Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nutella Hot Chocolate

I think I have died and gone to H.E.A.V.E.N. Nutella heaven, that is! I have made no secret of my nutella obsession but this takes it to a new level! I saw this recipe pop up on quite a few different food blogs I follow, the recipe was essentially the same, just a few small changes. But the one I like the best is from my friend Brenda's blog. I only changed it slightly...

Nutella Hot Chocolate

1 cup milk (I used 1%, it is what I had)
a splash of heavy cream (probably not necessary if you use whole milk)
1/4 cup nutella
a pinch of salt
a dash of cinnamon

Heat the milk and cream until hot but not boiling. Add the nutella, salt and cinnamon and whisk until the nutella is totally melted and combined. Serve with fresh whipped cream!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

This is another recipe from my sister-in-law. I absolutely LOVE spinach and artichoke dip and this is my favorite recipe for it! It makes me like it even more that it doesn't have mayonnaise in it. Not that I have anything against mayonnaise but putting it in desserts and eating it in a big glob on top of crackers or bread just makes me want to gag. It is a mental thing. Anyway, you won't miss the mayo one bit in this, it is wonderful!

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1-10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1-14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2-8 oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together spinach, artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, garlic, 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and salt and pepper until combined. Top with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbling.

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Monday, December 27, 2010


This is my very favorite pancake recipe. I actually got the original recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook but completely altered it and added a few things. My kids ask for pancakes daily so I have had many opportunities to adjust these (not that I make them daily). Now, they are just as I like them! I have made them with all milk and all buttermilk but my favorite is half milk, half buttermilk.

(16, 4-inch pancakes)

2 1/2 cups flour
4 T sugar
4 t baking powder
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 T oil
2 t vanilla
1 t salt

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the wet and mix until smooth. Cook on a hot griddle, flip when bubbles appear on the first side. Top with your favorite syrup (here is mine), berries, nutella, etc...
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eggnog Bunt Cake

This is one of the best Holiday desserts ever! I absolutely love it! It is the perfect combination of eggnog, caramel and cinnamon without being over bearing on any one of these flavors. I got this recipe from the Sister's Cafe.

Eggnog Bunt Cake

1 yellow cake mix
3 T flour
2 cups eggnog
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 t rum extract
1/8 t nutmeg

Beat together all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Pour into greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes. Dust lightly with powdered sugar for presentation.

Caramel sauce:

1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 T cinnamon
1/2 qt. rich vanilla ice cream (I used Haagen-Daz vanilla)

Melt all together over medium heat, until it just boils. Pour warm over individual servings immediately before serving.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Gingersnap Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

I love soft gingersnaps, so when I saw this recipe at Two Peas and Their Pod, I was totally excited to try them. The white chocolate chips are the perfect compliment to these. I altered the recipe slightly to fit my liking.

Gingersnap Cookies with White Chocolate Chips
(makes about 3 dozen cookies)

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 T canola oil
1 t vanilla
2 1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 t cinnamon
1 1/4 t ground cloves
1 t ground ginger
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1 cup sugar - for rolling cookie dough in

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses, oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until smooth. Slowly add in the flour. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Scoop the cookie dough into balls and roll in the sugar. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, the cookies should still be soft. Let cool on pan for five minutes and then move to wire rack to cool completely.
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Friday, December 10, 2010


These are my husbands favorite (I know, I say that A LOT! I guess he has a lot of favorites!) Anyway, these are from Abby's blog. I always know that I can count on Abby for great food and these are great! Oh, and super easy. It is highway robbery that candy stores can get away with charging so much for ONE of these!


1-14oz bag of caramels, unwrapped
6 oz whole pecans
1 bag chocolate chips (I used 1/2 semi-sweet and 1/2 milk chocolate)
1-2 T cream or evaporated milk

Melt caramels in a sauce pan with the cream, stirring until they are smooth. Add the pecans and mix until the pecans are coated. You want there to be LOTS of caramel around the nuts. Put little dollops of the nuts and caramel onto foil sprayed with cooking spray. DO NOT use wax paper, the caramel won't come off. Once they are cooled, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (this is what I always do). Do this over low heat and don not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Stick a tooth pick into the top of a caramel/nut cluster and dip it into the chocolate until coated. Shake off the excess chocolate and place on wax paper. Repeat with the remaining caramel/nut clusters. Let the chocolate get hard and then try not to eat them all in one sitting!
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sausage and Kale Soup

I found this recipe at Martha It was quick and hearty, the perfect thing for a cold snowy day. It has a great almost creamy broth without the cream/milk. Serve it with some crusty bread and there is nothing better for a week night meal.

Sausage and Kale Soup
(4 servings)

1 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t crushed red-pepper flakes
5 medium potatoes (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3 cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch kale, stemmed and shredded
12 ounces chicken sausage, cut into 1/2-inch half moons (We browned these in a pan before adding to the soup)

In a large pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion and cook until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant. Add the potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.

In a blender, puree half the soup. Return to the pot and add kale and sausage. Simmer until the kale is wilted about 10-15 minutes.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Hot Chocolate Cookies

Oh WOW! These are so good. When I saw the name of these cookies over at Tasty Kitchen, I just knew I couldn't go wrong. I guess I know what kind of cookies Santa is getting this year!

Hot Chocolate Cookies
(adapted from Tasty Kitchen)
(makes about 4 dozen)

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
3 1/4 cups flour
4 packages (1 ounce each, NOT sugar free) Hot chocolate mix
1 t salt
1 1/4 baking soda
1/2 t cinnamon (optional)
1 cup each milk, semi-sweet and white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, hot chocolate mix, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry to the wet in 3 or 4 parts, mixing after each. Stir in the chips. Chill dough for about 1 hour. Scoop dough onto a cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Let cool on pan for a few minutes before removing.
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Peppermint Bark

This was such a fun Holiday treat to make. My boys think it is the best thing EVER! I saw this recipe at a couple of different places, all the same, with some different toppings, so be creative. Or just use candy canes... nothing says Christmas like the cute red and white stripes!

Peppermint Bark

12 ounces Semi-sweet chocolate
12 ounces white chocolate
4 t vegetable oil
1 cup crushed candy canes

Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan with foil, smooth out any wrinkles. Mix the semi-sweet chocolate with 2 t oil and melt in a double boiler. I used a pan of simmering water (on low) with a glass bowl set on top. Do NOT let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Stir until completely melted. Pour into the prepared 9x13 pan, making an even layer and let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat with the white chocolate mixed with the other 2 t of oil. Immediately after pouring the white chocolate in an even layer over the semi-sweet, sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top. Lightly press the candy canes into the white chocolate and then let set completely for about 1-2 hours in the fridge. Once set, break into uneven pieces. Store in the fridge in an air tight container.

I saw on a couple of sites that if you try and set the chocolate in the freezer the two layers don't stick together. I put mine in the freezer once it was totally set because I found it easier to break into pieces when it was frozen.
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Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicken and Dumpling Soup

I was in desperate need of comfort food this week. The snow has set in, my kids are sick and my husband is working too much. So what do I do? I cook, it makes me feel better. I found this recipe at My Kitchen Cafe. I have decided I would be lost without it. The blog not the recipe. Well, maybe the recipe too.

Chicken and Dumpling Soup
(6 servings)

4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
2-3 chicken breasts (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 1/2 t salt
1 t dried thyme (I used 1 sprig of fresh)
1/4 t pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/4 cups flour, divided
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t dried thyme (I used fresh, about 1/2 t)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 T vegetable oil

In a large pot, boil the chicken in the broth and water until the chicken is cooked through (about 15 minutes). Remove the chicken and shred. Keep the reserved broth warm on the stove. (I used a rotisserie chicken and skipped this step. I sauteed the veggies in a soup pot and added the water and broth.)

While the chicken cooks, saute the veggies in the olive oil for 6-7 minutes, or until tender. Add the veggies to the broth along with the thyme (I put in the whole sprig), salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup cold water and 1/4 cup flour until smooth. While whisking, slowly add this to the vegetables and broth until combine. Add the peas and the shredded chicken and stir.

For the dumplings, stir together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a small bowl mix together the sour cream, milk and oil. Add the wet to the dry and mix until just combined, DO NOT over mix.

Heat the soup to boiling and drop teaspoonful amounts of dumpling dough into the boiling soup. The dumplings should be small, they expand as they cook. Cover the entire surface of the soup in a single layer of dumplings. Reduce the soup to a simmer. Cover the soup and let the dumplings cook for 15 minutes. DO NOT lift the lid while they cook.

Once the dumplings have cooked, remove the lid and stir gently to break the dumplings apart. Serve.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cinnamon and Sugar Almonds

These are my husbands most favorite. So when I saw them over at My Kitchen Cafe, I of course had to give them a try. I love everything about these from smell of my house while they cook to the sweet crunchy flavor. These are such a great holiday treat, ok, maybe an anytime treat!

Cinnamon and Sugar Almonds
(about 2 cups)

1 egg white
1 t cold water
1/2 t vanilla
2 cups unsalted almonds
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a large 11x17 rimmed pan with foil and lightly spray it with cooking spray.

In a large bowl beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Add the water and vanilla and beat again until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the almonds until they are coated with the egg mixture.

In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add this to the almonds and stir until mixed well. Spread the coated almonds into an even layer on the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until the almonds look and feel dry. The coating should be crunchy. Let cool completely before serving and packaging.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Chicken Salad Wraps

Gotta LOVE an easy meal! Seriously, this is faster than Fast Food! Thanks Abby for reminding me about this great "go to" quick lunch.

Chicken Salad Wrap
(4 servings)

1 can of white chicken, in water, drained (or about 1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded chicken, or hey, left over turkey!)
a couple of spoonfuls of lite mayo (NOT miracle whip, unless your into that)
chopped nuts (I use pecans)
chopped celery
salt and pepper to taste
spring greens

Mix together the chicken, mayo, craisins, nuts, celery salt and pepper. I just add mayo until the chicken mixture holds together a bit. Put a big ol' spoonful in a tortilla with some spring greens and roll that puppy up. Now how fast was that?!
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Peanut Butter Banana Blender Drink

This has been a breakfast that has been in my life since I can remember. I loved it (and still do) and now my kids love it. It brings back memories, it's healthy, and can pack some protein. So what are you waiting for, make this for breakfast!

Peanut Butter Banana Blender Drink
(about 2 servings)

1 ripe banana
1 spoonful of peanut butter
1 cup of milk
1/4 t vanilla
protein powder (optional, but so good)

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. These measurements are just a guess, I alter the amounts to taste. So, if you LOVE peanut butter, add more. If you like it thick add more ice. You get the point!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

I have had these on my "to try" list for sometime. I keep seeing them pop up on different food blogs so I decided it was high time I gave these bad boys a try! Oh so glad I did! I may just never make apple crisp again...these are that good. I originally saw them on A Hint of Honey.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
(directions borrowed from A Hint of Honey)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

Cheesecake Filling:
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Caramel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil or parchment paper 

(I just greased my pan and they worked just fine). Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

4. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.

5. To make the streusel, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, and butter with your fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the apples.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set.

7. To make the caramel sauce, whisk together the sugar and butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat until it melts. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Drizzle over cooled bars.
Fills a 9x13 pan.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kale and Roasted Vegetable Soup

I absolutely L.O.V.E. this soup! I stumbled across this recipe at Simply Recipes. Ok, I am a huge soup fan, but I tend to like soups that have some sort of meat in them. However, my 5 year old told me the other day that he HATES meat and would only eat dinner if it did not have beef or chicken in it. So I decided to find a vegetable soup that I could make that used some of our winter vegetables from our garden. Well, if I had recipes that were this tasty that didn't have meat, I could totally be vegetarian! So make your self some crusty bread and get to work on this surprisingly delicious soup! (Don't let the kale scare you, it is so wonderful and very mild in this soup!)

Kale and Roasted Vegetable Soup
(6 servings)

3 medium carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut lengthwise in 1/2 inch thick wedges
6 whole cloves garlic
1 T olive oil
6 cups or more of vegetable broth
4 cups finely chopped kale
3 large sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1-15 oz can of great northern beans (I used white kidney beans, it is what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 400 (reduce by 25 degrees if using a convection oven). Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange carrots, squash, tomatoes, onion and garlic on the sheet. Drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast the vegetables until they are browned and tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Cut squash and carrots into 1/2 inch pieces; set aside. Peel garlic and place in a food processor with tomatoes and onion. Puree until almost smooth. Pour 1/2 cup vegetable broth onto the baking sheet and scrap up any browned bits. Transfer both the broth and the puree to a large pot. Add 5 1/2 cups broth, kale, thyme, and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered until the kale is tender, about 30 minutes.

Add the carrots, squash and beans to the soup. Simmer another few minutes to blend flavors, adding more broth to thin soup, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Serve hot with crusty bread.

This soup can be made a day ahead.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lion House Rolls and Honey Butter

I have always heard that Lion House Rolls were the bee's knees, so I figured I would see for myself. Now, I have never tasted a bee's knee but these rolls were super yummy and when you put honey butter on them, lets just say they turn magical! So next time you want to impress someone, bring out the big guns and whip up a batch of these.

Lion House Rolls
(18 BIG rolls)

2 cups warm water
2/3 cup nonfat dry milk (instant or non-instant)
2 T yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 t salt
1/3 cup butter, softened, but not melted
1 egg
5 to 6 cups flour

In a large bowl or electric mixer, combine water and milk powder. Stir until the milk dissolves. Add the yeast, then sugar, salt, butter, egg, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix on low until the ingredients are wet, then for 2 minutes on medium speed. Add 2 more cups of flour, mixing on low speed, then for 2 minutes on medium. Add 1/2 cup flour at a time until the dough is soft, not overly sticky, and not too stiff. (You may not need to use all the flour.)

Coat a clean bowl with oil and place dough in it to rise. Turn the dough over in the bowl so the dough is coated (this will prevent the dough from drying out). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and flip the dough once to flour both sides. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 8 inches wide and 18 inches long and about 1/4 inch thick. Brush the dough with melted butter. Using a pizza cutter cut the dough in half length wise so you have two very long strips each about 4 inches wide. Cut the strips every 2 inches to make 18 pieces of dough.

Starting with the short end, roll up one piece of dough with the butter on the inside. Place the roll on a parchment lined pan seam side down. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Be sure all the rolls face the same direction on the pan. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double. Bake rolls at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Brush the tops of hot rolls with melted butter.

Honey Butter
(1 cup)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 cup honey

Whip the softened butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and honey gradually. Beat for 10-20 minutes or until whipped and light.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna

I came across this delightful recipe in Mother Earth News Magazine and thought I would give it a try. Given my LOVE of butternut squash I knew it would be worth it and it definitely was! This is such a yummy, Fall, unique dish. It was even wonderful reheated! So, if you are looking for a new Fall dinner, you just may need to give this a try.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
(8 servings)

1 T olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2 pound) Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups whole milk
pinch of nutmeg
12 no boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the cubed squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the 1/2 cup of water into the pan, cover and let simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. When the squash is tender, mash the squash in the pan or a food processor. Season the squash puree with more salt and pepper to taste.

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you go. Bring to a low boil over medium/high heat whisking often. Continue whisking often until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly butter a 9x13 pan. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom. Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of noodles. Spread half of the squash puree on the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the cheese. Repeat layering once more, finishing with a layer of noodles covered by the remaining white sauce.

Tightly cover with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Remove cover, add the rest of the mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese to the lasagna and continue baking for 15 more minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is golden. Let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before serving.
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Zucchini Gratin

I found this recipe over at Food Network. I altered it a little to fit with the ingredients that I had on hand. It was totally yummy! I know I can always count on Ina Garten. This made a great side dish and it gave a fun new spin to plain old zucchini!

Zucchini Gratin
(6 servings)

6 T butter, plus 2 more T for topping
2 yellow onions, cut in half and then sliced
4 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t ground nutmeg
2 T flour
1 cup hot milk
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned bread crumbs)
3/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese (I used a combination of Parmesan, asiago and Romano)

Preheat oven to 400.

Melt the butter in a large (12 inch) saute pan and cook the onions over low heat for 20 minutes or until they are tender but not browned.

Add the zucchini and cook, covered for about 10 minutes or until they are tender.  Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for a few more minutes.

Stir in the flour and then add the HOT milk. Cook over low heat until it makes a sauce, this takes a few minutes.

Pour the mixture into a 9x13 pan .

Combine the bread crumbs with the shredded cheese and sprinkle over the top of the zucchini.  Dot this with the remaining 2 T butter that has been cut into small bits.

 Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lentil and Squash Soup

My Mother-In-Law told me about this lovely soup book call Love Soup by Anna Thomas. And since I do LOVE SOUP and since my Mother-In-Law is the Goddess of soup making, I knew I couldn't go wrong. This was my first soup that I made from this book and it was fantastic! The book is totally vegetarian, which I love, even though I am NOT vegetarian. It is just so nice to have a few recipes that DON'T call for meat. I topped it with these croutons and a dollop of sour cream, YUM! But really you could garnish it with so much!

Lentil and Squash Soup
(6-8 servings)

1 generous cup of lentils
1 1/2 t sea salt or kosher salt
1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 medium yellow onions, chopped (I used 1 large)
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 small yam or sweet potato
2 T minced fresh ginger
1/2 T ground cumin
1 t turmeric
1/4 t red pepper flakes (more , if you want it to have a big kick)
4-5 cups vegetable broth (if using canned, dilute with 1 cup water)
2-3 T fresh lemon juice

optional garnishes

olive oil
sour cream
grated cheese
(I used homemade croutons and sour cream, and LOVED it)

Preheat oven to 375.

Rinse lentils and combine them in a soup pot with 4 cups of water and 1 t salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.

While the lentils simmer, cut the butternut squash in half, remove the seeds, and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast the squash in the oven for 45 minutes, or until soft. While the squash is roasting, saute the onion in the olive oil with a big pinch of salt, over medium heat, stirring often, until they are soft and golden (about 20 minutes). Peel and dice the yam.

When the lentils are just tender, add the sauteed onion, diced yam, minced ginger, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and 4 cups of vegetable broth. Simmer everything together, covered, for another 25 minutes. As soon as the squash is ready, scoop it out of its skin and add it to the soup. Cook until everything is soft. You can add more broth if the soup seems to thick. Puree the soup in batches in the blender or with an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot and add lemon juice to taste. Adjust the seasonings, if needed. Ladle into bowls and garnish as you like.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cake Pops

I have been seeing these EVERYWHERE! I don't even know where they first popped up...Pioneer Woman, Bakerella, I'm just not sure. But I decided I would join the "IN" crowd and do some myself. There really are SO many things you can do with these. I put them on a stick but I have also seen them done as truffles. The cake options are many, as are the icing options, the covering options and the decorating options. So go ahead and have a little fun of your own, be creative and daring! My boys thought these were so cool and my oldest even asked if I would make them for his next birthday. We wrapped up a bunch and took them to a couple of friends. They really are such a great idea and so easy (minus a couple of mishaps that I will explain as we go so you can learn from my mistakes!)

Cake Pops
(30-40 depending on how big you make them)

1 cake mix (any flavor you like) baked according to the box
1 can store bought frosting (I know, just go with it!) any flavor you like
1 bag of candy melts, any color/flavor you want (chocolate chips will also work, as will white chocolate, peanut butter chips, butterscotch get the idea)
sprinkles or other decorations
candy/sucker sticks (I got mine at Walmart, they also have them at craft stores)
a block of Styrofoam (optional)

Once the cake has been baked and cooled, crumble it, in a bowl until there are no big chunks left. Now, mix in the frosting until a dough forms. I used the whole container of frosting and my cake balls were a little soft. So, you might want to use a little less like 3/4 of it. Shape the dough into balls. Do NOT make them too big or they fall off the sticks. About one Tablespoon of dough is all you need. If you are going to make truffles instead of pops, go ahead and make them bigger, if you want. Place the cake balls on a cookie sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour. Because I used all my frosting, I left mine in the freezer overnight, covered. This made them more frozen/firm and they worked great. If you want them to be ready in 1 hour, use less frosting. Once they are firm, melt the candy melts in a double boiler or microwave (there are instructions on the bag for both ways). Now, stick a stick into each of your cake balls and dip them into the melted coating. I made sure to get a little of the coating on the stick to make sure the cake ball didn't just fall off. Gently shake off the excess coating (if you don't they will drip everywhere) and decorate as you like. Sprinkles were fast and easy and I loved the outcome. If you are using sprinkles make sure to sprinkle over a bowl to catch the excess. This makes for a much easier clean up and I could reuse all the sprinkles that fell into the bowl. Then stick the cake pop into the Styrofoam to dry. Another reason I loved that my cake balls were more frozen is that it helped the coating to dry really fast, about 2 minutes. If you don't have or want to use Styrofoam you can place the cake pops on wax paper to dry. Wax paper is also what you would use to make the truffles. Now go out and spread the happiness of cake pops!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our Favorite Smoothie

This is just a list of ingredients. I just start putting these things into my blender and taste/adjust amounts as I go. I do always put the same things in though. After trying so many different combinations of things, this is our favorite. My kids love it and I love that they love it! This makes for a happy family! And who doesn't want that?! We do smoothies for breakfast all the time, but they are great whenever and can even be frozen into popsicles.

Our Favorite Smoothie

ripe bananas
yogurt (I like Greek, more protein and probiotics...Greek Gods is the best brand in my book)
orange juice
vanilla, just a few drops
protein powder (we use the soy,vanilla flavored, it adds sweetness)
a handful of baby spinach and/or kale (the beauty is you can't taste it)
frozen or fresh berries (we like blueberries, strawberries and raspberries the best. Plus the color hides the green from the veggies)
ice (you won't need very much or any at all if you use frozen berries)

Blend this all together until smooth. I don't add any additional sweetener, it is always sweet enough for us. But if you want it sweeter, honey or agave both work great.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cheddar and Garlic Biscuits

Abby is the one I got this little concoction from. It couldn't be easier. I don't know if I would actually call it a recipe, just more a list of things you throw together. So here it is...

Cheddar and Garlic Biscuits
(makes about 9-12 biscuits)

2 1/4 cups Bisquick mix
2/3 cups milk
garlic powder (to taste, I put about 1/2 t)
shredded cheddar cheese (as much as you like, I usually put about 1/2-3/4 cup)
3 T butter, melted
garlic salt (I like the one with parsley)

Preheat oven to 450. Mix together Bisquick, cheddar cheese, garlic powder and milk until a dough forms, do not over mix. Drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. While they are in the oven, melt the butter and add a dash of garlic salt. When the biscuits come out brush the tops with the garlic butter.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Homemade Croutons

These are so easy and such a great way to use stale bread! I used this Artisan Bread recipe. But I think any french bread would work just fine. I don't think I will ever buy croutons again, these are just too good! I looked at quite a few different recipes but in the end took what I liked from each one.

Homemade Croutons

day old or stale french bread (I used Artisan bread)
extra virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup per half a loaf)
kosher salt
dried oregano
dried basil
garlic powder
(any other spices you like...thyme, rosemary)

Preheat oven to 350. Cut bread into one inch by one inch cubes or any size or shape you want. (It would be fun to use small cookie cutters and make shapes). Put the bread cubes on a cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the bread. Sprinkle with the salt and spices. Toss with your hands until the bread is evenly coated. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the bread is very crusty and golden brown. Make sure to stir the bread once or twice as it cooks to ensure even cooking. Cool completely. Use on salad, soup or anything else you can think of. These will store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
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Holiday Wassail

This is one of my favorite Fall drinks. As soon as the weather turns cold I crave this! I make a full batch just so I can heat up a cup whenever I want. I got this recipe from my sis-in-law. I have never had any other that even came close, in my opinion.  Happy Fall!

Holiday Wassail

1 qt water
2 cups sugar
2 cups lemon juice
12 oz orange juice concentrate
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole piece of ginger (about 2 inches)
2 quarts apple juice

Add all the ingredients together, except the apple juice, in a large pot on your stove or your crock pot. You don't even need to peel the ginger, just drop it in, skin and all. Let this simmer for about 1 hour. Add the apple juice, then add as much water as you need to desired potency. (For me this is about 3-4 more cups of water, but I like it strong).

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