Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cheese Ball

Can you tell what this is?

It's a snowman cheese ball of course!

I know, I know. What good is a snowman cheese ball recipe 3 days after Christmas?! But I know that some of you Pinners out there will save this for next year; or, if you're like me and you like to celebrate all 12 Days of Christmas, there is still room on your New Year's Eve table for this guy. And, heck, snowmen aren't just for Christmas! I think this definitely falls under the category of winter ;)

The idea came from here (Martha, you are truly a god!) and here is my favorite cheese ball recipe, but you could certainly use any white-ish colored cheese ball recipe that you like.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

There comes a time when just plain 'ole no more can be done. The presents go under the tree, perfectly wrapped or not. The food is made and served, perfect or not. The house is as clean as it's gonna get and all those millions of little extras that you intended on making happen just vanish into thin air. I find a peace in that.

There were a million and one recipes I wanted to blog about, but I'm just going to leave you with a glimpse of what's been going on in our kitchen. And I know that when Christmas has come and gone, I won't remember a single one of those things I was going to do, only the people I spent it with :)

Merry Christmas, friends

 Candy Cane Cookies


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snow Globe Cake Pops

This post is all about keeping it real. I know these probably appear to be all fine and well but were you to inspect them closer you would see glaring flaws, craftily covered with mass amounts of sprinkles.

You may be familiar with the very talented, Bakerella, and the cake pop craze she started. When I saw these snowglobe cake pops on her site in July made by one of her Pop Stars, I knew I had, had, had to make them this Christmas.

Let's just say, the cake pop mojo was not with me this time.

Many of them fell off the stick and the coating was hard to work with and well, I could go on and on about the negatives but I'm going to narrow it down to the possibilities of what might have happened this time:

1. I used Candy Melts, not White Bark like I did the first time, and the Candy Melts were much thicker, thereby pulling the cake ball off the stick.

2. The addition of the gumdrop to the stick did not allow for enough stick to be poked into the cake ball. Also, note to self, the gumdrops need to be a lot bigger to make the snowglobe effect.

3. I used a cake mix this time but not the exact cake mix I used last time (but same flavor) and cream cheese frosting this time instead of vanilla. The cake balls seemed softer and held their shape less. I think I used Duncan Hines Butter recipe last time.

So, you win some, you lose some. I'm pretty sure the kiddos will enjoy these at Friday's party anyway :)

(and thank you to my lovely aunt, Bernice, for sticking out the whole thing and masterfully camouflaging the pops while listening to me cuss like a sailor chatter on about things)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Club

I love book club. I never miss it, even if I haven't read the book. I love the company of the women in my group and well, I'm never going to pass up the opportunity for adult conversation! We take turns picking the book and hosting the discussion. This month was my turn and I picked, If It Was Easy, They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married, which I can't imagine any woman not enjoying if she has a husband. or has ever lived with a man. or talked to a man. or stood in line next to a man.

For me, planning the food is almost as important as reading the book, so without further ado, here are the yummy things we chowed down on ate delicately with pinkies up while we discussed literahture.

Bon Appetit, December 2003

I thought these were delicious! They tasted just like the Ferrero-Rocher Hazelnut chocolates. I found the hazelnut butter at Natural Grocers and it was so separated that I had to whir it up in the food processor to get it back together again. Many of the reviews for this recipe cited problems with crumbliness that I didn't experience, I did increase the cooking time to 14-15 minutes but that may just be my oven so start at 12 minutes and go from there.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy unsalted hazelnut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce package semisweet mini chocolate chips (2 cups)

Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, hazelnut butter, and both sugars in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Soften dough slightly at room temperature before shaping.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 1 level tablespoon for each cookie, roll dough between palms of hands into 1-inch balls. Arrange 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature.)

Little Gingerbread Scones with Lemon Glaze
adapted from Christmas with Southern Living 2011

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbls. baking powder
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbls. whipping cream, divided
3 Tbls. molasses
1 Tbls. vanilla

Preheat oven to 425'. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in crystallized ginger. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly. Combine 3/4 cup plus 1Tbls. whipping cream, vanilla, and molasses. Add to dry ingredients, stirring with a fork just until dry ingredients are moistened. Knead dough in bowl 4-5 times just until it holds together.

Dump out onto a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 4 equal parts. Lightly pat each piece into a round about 1/2" thick. Cut each round into fourths and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush tops of scones with remaining tablespoon of whipping cream.

Bake for 16 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly, then glaze (if you put the glaze on while the scones are too hot, it will just slide off).

These scones could easily be frozen, unglazed, in a plastic freezer bag up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature in bag, then warm slightly in the oven and proceed with the glaze.

Lemon Glaze
1 Tbls. butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tbls. lemon juice

Whisk everything together in a mixing bowl, adding more lemon juice if not thin enough. This should be the consistency of a cinnamon roll icing.

This was not really a "recipe", so please visit Baked Bree to see how she made this. It was ridiculously easy with a big wow factor. I used Beemster Classic Aged Gouda which I was able to find at my regular grocery store in the specialty cheeses. I probably used a generous 1/2 pound of cheese.

Ham-Wrapped Olive Shrimp
adapted from Christmas with Southern Living 2011

I think this was the hit of the night! They were gone so quick I didn't even get a picture (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

1 pound large shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
3 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
10 thin slices deli ham
30 pimento-stuffed olives

Stir together oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add shrimp, toss to coat. Chill in fridge 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler 5 1/2 inches from heat. Cut each ham slice into thirds. Wrap each strip of ham around 1 shrimp and 1 olive; secure with a wooden toothpick. Place shrimp on lightly greased baking sheet and broil about 3 minutes per side. Serve hot.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Chicken Parmesan Bake

I have wanted to share this recipe with you for a few days now but keep putting it off because I don't have a good picture to go with it. You can forgive that if I tell you that this was tasty, easy, required no chopping, and everyone ate it, right? Ok. {waiting for the other shoe to drop} BUT the recipe does need a few tweaks in my opinion.

I agree with the creator of this recipe that the yumminess of this dish is the crispy croutons on top and the gooey underside of the crouton that bakes in the sauce but the whole chicken breasts left portions that were too big, didn't cook evenly, and only the down-in-the-valley-of-tomato-sauce croutons got the aforementioned gooey goodness. I think this could be remedied by using chicken tenders or cutting the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make a more level dish that would cook more evenly.

I also didn't have Parmesan cheese (because, ya know, I was literally just at the store before I made this. I need a webcam in my fridge so I can check it when I am at the store). I did have a packet of this which I had never used before but it was a really tasty substitute given that I am normally against pre-packaged seasoning thingies but I'm not going to let that come between me and another call to the pizza man--lesser of two evils :). As a result, I omitted the red pepper and the fresh basil since the mix was already seasoned.

I am also going to use more sauce next time because 1 cup (I halved the recipe) was not enough sauce.

UPDATE 1/9/12: I tried this tonight with twice the amount of sauce and much thinner chicken breasts and no Parmesan seasoning packet thingie and it turned out fantastic. Baked in 35 minutes.
Parmesan Chicken Bake
adapted from Food Wishes

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
hot red pepper flakes, to taste
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, split in half horizontally or lightly pounded to an even thickness; or 2-3 pounds chicken tenders
2-3 cups marinara sauce (I used Barilla)
1/4 cup chopped basil  
8 oz mozzarella, shredded
4 oz Parmesan, grated; or 2 packets Kraft Parmesan Tuscan Herbs Blend
1 (5-oz) package garlic croutons (the bigger ones work best here)

Preheat oven to 350. Put olive oil and garlic in a 9 x 13 dish and swish it around with a spoon to make an even layer. Sprinkle with red pepper. Place chicken in dish in one layer, pour sauce evenly over top. Sprinkle basil over sauce. Put half the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan over the basil, then top with croutons and remaining cheese. Remember, evenness is the name of the game here. Bake for 35-45 minutes until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 155'.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving! These have a cheese factor of 100, but they're kid-pleasers :)

Instructions here and here and here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Roasted Broccoli

So a nice friend would give you, on this week of Thanksgiving, a great recipe that was easy, could be made in advance, would economize on oven space, and would become a new favorite at your Thanksgiving table (we are not even going to get into how hard it is to introduce new foods at the Thanksgiving table. I'd rather perform a root canal on a cat).

But, no, I'm not going to give you any of those things. I'm going to tell you about roasted broccoli.

I roast probably 75% of the vegetables I make and I have the blackened pans to show for it. I love this method because it's really tasty, really easy, usually goes along with whatever else is going in the oven, and works great with a lot of different vegetables. I have made converts out of vegetable haters with this method.

Roasted Broccoli

About 1 pound Broccoli (You can use the entire piece of broccoli: stem, leaves, and florets. When broccoli is in season at my local farmstand, it comes with lots of leaves attached which is my favorite part. The leaves get all crispy and crunchy)

2 Tbls. olive oil

1 tsp. finely minced garlic (1/2 tsp. of the jar stuff) (optional)*

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450'. Chop the florets into bite-size pieces. Peel the tough part of the stem and cut into 1/2 inch thick circles. Place on baking sheet with leaves and drizzle the olive oil over the broccoli and toss to coat completely. Season with salt and pepper. Shake the pan to make a single layer. Roast 10 minutes, then stir. Roast another 5-10 minutes until done. Serves 4.

*I see a lot of recipes that call for tossing the garlic in at the begining but I can never keep mine from burning, so I either throw the garlic in during the last 5 minutes or wait until it comes out of the oven and sprinkle it with a little garlic salt.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On the Menu this Week

Thai Chicken Sates in Lettuce Leaves, Noodles

Sweet and Spicy Salmon with Pineapple, Rice, Sauteed Spinach

Thanksgiving Dinner #1

Roasted Chicken Sausages with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli

Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage, Buttered Bread

Pork Chops, Stewed Brussel Greens, Cornbread

Grilled Cheese and Soup

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Burritos

I want to like my slow cooker (actually, slow cookers, I have three of them in various sizes). The slow cooker has all the possibility of being a workhorse in the deep trenches of  the daily war against fast food. It gives the promise of a complete meal with merely a dump of ingredients and a quick flick of the On switch.

Except...Um...Well...Do you know what I mean if I say that everything that comes out of it tastes "slow-cookery"? Everything comes out soupy or all tastes the same. I love a good roast but I don't want overcooked beef juice carrots and potatoes with it (I know this is exactly what some people love about it).

I have my handful of things I make in the slow cooker which are in the meal rotation every week or two so when I find a new one I am tinkled pink! This is a recipe that my friend Alicia created and it is the bomb! So easy. No pre-cooking and just out-of-this world tasty. We had these with avocado and sour cream and they would have been so good with Monterey Jack cheese. 

With 3 chicken breasts we got 8 burritos and leftovers for 4 enchiladas. I made enchiladas by rolling up the filling and monterey jack cheese inside of 4 flour tortillas (you could also use corn) then pouring about 1/2 can of green enchilada sauce over the top, toppping with more cheese and baking at 350 for about 30 minutes.

The leftover filling froze very well and if you make enchiladas you can freeze those too just increase the cooking time to 1 hour if still frozen or 45 minutes if defrosted.

Slow Cooker Green Chile Burritos

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 oz. can chopped green chilies
1 cup salsa (I used Herdez)
1 cup chopped onion (I used frozen pre-chopped)
1 chicken bouillon cube (Alicia uses chipotle cubes but I couldn't find those at my store)
1 clove garlic (1/2 tsp of the pre-chopped stuff)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder or regular chili powder
15 oz. can green enchilada sauce

Combine everything except the enchilada sauce in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low for 4-6 hours until chicken is cooked through. Drain everything into a colander, remove chicken. Place contents of colander back in slow cooker, shred chicken, add back to slow cooker and pour in can of enchilada sauce, Stir, cover, and cook until just warmed through. Serve wrapped in tortillas with avocado, sour cream, and cheese.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

On the Menu this Week

Radishes, Broccoli, Spinach, Lettuce mix, Green Tomatoes, Squash, Napa Cabbage, Green Onions

Menu planning is a lot easier when I can cast off my parental shackles responsibilities for two seconds and get to my local farmstand. I buy whatever looks really great and then search for ways to cook it. Thank you Farmer Jo and Farmer John for growing these awesome vegetables!

Oven Fried Shrimp, Salad, Roasted Broccoli
Green Chile Enchiladas, Squash, Spanish Rice
Mushroom and Cheese Omelets, Oven Fries, Sauteed Spinach

What's on your table this week?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Detox Green Smoothie

Maybe you've heard of a little thing called Pinterest? If not, then good for you because you probably have time for your loved ones still! But, if not for Pinterest, I would not have found this little gem of a recipe.

I have tried a lot of lackluster smoothie recipes but this is a keeper, even the spinach hater asked to have his spinach made like this from now on.

Detox Green Smoothie

Makes 2 smoothies

1 cup baby spinach
1 cup kale, torn in pieces
1 pear, cut-up
1 ½ cup of orange juice
1 frozen banana (I advise you to peel it before freezing)

Puree in a blender and enjoy. I covered the second glass of smoothie and drank it the next day, just stir it up because it will separate.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Baked Chicken Oreganato with Potatoes and Tomatoes

One bowl. One pan. Almost everything came from the freezer or pantry. No stirring or attending. That's my kind of dinner! This was really good for something so easy and was well received by everyone in the fam and even a couple of other people from someone else's fam ;)

Baked Chicken Oreganato with Potatoes and Tomatoes
from Parenting magazine

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 small thinly sliced red onion, 5 small thinly sliced red-skin potatoes, one 15 oz can stewed tomatoes, drained, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 Tbsp oregano, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix well, and arrange in a shallow baking dish or on a cookie sheet. In the same bowl, add 1 1/2 lb chicken tenders, 3 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to season chicken. Arrange the chicken on top of the tomato and potato mixture, and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp store-bought seasoned bread crumbs. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown. (Serves 4).

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

On the Menu this Week

I'm going to change the way I list the weekly menu. I am still going to post it over on the side there but I am going to make it a post as well so that I can link to recipes (I'm sure there is a way to do this in the sidebar but I am not that fancy when it comes to web design). This will also allow me to search past menus for ideas because every week I feel like making a menu plan is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

At the end of the week I'll try to update what I did (or didn't) make and if it was good. I'm also going to ask you to comment on what you are making because I need to mine your brains for dinner ideas am interested in what's going in your kitchen.

Slow Cooker Chicken Burritos
Chicken Oreganato
Cube Steaks, Oven Fries, Roasted Carrots
Slow Cooker Bean Soup with Spinach, Garlic Bread
Pan-Seared Salmon with Bulgur, Broccoli Pizza

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dem Bones, Dem Bones

Isn't this guy very cute? I had intended to make these cute things but only got as far as molding the skeletons.

First you start by browsing through Michaels with your baby and see this cute mold you cannot live without. Then you get yourself some candy coating. I wanted to use Candy Melts but I was going to have to stab myself in the eyes if I had to go one more place (why I didn't buy them when I got the mold is a personal failing of mine I'll never understand) so I made due with Almond Bark from the grocery store.

Melt your candy in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for 90 seconds, then in 15 second intervals until smooth. Be careful to not overcook or it will scorch and, just like in Gremlins, water is the enemy of candy coating and not just after midnight, so make sure everything is really dry. Let me stop here and also tell you that Candy Melts come in many fine colors, including a lovely Spooky Green, but the realist child in the family insisted on white. If you want to tint your own candy coating you must use candy coating coloring. Regular food coloring has water and you remember what I said about Gremlins :)

Place the melted candy in a pastry bag (never mind the sweet pinkness of my bag in the picture, a Valentine project gone very wrong). You really have to use a pastry bag for this because the lines of the mold are so narrow. Perfection is not a goal here, just try to not overflow the mold cavities. Place in fridge for 5-10 minutes or until hardened, then whack them out onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. No need to wash the mold in between fillings, you are good to go again. I left these out at room temp and had no problem with them getting soft which, sadly, is a possibilty in Texas on Oct. 29.

Then use in all the clever ways I know you can think of!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Waffles

I saw this recipe for Battered Apple Rings on Pinterest and thought, "what a great idea!" Then we made Buttermilk Waffles the other night and I thought, "Why can't apples work in this?"

Hoo-mama! This was good and so easy! I didn't even peel the apple. My only regret was that I didn't sprinkle the tops of the apple slices with cinnamon-sugar first.

Go on. Make this. People will think you are fancy.

Apple Waffles
  • Waffle recipe or mix of your choice. I used this one. It made 8 Belgian-size waffles.
  • 1-2 apples, washed, cored and thinly sliced.

If your waffle maker is not non-stick, you may want to spray it with a little non-stick spray before you start.

Pour batter into your preheated waffle maker. Place 3-4 apple slices on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar if desired, then close lid and cook waffle until crisp and golden brown.

Finish off with REAL butter and REAL maple syrup because life is too short for anything else :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pecan-Molasses Granola

This was easy. This was delicious. This gave my house an instant smell of fall coziness!

When you find a great source for recipes you tend not to stray elsewhere. Some people might call this a rut but those people can hushie-uppie. It is hard to get dinner on the table E-V-E-R-Y night. I calculate that in the course of my marriage I have put 4125 dinners on the table and that is a low estimate.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Campfire Cake

I have had the privilege of making every one of my kiddos' birthday cakes. Some were from mixes, but lately I have really strived to not use a mix. There are a lot of unkown ingredients in cake mix and in the last few years I have tried to narrow down that kind of thing. Besides, the only extra steps are measuring flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla.

Cakes can easily be made when you have the time and then frozen until you're ready to decorate; just wrap the cake really tightly before freeezing and then defrost at room temp still in the wrapping.

This year we had a campout birthday and I was inspired by this and this and this.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Lasagna of Shame

SO. Let's start right out with my most embarrassing culinary secret. Should you ever think while reading this blog what a food snob I am, you may refer back to this entry and remember my shameful secret. It's actually a secret my husband’s side of the family has been keeping for years but I am sooooo glad they introduced it to me!

Are you ready?

This lasagna contains:
Tomato paste
Ground beef
Lasagna noodles