Saturday, December 27, 2008

Easy Parmesan Rolls

I have family in town staying at my house, and that makes me want to do EASY meals. These rolls are about as easy as they get. They are incredible with a slow cooked beef stew or pot roast. In fact...I've served them with just about anything. The great thing about them is that I always have everything on hand to make them. I really like freshly grated Parmesan cheese on most things, but on these, I actually prefer the Kraft type Parmesan powdered cheese. SO easy. My brother will eat 3 or 4 of these right off the pan before I can even get them into a basket. They really are that good.

1 dozen frozen bread dough rolls, like Rhodes
1 cube butter, melted
1 C Parmesan cheese, powdered or freshly grated

Roll each frozen roll in butter, and then in cheese. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let raise 3-4 hours. Cook according to package directions. Serve hot!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chile Eggs

My mother-in-law served these eggs on Christmas morning the year that my husband and I got married. I've been serving them for Christmas morning breakfast ever since. I haven't ever met anyone who doesn't LOVE them. They are super easy to put together, and you can even throw them together the night before and then pop them in the oven while you are opening some gifts the next morning. They are really good, and you can top them with whatever suits your fancy. Sometimes if I'm serving them to a small group, I half the recipe and cook it in a 8x8 square pan.

10 Eggs, beaten
½ C Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Salt
1 Pt. Cottage Cheese
12-16 oz Shredded Medium Cheddar or Sharp Cheddar Cheese
½ C Melted Butter
2 (4 oz) cans diced Green Chiles

Mix all ingredients thoroughly, and pour into a buttered 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 45-50 min, or until set. Serve with salsa, sour cream and guacamole.

Seriously, if that doesn't say "Merry Christmas"...what does?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Eggnog Fudge's been forever. Sorry! I've been really busy with Christmas cooking and family in town. Hopefully this recipe will make up for it! This Eggnog Fudge is to DIE FOR. If you like Eggnog, definitely try this.

2 C Sugar
½ C Butter
¾ C Eggnog
11 oz White Chocolate chips, or other white chocolate
½ tsp. nutmeg
2 1/4 C mini Marshmallows
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1 C Chopped Pecans (optional)
1 tsp. Rum Extract

Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper or wax paper, cut to fit the pan, and overlap the sides. I usually use two pieces, one overlapping the other. Combine sugar, butter and eggnog in a heavy 2 ½ to 3 quart sauce pan. Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 8-10 minutes over medium heat, or until a candy thermometer reaches soft ball stage (234 degrees), stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat. Let mixture sit for a few minutes to let the temperature drop a bit. Stir in white chocolate and nutmeg. Stir until all chocolate is melted. Melt marshmallows and corn syrup together in a large microwave safe bowl (large, because the marshmallows explode!) for about 30-40 seconds. Stir until marshmallows are smooth. Add marshmallow mixture to fudge, along with the nuts and rum extract. Beat until well blended. Pour into parchment lined pan, and let cool at room temperature for several hours or over night. Cut into small squares. Small…this is seriously rich stuff!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chocolate 101

I hope that everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving! Now, we're on to Christmas, and to me, that means candy making! I have made chocolate goodies for many years now, and have taught several classes on how to work with chocolate. If you're unsure about working with chocolate, please read through these notes so that you can have fun creating some wonderful and easy chocolate treats for your friends and family!!

I haven't mastered tempering chocolate, so I mostly use chocolate that doesn't need to be tempered. You can find this type of chocolate in any cake and candy supply store, and they come in large chips or buttons. It is often called coating chocolate, molding chocolate or compound coating. You can buy the Wilton brand coating chocolate at many craft stores, but I wouldn't reccomend these just because I don't think that they taste as good as other coatings. I usually purchase Guittard Appeals, Nestle brand coating chocolate, or Merkens coating chocolates. If you live in Utah Valley, you can buy coatings at the Bosch Kitchen Store ($4.75 for a 2 lb. bag) or Funfinity ($3.99 per pound). In Salt Lake County, I would reccomend Gygi's ($10 per 5 lb bag).

There are several different ways to safely melt chocolate without scorching it or causing the chocolate to seize. If your chocolate has changed from a shiny liquid to a dull thick paste, the chocolate has seized. This can happen if the chocolate is burned, or if moisture gets into your chocolate. Chocolate melts at a very low temperature. Temperatures that feel comfortable for your finger can be too hot for chocolate. Chocolate does not mix well with moisture of any kind. The moisture from a damp spoon can contaminate a batch of melting chocolate. Once the chocolate has seized, it can not be un-seized, and must be discarded. So, keep these points in mind as you work with your chocolate!

Methods of melting chocolate:

1. Microwave: Place one or two pounds of coating chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Take out of the microwave and stir well. Keep in mind that the container you're heating the chocolate in will hold enough heat to cause the chocolate to continue to melt. Put chocolate back in the microwave for 20 seconds. Take out and stir. If the chocolate is still not completely melted, put it back in the microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring well after each, until chocolate is completely melted.

2. Heating Pad: Place one or two pounds of coating chocolate in a flat bottomed bowl. Turn your heating pad to medium heat and place bowl on pad. Chocolate will be melted and at a good dipping temperature in about two hours.

Note: Remember, never add water, milk or any other liquid to “thin” your chocolate! This will make the chocolate seize, and you will not be able to use the chocolate. If you need to thin your chocolate, you may purchase Paramount Crystals to add to your chocolate that will help thin the chocolate.

Coloring Chocolate:

White coating chocolate may be colored by adding Powdered Food Coloring. Powdered food coloring will not thicken the coating and should not change the flavor. Pastel colors such as pink, green blue or lavender only require a small amount of food coloring. If you are trying to achieve a darker color such as red or dark blue, use about 1 tsp of color to ½ cup melted coating. To achieve black colored chocolate, use milk or semi-sweet chocolate and add black powder until you get the desired shade.

Flavoring Chocolate:

Chocolate may be flavored with a Pure Oil Flavoring. Never use an extract flavoring, it may cause the chocolate to seize. Many extracts contain water. Also keep in mind that chocolate easily takes on the flavor of other things. It is best to store chocolate in an air tight container so that it doesn’t take on the flavor of other foods in your pantry.

Storing Chocolate:

It is best to store chocolate at about 68-72 degrees, the temperature of a cool pantry or dark cabinet. Kept at this temperature, chocolate (assuming it isn't covering fruit or other perishables) has a shelf life of about a year. It is best not to store your chocolate in the freezer. Chocolate that is frozen and then thawed, could bloom (or develop what looks to be a filmy white residue). But if you must freeze your chocolate, let it warm gradually to room temperature before you try cooking with it.

Peppermint Bark

I love making Christmas candy, especially anything having to do with Chocolate! So, today I made my first round of candy and I wanted to share it with YOU!! Peppermint bark is one of the easiest and yummiest Christmas candies to make. This is what you will need...

1 lb White Coating Chocolate
1 lb Milk or Dark Coating Chocolate
8-9 Candy Canes, crushed

Easy right? The answer to that is...YES!

First, read my post "Chocolate 101", so that you know how to melt your chocolate. Next, line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper. Either one will do. I use wax paper because it's cheaper. Melt a pound of milk or dark chocolate and then pour the chocolate directly onto your wax paper. Spread the chocolate as thin as you can without it being transparent. I used my offset spatula, which worked brilliantly.

Then, pop the whole thing into the freezer for 2-3 minutes or until the chocolate is set. Pull it out of the freezer, and let your chocolate come back to room temperature.

While your dark layer is coming back to room temperature, crush your candy canes and start melting your white chocolate. (Note about crushing candy canes... I just put mine in a couple of zip lock bags and hit them with a hammer. I have tried putting them into the blender before, but it crushed them up way too tiny. I like this best with small chucks of candy cane, not candy powder. Figure out how you like it best!) If you really like the taste of this point you can add a few drops of oil mint flavoring to make it more minty. I think that the candy cane adds enough mint, but it's up to you! You can purchase oil flavorings at candy supply stores, or sometimes you can find them at Walmart.

Once your white chocolate is melted, add the candy cane to your white chocolate and stir until well mixed. If desired, reserve about 1/8th of a cup of the tiny crumbs to sprinkle over the top. That just makes it pretty.

Spread the white layer over your set-up dark layer. This layer is a little harder to spread because it has chunks of candy cane in it. But, do your best to make it as thin as possible. Then, sprinkle your white layer with reserved candy pieces. Pop it back into the freezer to set up for 2-3 more minutes.

Next, just break your creation into pieces. They can be as big or small as you wish. I like to break them into a combination of both large and small.

Then, package them as you wish! I have a fetish for cellophane bags, so I put almost everything in a shiny cellophane bag. I think it makes everything prettier!

Note: You can make this bark without the darker chocolate layer. Simply skip the steps regarding the darker chocolate all together.

Also, it's cute to do this inside a cookie cutter, like a cool copper or stainless steel one. Just lay the cookie cutter flat on the wax paper, then pour the different chocolate layers into it, following the same steps outlined. Just make sure not to fill it too full. Let it set inside the cookie cutter, and wrap up the whole cookie cutter in cellophane.

Let your imagination run wild! There are so many possibilities when it comes to bark. You can omit the candy cane and add nuts and dried fruits. One year at Easter time, I made this without the dark chocolate layer, and then used lemon heads instead of candy canes. It was really yummy! There are so many things you can do! Get creative!
P.S. I just received a William's Sonoma Catalog today. They sell peppermint bark in a cute tin for$26 per pound. Go on...make it for $2.50 a pound!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beef Fajita Soup

Okay, it's late at my house, and I'm tired. But, I just noticed that it's winter time, and I have hardly any soup recipes posted! Oops! So, here is one for you, and BONUS, it's a crock pot recipe! Yeah! This is seriously one of my favorite soups. It's just nice to have a soup that isn't chicken (even though I love chicken). Anyway, it's just different. I have adapted this from a recipe that I saw in "The Best Slowcooker Cookbook Ever" cookbook. You can leave out the onions and peppers in the beginning, and then add them in when you have about 4 hours left to go. This just makes the onions and peppers a little more firm in the end. But, it's great both ways. Make it tonight!

1 Pound Top Round Beef (or top sirloin), sliced into strips
14 ½ oz Beef Broth
2 Cups Water
1 Green Pepper, cleaned and sliced in strips
1 Onion, cut into strips
½ T Chili Powder
16 oz Tomato Sauce
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
½ tsp black pepper
2 tsp Cumin
15 oz Pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15 oz) cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed

In a 3 ½-4 quart electric slow cooker, combine the beef, broth, water, vegetables, tomato sauce, pinto beans, cumin, pepper, and garlic. Cover and cook on low 8 hours, or until beef is tender. Stir in the black beans and heat, covered, for 10-30 minutes longer. Serve topped with sour cream, avocado, cheese, and corn tortillas or tortilla chips. (Weight Watcher's points: makes 6 servings, which is about 4 ladle scoops per serving and is 5.6 pts each without toppings)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yeast Bread 101

My friend Nicole left me a comment about the Pizza Roll post that got me thinking... But, instead of answering her questions in the comment section, I'm going to do a brief (can I do brief? I think I like to talk too much to label anything "brief". :) ) and very basic little lesson on bread making. Now, keep in mind that this is Yeast Bread Making 101 according to Aubri. I'm just telling you what I've learned over the years as I have made bread. So, feel free to take it with a grain of salt, or leave me a comment and let me know if I left something out!

First things first... You want to make sure that your yeast is alive. I make bread at least once a week, so I buy a Costco sized bag of yeast and put it in the freezer so that it lasts longer. Then, I have a small container in my fridge that I add to from the freezer. I will get the small container out of the fridge a few hours before I start making bread so that it can warm to room temperature. I always combine the yeast with the water (or milk), along with the sugar or honey or whatever sweetener the recipe calls for. This way, you can see your yeast bubble, and know that it's alive before you go through the trouble of putting everything together. If you think that your yeast might be old and dead, then add 1 Tbs. of yeast to 1/4 cup of warm water, and wait 5-10 minutes. If the yeast bubbles up, then it's still good to use.

Second...liquid temperature. Lots of recipes tell you what the exact temperature of the water should be. I haven't ever actually used a thermometer to take the temperature of my water. I just know that it needs to feel warm to my hand, and not hot. If the water is too hot, it will kill your yeast. The sugary/honey stuff that you add is to feed the yeast (yeast has a sweet tooth, just like me!!) so that it can bubble up nicely. If your recipe lists milk as an ingredient, it will usually instruct you to heat it up, but just make sure that you cool it down enough before adding any yeast to it.

Next...flour. I have found that bread making is all about finding a happy balance between sticky dough and heavy, hard as a rock dough. It all has to do with the amount of flour that you add to your bread. I have found that bread turns out best when you add just enough flour to make the dough manageable. What I mean is that it's one step past sticky, just so that it doesn't stick to absolutely everything it touches. Make sense?

So, I usually (gradually) add the minimum amount of flour called for in the recipe, knead it for a few minutes (actually, I let my Kitchen Aid do that part) and then check the stickiness of the dough. Then, I will add flour about 1/8 to 1/4 of a cup at a time until it gets to be the right consistency. It's okay for the dough to be a bit sticky before the first raising. Sometimes after the first raising, the dough is a bit more manageable. I usually leave out about 1/4 cup of flour, and set it aside to use while working with my dough while shaping it. So, if the recipe calls for 5-5 1/2 cups of flour total, I will add 5 cups to the dough, and leave my other 1/2 cup to use when I roll out the dough, or whatever. Get it?

Wheat vs. White.... Wheat flour doesn't have as much gluten in it as white flour does. This is why you see a lot of recipes that call for whole wheat flour AND white flour. The white flour helps in the gluten development. If you want to make a truly whole wheat bread, with all wheat flour, then add some wheat gluten or some kind dough enhancer to your recipe to get a softer, less crumbly bread. Another thing to remember when making wheat bread is that it takes quite a bit more kneading. Wheat bread dough needs more kneading to develop the gluten, so make sure to knead your wheat bread for 7-10 minutes in a Kitchen Aid type mixer, and up to 15 minutes by hand. If you have an awesome tough machine like a Bosch, you can get away with only kneading it for 5-7 minutes. Since learning about the whole kneading thing, I have started kneading my white breads for a bit longer, and I can tell a difference in my dough. I would suggest kneading your white breads for 5-8 minutes to get a nice smooth dough.

An egg wash almost always makes your bread look a little prettier. You can use an egg white whisked together with a little bit of water, or milk (maybe like a tablespoon of liquid), and just brush it over your bread dough to help it have a nice golden crust. This is optional. I don't ever do this with my wheat bread unless I'm making it into buns or something, but it looks really nice on white bread. Keep in mind that if you find a bread recipe that you really like, you can use it to make rolls or buns, pizza dough, or whatever. It's all about how you shape it!

The first bread recipe that I ever made is the recipe that I have posted for french bread. It's really easy, and hard to mess up. So, give it a try! I really do think that making good bread takes practice. So, don't be frustrated if you have never made bread and your first batch turns out badly. Just keep trying!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oatmeal Scotchies

I love the website, which is where I found this recipe. My mom used to make these all the time when we were kids, but she always made them into pan cookies and cut them into bars, which is why I always cut them into bars. If you've never made cookies like this, try it. You just spread the cookie batter onto a greased cookie sheet, bake them, then cut them into bars. They're not quite as pretty, but the take a fraction of the time to bake, and they taste just as good. I don't think that butterscotch chips are as popular as they should be...

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 2/3 cups (11-ounce package) Butterscotch Flavored Morsels

Preheat oven to 375° F. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Pan Cookie Variation: Grease a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Curried Butternut Apple Soup

I woke up to snow this morning. Snow on the ground equals soup in my house. This is a simple and yummy squash soup. It is good as a main dish, or would be great as an appetizer/side dish as well.

Last year, I made this soup and chopped up two medium sized butternut squash (which is a pain, by the way). I then washed my hands and realized that the skin was peeling off of my fingers, and they were all itchy. I had a bad reaction to the squash. Who would have guessed? So, this year, I baked the squash and scooped it out of it's shell. If you haven't done this, it's so easy. Just cut the top stem off of your squash, and then cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds. Line a cookie sheet with foil (do this please...squash leaves a yucky film on things when you bake it) and place your squash cut-side down. Pour about a cup of water in the pan, and bake it at 350 for about an hour or until it's soft. You can scoop the squash out and use it in this soup, or just as a side dish with some butter, salt and pepper. Easy. can buy a bag of pre-chopped, skinned and cleaned butternut squash at Costco. Easiest!

Okay, now get your other ingredients ready:

¼ C butter
2 C chopped onion (about 2 medium onions)
1 rib celery, chopped
2 ½ tsp. curry powder
2 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 – 3 lbs) peeled, seeded and cubed
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup apple cider or apple juice

In a heavy sauce pan, combine onion, celery, butter and curry powder. Cook over low heat until veggies are tender (10-15 minutes), stirring often. Add squash, apples and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until squash and apples are cooked thoroughly.

You need to strain a little bit of liquid off of the mixture once it's cooked. I do this by getting a big ladle or spoon and just skimming liquid off of the top, while trying to keep most of the ingredients still in the pot. Take off as much liquid as you can. Next, puree the apple-squash mixture with one cup of the strained liquid. You will probably need to do this in 3-4 batches in a blender. Don't over-stuff a blender with hot soup or it will pop the top off of your blender. Don't ask me how I know that. If you have a hand mixer, excellent. Stick that puppy into your pan and just blend. Add cider or juice to reach desired consistency. Garnish with grated apple, or chopped pear, yogurt or sour cream.

This is, of course, excellent in bread bowls. I'll post the bread bowl recipe soon!!

Sour Cream Waffles

I love waffles. Blueberry, strawberry topped, green for St. Patty's day. You name it...I love it. I used to try not to make waffles very often because they usually have quite a bit of oil in them, and let's face it...they're not that healthy.

So, when I found this recipe, (I can't remember where, and I'm sure that I've changed it enough to call it my own recipe) I was excited. They don't have any oil, and they taste great. We have these for dinner quite often. They are so filling and yummy! I love breakfast for dinner! Keep in mind, these are not light and fluffy waffles. They are more dense and kinda chewey...but a good chewey, don't worry.

I use Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, which has the same health benefits as other whole wheat flour, but it's light and fluffy. You can purchase this gem at some supermarkets, and probably any health food type store. I get mine and Sunflower market (I heart Sunflower) and it looks just like regular all purpose flour. You can buy it in bulk, or in a 5 lb bag. If you don't have any WW pastry flour, just use all AP Flour. Do spray your waffle iron generously with non-stick cooking spray because they tend to stick more than other waffles. Last time I made these, I put the batter into my waffle iron, then threw in a few half frozen bluberries, and it was SO good!

1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten

In a bowl, mix together milk, sour cream, yogurt, and vanilla. Sift flour into a separate, large bowl; stir in baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add sour cream mixture and eggs to flour mixture; blend until smooth. Cook on a greased waffle iron until golden brown; lift off with a fork.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pizza Rolls

I don't know about you, but I love pizza in pretty much any shape or form. I first had these pizza rolls at my husband's grandmother's (Nana) house. His mom started making them for the family to have during Conference time, and they're so yummy. I haven't ever actually had a written recipe, so I just got creative with it this time. I thought that they turned out great...and so did my husband :) I usually make these as a main dish, but they could also be made as a side dish, a fun appetizer, or in the place of a breadstick/roll. This time, I made ham and pineapple rolls, as well as pesto and cheese. I haven't ever had pizza rolls with pesto before, and was unsure about which toppings would go well with the pesto, so I just used it with cheese. It was REALLY good, and would probably be excellent served in the place of a breadstick. I think that it would also be excellent with pepperoni or salami (I LOVE salami...if you haven't ever had it on pizza, seriously, try it. It's so much better than pepperoni!).

I'm going to post the recipe that I used for the dough, but feel free to use whatever recipe you usually use for pizza. I think that this would be good with the "Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Dough" that I posted previously. This recipe probably feeds 3-4 adults, so you might want to consider doubling it if you have more people.

Pizza Dough

1 ¼ C Warm Water
1 tsp. Sugar
1 pkg. Yeast
¼ C Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Salt
3 ½ C Flour

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add yeast mixture to 1 ½ cups flour, oil and salt. Gradually mix in the rest of the flour. Knead until thoroughly mixed. Let dough raise once until doubled in size. Punch down and roll out. Top with your favorite sauce, pizza toppings, and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until desired doneness (about 20-30 minutes). Makes one large pizza, or two smaller thin-crusted pizzas.

Pizza Rolls

1 recipe of pizza dough (see above)
6 oz cream cheese, softened (lite will work fine, just make sure it's soft!)
1 ½ C shredded cheese (I used 1/2 Mozzarella and 1/2 cheddar for more flavor)
pizza sauce or marinara
pesto sauce (optional)
pizza toppings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the pizza dough according to recipe directions. Let the dough raise once and then punch down. Roll the pizza dough into a rectangular shape, (just like cinnamon rolls) about an 11x15 inch rectangle. Spread the softened cream cheese over the dough. If you are planning to use pesto, then spread a small amount of pesto thinly over the cream cheese, and top with the shredded cheese. If you're not using pesto, just sprinkle the shredded cheese over the cream cheese. Add all desired toppings (I used lunch meat style ham, just because I thought that it would be less bulky to roll up, and it worked great.) Then, roll up the dough so that you have a nice long roll. Place the roll (or just a part of the roll, depending on what will fit) onto a cutting board and cut into 1-1/2 inch wide slices. Place pieces on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Serve with pizza sauce for dipping!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween Party Mix

I had to get this posted really quick so that you could grab the ingredients and make it this week before Halloween! I ended up taking lots of pictures of this, so hang in there!

I got this recipe from a friend and have been making it every year since, for probably about 7 years now.'s very addicting, and cute. What more do you need? It makes a great bit bowl full, so plan on giving some to friends or neighbors. Here we go....

First: Stir together in a large bowl:
11 oz Pretzels
½ C Peanuts
8-10 ½ oz package of mini Nutter Butter Cookies (“Nutter Butter Bites”)

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

(This is my new red candy making pan that I got for my birthday...isn't it cute? I've officially used it now! Thanks Mom)
Heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan until boiling:
1 C Sugar
½ C Butter
½ C Corn Syrup
2 Tbsp Vanilla
1 tsp. Baking Soda
Boil for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. This mixture will turn darker, to kind-of an orange-golden color. Remove from burner and add (this is optional, but I do it because I am in love with Peanut Butter) a heaping tablespoon of creamy peanut butter. Stir until peanut butter is dissolved. Pour mixture over pretzel/peanut mix.

At this point, it should be all shiny and glossy, like this.

Spray an 11x15 cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Pour coated pretzel mixture onto the pan and spread it out as evenly as you can. Bake at 250 for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until done.
When mixture is done, it should look more like this...not so shiny. But, will still turn out cute. Don't worry. Let this mixture cool completely. Be patient, I know you want to taste it, but you must let it cool so that it doesn't melt your cute candies.

When cooled, put your pretzel mixture in a large bowl and add: 10 oz Halloween Peanut M&M’s and 18 ½ oz Candy Corn or other Halloween mix. (I used a Brach's mixture that has the little cute pumpkins) Now you can taste it. Get a bite with a pretzel, an m&m, and a candy shove it in...perfect! Note to self: Try to keep all of the little fingers out of the bowl long enough to take a picture.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who are you?

I started this blog because I found myself forwarding on a lot of recipes to my mom and other people as I tried new recipes. I put a counter at the bottom of the page, just because I was curious to see if anyone was really looking at it. Is my mom looking at this page tons, or do I have other visitors? Leave me a comment and let me know! If you don't have a google account, you can still leave a comment, just try! It would be fun for me to see who checks my blog. Do you have any comments on the food? Is anyone trying these recipes? Any suggestions of recipes you would like to see? Let me know!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Harvest Pumpkin Dip

I am WAY into Fall right now, and Fall to me equals...pumpkin! I got this recipe from my husband's cousin Jessica. It is so yummy and great with apples and pears. I have used light cream cheese in this, and it works just fine. Make sure that your cream cheese is at room temperature.

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 can (15 oz.) solid-pack pumpkin
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Apple and pear slices
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Gradually add the pumpkin, pie spice, vanilla and ginger; beat until smooth. Serve with fruit. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 3 ½ cups. (if you use light cream cheese, there are 2.5 Weight Watchers pts per ¼ cup)

Easy Caramel Sauce

This is my go-to recipe any time I need something sweet to drizzle (or pour) over ice cream or cakes or whatever. Some day I'll post my mom's recipe for Apple Pudding Cake, which is where this caramel sauce recipe came from. Don't stress...the sauce really is THAT easy!

1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter (please, please, please use real butter)
1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream

Melt butter on medium-low heat in a small sauce pan. Add sugar and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved, 4-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the cream. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Re-heat in a sauce pan or microwave after it's been refrigerated.

Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake

Despite what many people think, cheesecakes really are pretty easy to make. This one was a little bit involved because of all of the different yumminess that goes into it...but WELL worth it. I opted to cover mine with caramel sauce, as you can see. I'll post the recipe for the easy caramel sauce as well...hold your horses.

My two brothers and my in-laws were coming over for dinner a few Sundays ago, and I decided to test this out on them for dessert. As I started serving this cheesecake, the room all of the sudden became quiet, and then I realized that more than one person was going "mmmmm..." outloud. to my ears.

One of the big secrets to making a good, smooth cheesecake is to have ALL of the ingredients at room temperature. I would suggest setting everything out on the counter about 4 hours before you're ready to start making your cheesecake....yep, even the eggs. Oh, and don't even TRY to use light cream cheese...shame on you. I think that another great secret in making a deliciously smooth cheesecake is the water bath. BUT...don't stop reading now. I have made plenty of cheesecakes without the water bath. Don't freak out.

If anyone is a recipe blog stalker like I am, you will have probably heard of the "Tuesdays with Dorie" group. They all bake the same recipe out of one of Dorie Greenspan's cook books. This recipe is one of the recipes that the TWD group made, and then posted the recipe on their blogs. I wonder if Dorie is okay with all of her recipes being posted on blogs...oh well, at least I won't have to buy her cook book! She seems pretty brilliant to me, so far. Anyway, sorry for the ridiculously long post. This cheesecake is definitely Cheesecake Factory material. Try it...but beware that from start to finish, it took me about 3 hours.

For the Crust:
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs) (NO...use the gingersnaps. please.)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional) (I didn't add anymore cinnamon cuz my gingersnaps were really snappy)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples:
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter (I had salted...whatev)
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling:
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple cider (I just used apple juice, cuz that's what I had)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust:

Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you’re using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they’ll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. (I used 3 pieces of foil and mine stayed dry...yeah!) Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples:

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. (I had a really big frying pan, so I just did this in one step...worked just fine) Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake:

Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. (I used an 11x15 Pyrex type pan) Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling:

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan (at this point, the pan is STILL wrapped in foil) and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, (I used a 9 inch pan, and it took about 1 hour and 45 minutes) covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center–if the center shimmies, that’s just fine. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan’s latch and release and remove the sides.

***it's me, Aubri, again***I found it easiest and prettiest when I sliced it with a knife that had been run under hot water for a few seconds. Do this between each slice, and you're cheesecake will look fabulous! Oh, and don't forget to drizzle it with caramel...yum.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Okay, this is for all of you who are scared of this yummy purple veggie. I decided to take pictures as I went along so that you can see that this is easy and NOT scary. Eggplant is kind-of like Zucchini in that it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. Eggplant Parmesan is usually fried, but this version is baked and very healthy. I got the original recipe out of a Weight Watcher's cookbook, and the tailored it to my tastes (and made it a bit easier by using prepared sauce and bread crumbs). My husband is a meat kind of guy, but he loves this dish. So, now that you're out of excuses...go ahead and try it!

1 medium-large Eggplant
2 large Eggs
2 Tablespoons Fat Free Milk
1 Cup Italian-seasoned Bread Crumbs
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
3 T grated Parmesan Cheese
Prepared Marinara Sauce

When shopping for an eggplant, make sure that your eggplant is firm, not squishy. The skin should be purple and smooth. You should plan on using your eggplant within 1-2 days of when it is purchased. Store it in the refrigerator in a paper sack. When you're ready to prepare the Eggplant Parmesan, wash your eggplant, chop off the stem end, and slice the eggplant into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. The thinner you cut them, the faster they will cook. Preheat oven to 375 and spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.

Lightly beat together the eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Place bread crumbs in another bowl. Dip the eggplant in the egg mixture, then in the bread crumbs, and arrange in one layer on the baking sheets.

Lightly spray the top of the eggplant with non-stick spray. Bake until the eggplant is softened, and lightly brown, about 25 minutes.

While the eggplant is baking, spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick cooking spray, then cover the bottom with sauce. Grate your cheeses.

Remove the browned, softened eggplant from the oven and carefully layer your eggplant and sauce. The eggplant will soak up some of the sauce, so make sure you pile on the sauce! You should use the whole jar.

Sprinkle with cheeses and bake uncovered until hot and bubbling, and the cheese is golden, about 20 minutes.

Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with salad or a side of pasta with sauce. Makes 6 servings, 5 Weight Watchers points per serving.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Three Cheese Stuffed Shells

I recently made these shells for my brother's birthday dinner. I thought that I would post them because they're really quite easy and taste great. This shell recipe is very similar to a lot of recipes for cheese manicotti, but these shells are so much easier to stuff. I will never stuff manicotti shells again...unless someone begs me to. These can be made a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated, then just pop them into the oven 45 minutes or so before you are planning to serve them.
I didn't think to get a picture of them once they were all hot and bubbly, sorry...but I was hosting a dinner!! Here is a picture of the shells after I drained the water off of them. If you place them on a piece of foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, they cool off faster and don't stick together. The other two pictures are of the shells stuffed. I did a pan with regular marinara and a few with pesto my brother requested. Of course, you do need to cover the shells with sauce once you are done stuffing them!! These are fabulous with the french bread recipe I posted a little while back!

1pkg Jumbo Shells (about 20 shells)
1 beaten egg
12 oz Cottage Cheese, drained
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T snipped fresh parsley
1 lb, 10 oz jar of Spaghetti Sauce

Cook pasta shells according to package directions. (Make sure to not over cook them, or they'll be too soft!) Drain well and cool shells in a single layer on a piece of greased foil or parchment paper. For filling, stir together egg, cheeses, and parsley. Spoon filling into each cooked shell. Pour a small amount of spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan or large casserole dish. Place shells in a single layer in pan and pour enough sauce over shells to cover them. (If you’re making a lot of these, you can also layer or stack the shells with sauce in between them. See picture above.) Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, or until heated through. Makes about 4 main dish servings.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Better than WHAT Cake?

We usually call this "Skor Bar Cake" at our house, just to avoid the word "S-E-X". Anyway, this is a really yummy cake, and if you've never had it, you're seriously missing out. If you've never made it, you should. It's SO easy. I've had this made with a german chocolate cake mix before, but I just don't think it's as good as Devil's Food....mmm...I certainly know why the name of this cake contains the word "devil"...

1 Devils Food Cake Mix, plus ingredients to make it according to package directions.
1/2 Jar Caramel Ice Cream Topping (I'm partial to Mrs. Richardson's brand)
1/2 Jar Hot Fudge or Fudge Ice Cream Topping (again, Mrs. Richardson's)
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
8 oz Cool Whip
5 Skor Bars (Health Bars work too)

Mix and bake the cake mix according to package directions in a 9x13 pan. While cake is baking, mix together the toppings and milk until well blended. Once cake has baked and cooled, poke holes in it all over with a skewer or chop stick. (a knife works too) Pour all of the yummy topping mix over the cake and let it sit in the fridge for for 6-8 hours or overnight if you have time. It will soak up most of the toppings. Put the candy bars in the freezer for a while or overnight. This will make it a little easier to break the candy bars up without melting the chocolate on the candy bar.

Just before serving, put the candy bars in a zip lock bag and let out all of your frustrations! "Frost" the cake with the cool whip, and sprinkle with the candy bar pieces. Serve with your favorite ice cream! You can make this more fancy by using real whipped cream and adding a handful of chopped roasted almonds. YUM!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Zucchini, Zucchini and MORE Zucchini

I've been baking all day...a birthday cake for my brother (more on that later), granola bars with craisins this time, and Zucchini cookies (see below), not to mention this little project. This is what only one corner of my kitchen looks like...I have some work ahead of me.
Why does Zucchini grown at the wrong time of the year? In my opinion, the best thing to do with Zucchini is to bake with it. (Although, I do love it sauteed in a little bit of olive oil and fresh garlic...yum) But, I never want to bake in the middle of the summer when I have tons of zucchini, do you? So, I just wanted to share this tip about Zucchini that my friend Kim Mills shared with me a few years ago. Do you know that you can freeze these lovely squashes? You can't really make what you would make with fresh zucchini, but zucchini that has been frozen is great for baking with.
Here's what I do: I take the big zucchini's that aren't any good for much of anything and put them through my Kitchen Aid shredder on fine shred. (You can also just use your cheese grater if you want.) Then, I package it in sandwich baggies, each 2 cups (just because that's what most of my recipes call for). I then put several full baggies in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. In the middle of the winter when you don't want to pay $3 a pound for squash, you just get a baggie out of the freezer, thaw it, and dump it into your zucchini bread ingredients and everything is great. However, zucchini tends to release all of it's juices while thawing, so don't be surprised if your little shredded zucchini is floating in liquid by the time it's thawed. Make sure to dump it all, or at least most of it, into your recipe. This is where all the yummy moisture in your baked goods comes from.
And, that's my tip of the day...or week...or my only tip so far! If you don't have a garden, go beg some big zucchinis from your neighbor and get to shredding. When it's frigid in February and you want some zucchini bread, you'll be glad you did!

Low Fat Zucchini Cookies

Honestly Folks, I'm not one to sacrifice taste when it comes to dessert. I do not make low fat cookies or cakes or whatever. I got this recipe from the munch n' crunch blog (see side for link) and decided to try them while I had all of my shredded zucchini out. Look at those yummy chocolate chips and pretty green flecks! They are actually really good. I wouldn't have guessed that they were low fat if I didn't make them myself. They're more of a cake-like consistency, but the oatmeal also gives them some chewiness. So, go ahead...try them...and don't feel guilty if you eat six or seven! (At least that is what I told myself as I was sampling every batch that I got out of the oven.) My first batch was a little dry (just a little tiny bit, don't panic) so I put the next one in for one minute less...and wallah...perfection! Mine took 9 minutes. I used whole wheat pastry flour, which is light and fluffy and perfect for baked goods. You can get it at any type of natural foods store like the Good Earth or the new Sunflower Market that just opened near me. (I am in love with that store!) I thought that 1/2 tsp. of cloves was a bit much, so next time I'll use 1/4 tsp of cloves, and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, but that's just my preference. I also added 1/2 tsp of vanilla. Make them. Now...before Zucchini is no longer in season!!

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup grated zucchini (fine grate)
1 cup chocolate chips
* Optional Items: Protein powder, wheat germ, craisins, etc.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Cream together sugar, butter, applesauce and egg with a mixer on low speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add dry ingredients, alternating with grated zucchini. Once all ingredients are well combined, fold in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon full onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until cookies are barely starting to turn brown around the edges. Let cookies stand for 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack for cooling. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

***NOTE: I put them all in a tupperware, and the next day, they looked a little different, but don't be alarmed. They are still pretty tasty for a low fat cookie.

Nutrition Facts: per 1 cookie Calories: 86 Fat: 3 grams(2 grams saturated, 1 mono-unsaturated)Carbs: 14 grams Fiber: 1 gram Protein: 1 gram (My batch made 40 cookies, so that's about 1 1/2 points on Weight Watchers)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Baked Spaghetti

This is an easy week night meal that is popular with kids and adults (at least at my house, it is!). It sounds weird to add the cream of mushroom soup on the top, but it adds a lot of flavor and is creamy and good. You can also add some chopped olives if you like!

½ medium onion minced
1 Lb. Hamburger
2 C. Mozzarella Cheese
Jar of Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz or larger if you like it saucy!)
Mushrooms (optional)
12 oz Spaghetti
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
¼ C Water
Parmesan Cheese
Olives, chopped (optional)

Brown hamburger with onion and drain. Add Spaghetti sauce and mushrooms. Simmer over low heat until heated through. Boil Spaghetti according to package directions only until slightly undercooked. Layer spaghetti, sauce and cheese in a greased 9x13 pan. Mix soup and water, and pour over layers. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and olives. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Crusty French Bread

I finally figured out how to take some close up pictures, and I'm still experimenting to see what looks best, so bear with me until I become a better photographer!

This is a recipe that my Aunt Vicki acquired in a cooking class that she took in High School, I think. It's been around for a while. I have been making this recipe for years, and I love it. It's so versatile. I've used it to make pizza dough. My mom used it to make focaccia bread once. I add some garlic and Italian Seasonings to it to make a soft white bread that goes great with Italian food. (This is my brilliant Mother's idea) It's just yummy! I made this for dinner last Sunday and my brother ate almost an entire loaf himself. This bread is best hot, and isn't quite as good the next day, so don't plan on making tons and freezing's just not as good!

5-5 ½ C Flour
1 pkg. Yeast
2 C Warm Water
1 Tbs. Shortening
1 Tbs. Sugar
3 tsp Salt
1 Egg white
1 Tbs. Water

Combine 2 C Flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Add warm water and shortening (I always substitute 1 Tbs. of Olive Oil when I make the Italian style loaf) and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour and knead on floured surface until dough is no longer sticky. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled (1-1 ½ hrs.). Punch down. Shape into one long or 2 small loaves and place on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with combined egg white and water. With a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal slashes across top of loaf. Let bread rise for another 30 to 40 minutes. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes (30-35 for 2 loaves, or 40-45 for one loaf) or until light golden brown. For crustier loaf, bake with a shallow pan of water on lower oven rack. For Italian style bread, add 1 tsp. Italian seasoning and ¼ to ½ tsp garlic powder (or 1-2 cloves of pressed garlic) to dough while kneading. Serve hot with butter or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.