, ate, and ate some more! We had to eat at some of our favorite places like Charlie's Ice Cream, Cafe Sabor, Maddox, Frederico's, and Cafe Rio (new fave!). One night Ben's mom's sister and her husband (Don and Shirley) were driving through town and Nola had invited them to dinner. She asked if I would cook and I accepted of course! I had some new recipes that Ben's parents hadn't tried and couldn't wait to cook for everyone. I made Curry Kabobs, Roasted Potatoes, Smoky Ranchero Corn, and Sopapilla Cheesecake. I'll start with the corn today but the other recipes are coming. This corn has so many of my favorite flavors-bacon, cilantro, ranch dressing, lime, corn-yum!

SMOKY RANCHERO CORN
(www.pillsbury.com)

INGREDIENTS
1/4 lb. mesquite-smoked or regular bacon, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 (11-oz.) cans Green Giant® Super Sweet Yellow and White Corn, drained
1/4 cup purchased ranch salad dressing
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 lime slices
2 fresh cilantro sprigs

DIRECTIONS
1. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard drippings.
2. In same skillet, combine cooked bacon, onions, bell pepper and corn. Reduce heat to low; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine salad dressing, lime juice, cumin and red pepper flakes; mix well.
4. Add dressing mixture to corn mixture; mix well. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in chopped cilantro. Garnish with lime slices and cilantro sprigs.

*Taste and add a little salt and pepper if you like before serving.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

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I love the combo of chocolate and peanut butter. Love it. I can't believe I had never tried that in a cupcake! I made mini versions of them and loved how they turned out. My kids don't like nuts so I just left some plain for them. The crunch of the peanuts was my favorite part though!

PEANUT BUTTER CUPCAKES WITH CHOCOLATE FROSTING

CAKE:
(www.bettycrocker.com)
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® yellow cake mix
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
2. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, eggs and 3/4 cup peanut butter with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (about 2/3 full).
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes (10+ min for mini) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

FROSTING:
1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
4-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1-1/4 cups baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

1.In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

You can be generous with the frosting because it makes a lot!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shrimp Enchiladas

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Yes, you read that right, SHRIMP ENCHILADAS! I had my first shrimp enchiladas a couple of years ago at one of my favorite restaurants, Cafe Sabor, in Logan UT. After I had them I just had to find a recipe for them. I couldn't find one just like them but this one is just as amazing. We're going to Logan in a few weeks and I think I'll have to get those shrimp enchiladas at Cafe Sabor and disect them to try to make up my own recipe for them. I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs and the only things I changed were the addition of cilantro and I use canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh. I hope you love these as much as we all do!

SHRIMP ENCHILADAS
adapted from www.melskitchencafe.com

1/2 cup sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 can (15 oz) plain diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 C chopped, fresh cilantro-divided
8 (9-inch) flour tortillas

Saute red pepper, onion and green pepper in 1/4 cup butter until crisp-tender. Add oregano, salt, garlic powder, pepper, cayenne pepper, cream and flour; blend well. Continue cooking for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add 1 1/2 cups cheese; stir until melted. Add sour cream and 1/4 C cilantro, stir to blend. Set aside.

In another skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Saute shrimp and 1/2 cup onion until shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp and chop; return to butter and onion. Add tomatoes and 1/2 of the cheese sauce. Spoon 1/3 cup shrimp mixture into each tortilla. Sprinkle cheese on top of shrimp mixture. Roll up tightly. Arrange seam side down in a 9X13-inch glass baking dish. Spoon remaining cheese sauce over tortillas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Garnish with remaining 1/4 C cilantro.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spring Shells and Cheese

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I got this recipe in my Food Network magazine back in April. Ben is the one who actually made it! I was still recovering from my oral surgery and could still only eat soft foods. Ben saw this recipe sitting out when he got home and ASKED if he could make it. He said it sounded fun to make. Aren't I a lucky lady? He did a great job and we all loved it!

SPRING SHELLS AND CHEESE
Food Network Magazine

Ingredients
2 pounds medium zucchini
Kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups whole milk
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 pound medium pasta shells
4 shallots, minced
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
4 ounces baby spinach

Directions
Grate the zucchini into a colander using the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 1tablespoon salt, then place in the sink to drain, about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the excess liquid.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, nutmeg, cayenne, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper to taste and mix with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until the paste puffs slightly, about 3minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, then add the thyme, bay leaves and lemon zest and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened slightly, about 25 minutes. Strain into a bowl; discard the herbs.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and add to the sauce.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini mixture to the pasta along with the egg yolks and all but 3 tablespoons of both cheeses; stir to combine, then add the spinach.

Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the reserved cheeses. Bake until browned on top and heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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Sorry I've been a little M.I.A. this week from my blog but my little sis, Farrah, is here visiting and we've been busy busy busy. We mainly have been busy EATING! Why is it that when I have visitors most of the visit is centered around what we eat, where we eat, when we eat, and what we are going to cook? Farrah is a foodie like me and I am scared to weigh myself after this week is over! One time when she visited me years ago and I lived in San Antonio, we made these cookies together and they were amazing. I had totally forgotten about them until I was browsing recipes trying to figure out what we could make together. They came out perfectly and we had fun making them! How did I ever forget these??? They are also called Homemade Oreos but I like to name them something more generic I guess. They are best after they chill in the fridge and I think they would freeze well. They never last long enough in my house to make it to the freezer though! We frosted these thick and still had frosting leftover so I think next time I'll either half the frosting or double the cookies. You might like the frosting even thicker so follow this recipe as is if you like. Don't you love the little plate they're on? I saw it at Anthropologie and had to have it. Luckily it was on super sale at only $3! Oh, and it's not my fault if you gain 5 lbs eating all of them yourself or if you get a tummy ache because you can't stop eating them!

CHOCOLATE SANDWICH COOKIES


1 Devil's Food cake mix
3/4 C shortening
1/2 C butter
2 eggs
8 oz package cream cheese
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix cake mix, shortening, and eggs. Dough will be thick. Roll into balls and smash to desired size. Bake at 350 for 5-8 minutes. Don't overbake! Completely cool cookies. Mix remaining ingredients together and frost between 2 cookies.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Apple Turnovers

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I made these in the week we got back from the cruise because I think I was still in "dessert mode" and needed something sweet and fast. I had some puff pastry that had been in my freezer for a while that needed to be used. I also had bought a bunch of apples thinking we had none when, of course, we had like 10 already in the fridge. I got this recipe from Allrecipes but used Gala apples. They worked just fine in place of the Granny Smith ones. Instead of making the glaze we served them warm with vanilla ice cream. They were better than apple pie!

APPLE TURNOVERS
(www.allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups water
4 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 (17.25 ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1.Combine the lemon and 4 cups water in a large bowl. Place the sliced apples in the water to keep them from browning.
2.Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain water from apples, and place them into the hot skillet. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Pour into the skillet, and mix well. Cook for another minute, or until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat to cool slightly.
3.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
4.Unfold puff pastry sheets, and repair any cracks by pressing them back together. Trim each sheet into a square. Then cut each larger square into 4 smaller squares. Spoon apples onto the center of each squares. Fold over from corner to corner into a triangle shape, and press edges together to seal. Place turnovers on a baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them.
5.Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until turnovers are puffed and lightly browned. Cool completely before glazing.
6.To make the glaze, mix together the confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Adjust the thickness by adding more sugar or milk if necessary. Drizzle glaze over the cooled turnovers.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer on a Plate

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Today is Memorial Day which usually means parties and eating yummy BBQ but that's not going to happen today and I'm bummed. First of all, I had gum grafting done about 6 days ago so I won't be biting into any ribs or burgers for a month. Second, I now have what I think is a sinus infection and feel like crud. Boo! Since I'm here whining about not being able to eat I thought I'd share with you a couple of my favorite summertime recipes. I look at this picture and think that it is just "summer on a plate" and it makes me drool! These beans are soooo good! I hate when baked beans have floppy bacon in them and the crispy bacon in these is perfect. If you take them to a potluck definitely double the recipe because every last bean will be GONE! This is my favorite macaroni salad and I was so happy to find it. It tastes just like my mom's, who when I asked, said she didn't have a recipe for. Enjoy these at your backyard cookouts this summer!

BAKED BEANS
by Charlotte Hancey
serves 6

2 one lb cans pork and beans
2/3 C ketchup
1 1/2 C onions, chopped in bite sized pieces (I use yellow onions)
3/4 C brown sugar
6 slices bacon, chopped in bite sized pieces
1 tsp dry mustard
1 TB worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (or more if you like)

You'll need a large pot that can be used on the stovetop and in the oven. Preheat oven to 325.

Fry bacon in pot until almost crisp. Drain about 3/4 of the grease then add the onions and cook until bacon is crisp and onions are tender. Mix the rest of the ingredients into pot. Cover and bake 1 1/2 hours at 325. Uncover the last 20-30 minutes.

These beans freeze well. I like to make a double batch and freeze in portions for my family.

CLASSIC MACARONI SALAD
(www.allrecipes.com)
serves 10

4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup grated carrot (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped pimento peppers (optional)

Directions
1.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain.
2.In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the onion, celery, green pepper, carrot, pimentos and macaroni. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, but preferably overnight.
CHAR'S NOTES: The recipe is very versatile when it comes to the veggies. The way I like it is with chopped cucumbers, green onions, black olives, grated carrot, and any kind of bell pepper. Neither Ben or I like raw celery so I always replace it with cucumbers. Just use the base recipe and add whatever veggies you have on hand. Even tomatoes would be great!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cruise Food!

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The food on our Royal Caribbean cruise deserves it's own post so excuse me while I indulge myself in remembering it. This particular cruise ship (or line-not sure)doesn't do the lavish midnight buffets anymore because we were told it was a waste of uneaten food. That didn't matter, though, because food was everywhere! The first couple of nights, dinner wasn't amazing. Our dinner companions probably thought we were the pickiest people because while they all devoured theirs, we complained about it. We're picky foodies though! :)
The first port we went to on day 3 was Haiti which is RC's private island. They served a huge buffet that was so good Ben and I were like "Why don't they just serve this at dinner?" LOL! They served Jamaican jerk chicken that was soooo good and some kind of BBQ pork. After that, though, we were not disappointed and loved our dinners on the ship. On night 2 I tried two new things: escargot and duck. The escargot, though drowning in butter, was awful! I was the only one at my table that didn't like it. The texture wasn't bad but the aftertaste was like dirt. I did really like the duck which surprised me. My favorite night of all was the Venetian night with the yummy Italian food. I had a scallop risotto for my appetizer, chicken marsala for entree, then warm chocolate cake AND rasberry panna cotta for desert. Every single bite that night was incredible! The warm chocolate cake was the most delicious thing I ate the entire trip. That unassuming little piece of cake blew me away! It looked like a molten cake but was firmer and so rich that I asked for a glass of milk. The head waiter thought it was funny that I asked for one but it was the perfect accompaniament. Speaking of the head waiter, Charanjeet was so personable and nice and our regular waiter, Ketut, was great too. I think it was night 3 that Charanjeet was talking to us and asked if we liked Indian food. Some of us did and some hadn't tried it so he brought us butter chicken, naan, and lentils that weren't on the menu. It was so good! On the 2nd formal night we had lobster and prime rib which we looked forward to and weren't disappointed in any way. Ben had two plates of lobster and one of prime rib! Our waiter told us that the record was 35 lobster tails. 35! I guess you have to take advantage of that when you're cruising because what other time could you do that?
We had some food at ports that was amazing too. In Ochos Rios, Jamaica I was so excited to have some more jerk chicken. Our tour guide took us to a shopping area with a Hard Rock Cafe and said that they had jerk chicken. "But I want REAL jerk chicken!" I said to him but he assured me that it was authentic. I ordered a jerk chicken sandwich and it was to die for! They served this interesting, very spicy sauce on the side which was so good we asked to buy a bottle. It has guava, red pepper flakes, and vinegar in it, among other things. In Grand Cayman we stopped at some little outdoor fast food kind of place to grab a quick bite. We ordered 2 ham and cheese croissants not thinking much of it but to our surprise it was delicious! He cut the croissant and made it like a grilled ham and cheese. I really wanted to try the conch fritters I saw advertised at a restaurant on our way back but didn't have time. Most days too we'd get back on the ship at around 4 or so and grab some great little sandwiches at a cafe on the ship. We didn't have dinner until 8:30 so it was a great chance to eat again! Then in Cozumel we went to Pancho's Backyard for lunch and it was really great too. We ordered mahi mahi fish tacos and they were the best fried fish tacos that we had ever had. Their guacamole was so creamy and yummy too! As we were sitting in this beautiful, outdoors restaurant Ben said to me, "You're finally eating your favorite, Mexican food, IN Mexico!" Love it! I wish I had taken pictures of that meal.
Are you hungry yet? I am! I want to go back! I had to warn our dinner companions the first night that I was going to be taking pics of my food for my blog (and memories!) so they didn't think I was crazy. These pictures don't do the food justice though. The lighting was bad and I was in a hurry to devour it! You'll notice that there are mostly dessert pictures and that is because I was so hungry when the appetizer and entree got to me that I'd forget to take pics. It was funny because the first night the 6 of us were very conservative with our food selections and just ordered one appetizer, entree, and dessert. Then as the nights progressed and we got comfortable with each other we were all ordering 2-3 of each course and eating off each other's plates! When I got home I was SEVEN pounds heavier but it was worth every single bite! Ok, so if you're not hungry yet you will be now because here are the pictures!

My Hard Rock Cafe awesome Jamaican meal. Ya mon it was good!

Strawberry Meringue-pretty but way too sweet

Pork tenderloin, lentils with green beans, and au gratin potatoes

Pina Colada Tart


I had this AND a plate of prime rib. No shame here!

Cute little dessert trio: Rum cake, very fudgy brownie, and lemon cheesecake

Warm Chocolate Cake AKA "The Best Dessert I've Ever Had in My Whole Life!"

Rasberry Panna Cotta

Friday, April 23, 2010

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

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I've had this recipe forever and finally made it a couple of weeks ago. Why oh why did I let that recipe sit there for so long? It is soooo good! I've tried many tortilla soup recipes and haven't found one yet that I loved, until now. This is fast prep and easy to make. The best thing was that my kids liked it! They are the pickiest kids when it comes to soups, casseroles, chili or anything that has lots of "stuff" in it. Most of the time my kids like all of the ingredients individually but when it's all mixed up they are scared to try it. When they saw their bowl of soup topped with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream and cilantro they were all for it! All of 3 of my kids love cilantro. When they smell it or see me chopping it up they come running for their own little stem of it to munch on. It just warms my heart since I'm in love with cilantro too! I'm training them well aren't I? At least I'm trying to anyway. I used rotisserie chicken because it is easy, flavorful and moist and I didn't have to cook it. I didn't have frozen corn that day so I just used canned but added it in the last 30 minutes. Oh, and I did not make my own tortilla strips. Who has time for that? I just grabbed some tortilla chips from the pantry and crunched them up over the top. The directions are here, though, if you decide to venture that far.

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
(www.allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
7 corn tortillas
vegetable oil

Directions

1.Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.
2.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
3.Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut tortillas into strips, then spread on a baking sheet.
4.Bake in preheated oven until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, sprinkle tortilla strips over soup.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken

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No need for Chinese take-out with this recipe in your file! It's a little time consuming but worth the effort. All of my kids LOVE it! I just serve it with rice and egg rolls or pot stickers (my faves are from Schwan's).

SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN
www.melskitchencafe.com

Chicken:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Mix sauce ingredients (below) together and pour over chicken.

Sauce:
1 1/2 cup sugar
8 tablespoons ketchup
1 cup vinegar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon garlic salt

Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Stir chicken every 15 minutes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cucumber Salsa

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I made this last week for a Just Jewelry party that I had. My party was a total flop and probably the worst "selling" party that I've ever had. But on the positive side, more salsa for me! This is cool, refreshing and has just enough spice to it.

CUCUMBER SALSA
www.allrecipes.com (can you tell I like this site?)

Ingredients
2 medium cucumbers - peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (12 ounce) package tortilla chips

Directions

1.In a medium bowl, stir together the cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, jalapeno pepper, onion, garlic, lime juice, parsley, cilantro, dill, and salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve with tortilla chips.

Buttermilk Pancakes

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These are by far the best pancakes I've ever had. I haven't bought a pre-made mix since I started making them a couple of years ago. I can't go back to mixes! Because I don't always have buttermilk on hand, I buy a large carton and freeze it in 3 cup batches so it's there when I need it. Do you see my awesome new griddle? It is HUGE and I love it! No more whining over who gets the first few pancakes anymore!

BUTTERMILK PANCAKES
www.allrecipes.com

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted

Directions
1.In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together buttermilk, milk, eggs and melted butter. Keep the two mixtures separate until you are ready to cook.
2.Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. You can flick water across the surface and if it beads up and sizzles, it's ready!
3.Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon or fork to blend. Stir until it's just blended together. Do not over stir! Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/2 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Baked Dijon Salmon

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I have a lot of catching up to do! I have so many recipes that I am waiting to share and finally have an evening now to catch up. Ethan and Clara are loving my food blog too! When I'm making dinner they'll say "Don't forget to put this on your blog!" Or there's been a few times when they've had dinner and said "Don't put this on your blog it's yucky!" Here's our favorite salmon recipe for you, enjoy.

BAKED DIJON SALMON
www.allrecipes.com

Ingredients
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
4 (4 ounce) fillets salmon
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, for garnish

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2.In a small bowl, stir together butter, mustard, and honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together bread crumbs, pecans, and parsley.
3.Brush each salmon fillet lightly with honey mustard mixture, and sprinkle the tops of the fillets with the bread crumb mixture.
4.Bake salmon 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until it flakes easily with a fork. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with a wedge of lemon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chicken with Yellow Rice and Sausage

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Here's a great one pot dinner that is delicious! Check out my tips and suggestions at the bottom of the recipe.

CHICKEN AND YELLOW RICE WITH SAUSAGE

This one only takes about 10-15 minutes of prep time, then you put the lid on and let the rice cook. So in actual start to finish time it's 40 minutes, but your part is over after 10.

2 TB olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 lb sausage (chorizo, kielbasa), cut into 1/2 moons
1 onion, diced chunky
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite sized strips
10 oz yellow rice mix
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
S&P

Using a large pot with a lid or Dutch oven, drizzle olive oil and cook the chicken, sausage, pepper, and onion on med-high heat for 3-5 minutes. (will finish cooking later) Add about 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper-or more or less-whatever you like.
Add the yellow rice mix and as much water as the mix calls for (usually 20 oz of water). Once the water boils, put the lid on and turn the heat down to low and cook according to the rice directions (about 20-25 minutes).
When the rice is done, stir in the frozen peas and serve.

Tips & Suggestions:
* I like to use turkey kielbasa when I can find it to lower the fat. You can hardly tell a difference!
* My favorite chicken to use for this is shredded or cut up rotisserie chicken. I love buying those chickens because they usually are enough for 2 meals. Or I throw a couple of chicken breasts and a little water in the crock pot with some seasoning (poultry, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder) and shred it when it is done. If you use pre-cooked chicken just add it in when you add the rice.
* Sometimes it can take 30 minutes for the rice to get done all the way. Just check it at 25 minutes and see if it needs more time.
* It goes very well with cornbread!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tortellini Soup

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This amazing soup is in my top 3 favorite soups and my entire family loves it! I usually grate most of the zucchini and leave just a few chunks to hide it from my kids. They have no idea! So here you go friends, enjoy!

TORTELLINI SOUP

1 lb. Italian sausage (mild)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 small onion, diced
5 C chicken broth approx. (I use about 1 1/2 of the 32 oz cartons) Use more if it is too thick.
1/2 c. apple cider
1 can chopped, stewed tomatoes (16 oz.)
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz.)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
2 medium zucchini, grated or sliced
1 8-10 oz package cheese tortellini (I like the frozen kind-and put it in frozen)
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
Salt to taste
Parmesan cheese (for garnish-to taste)


Brown sausage, garlic and onion in large soup pot. Add remaining ingredients, except zucchini, tortellini and parsley. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in last three ingredients, simmer another 30 minutes. Add more broth if too thick and salt if needed. Serve with fresh grated parmesan.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Seven Layer Tortilla Pie

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I've been making this recipe for years and it's one of my favorites. My kids all HATE this though but if yours like beans then it won't be a problem. In the past I would give them chicken nuggets because I knew they didn't like it but now I want them to get used to it. I'm so mean aren't I? I love the flavors of the fresh cilantro, garlic, and tomatoes in this. This can also be lower fat by using low fat sour cream and cheese. Enjoy!

SEVEN LAYER TORTILLA PIE

Ingredients:
2 (15 oz) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro
2 big cloves garlic, minced
1 C salsa, divided
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C chopped tomatoes
2 C shredded cheddar cheese
7 (8 inch) flour tortillas
Sour cream and salsa for topping

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mash pinto beans. Stir in 3/4 C salsa and garlic.
In a separate bowl, mix together 1/4 C salsa, cilantro, black beans, and tomato.
Coat a deep pie plate with cooking spray and place one tortilla in it.
Spread 3/4 C pinto beans mixture over tortilla to within a 1/2 inch of edge.
Top with 1/4 C cheese and cover with another tortilla. Spread 2/3 C black bean mixture over and top with 1/4 C cheese. Repeat layers twice more.
Cover with remaining tortilla and spread with remaining pinto bean mixture and cheese. Cover with foil. (It will be tall!)
Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.

My New Food "Rules"

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Have you seen the documentary Food, Inc? We saw it about a month ago and we haven't been the same since. We learned things about the food industry, especially meat, that we had no clue about. My main issue after watching it was with beef. I knew that the cows were treated badly but it hit me hard actually seeing it. Also, did you know that they feed cows corn now? Did you know that is the reason for all of the e.coli outbreaks? Cows aren't meant to eat corn but they are "training" them to and as the corn is trying to digest it can form bacteria. Grass fed cows don't have this problem and I realized that we should eat animals that have eaten well themselves. Makes sense doesn't it? I could go on and on but I'll let you see it for yourself because I highly recommend it (we got it from Netflix). After seeing it, Ben and I made the decision to eat way less meat and to only buy organic beef from grass fed cows. This will cost more, but if we eat less meat and less junk food, then we can certainly afford it or at least feel better about spending more. I still have issues with chicken but not as bad. I haven't bought potato chips, Pop Tarts, Little Debbie cakes, etc for a month now. Guess what? No one has complained! If it's not there, they are forced to choose something else so the transition has gone smoothly. I'm reading a book right now called Food Rules by Michael Pollan and he says "junk food" is fine, just make it yourself. If you have to make it yourself you won't do it often and you know what ingredients are going into it. I was worried about what the heck I was going to cook if we didn't have meat but we actually went 5 days straight last week with vegetarian dinners. Unfortunately Ethan hates beans (except green beans) so he's having a hard time with all the new bean dishes. I haven't bought any beef because I have to go to Whole Foods Market for that and haven't had a chance. We've been eating chicken once a week, fish/shrimp once a week and the rest of our dinners without meat. I feel healthier already! As much as I am a "city girl" I would love to have a home where I could raise my own organically fed chickens for the eggs and grow a huge organic garden. You will now be seeing more vegetarian foods but don't worry I still love beef but I won't be cooking it as often. Ok, off my soapbox now!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fish Fillets Italiano

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I made this for the first time the other night and it was a hit! We eat fish or shrimp at least once a week and all of us like it. I get most of my fish from Schwan's because it's just so good from them. I buy our salmon and cod from them and sometimes tilapia. I got tilapia fillets from Sam's a month or so ago and was really happy with that too. I like to buy fish that has been flash frozen because it never has that "fishy" smell to it. I also never buy fish that is pre-seasoned because I don't like all the sodium and junk that they put on it. This recipe would work well with any mild white fish like cod, tilapia, or halibut. Also, the amount of time you cook the fish depends on how thick it is. I served this over plain white rice. I didn't think my kids would like this one but they ALL ate it and said that cod was their new favorite fish. Yay!

FISH FILLETS ITALIANO
adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 pound cod fillets
Salt & Pepper to taste
Directions:
1. In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until softened.
2. Stir in tomatoes, olives, parsley, and broth. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Place fillets in sauce and add a little S&P to the tops of the fish. Simmer for about 5-10 more minutes, or until fish turns white. (No opaqueness)