Thursday, December 29, 2011

Candied Pecans

I made these for the previous salad post but lets be honest, I ate most of them NOT in my salad!  I just LOVE these!  They are so easy, so good and will be made often in my house! There are lots of recipes for these, they are all pretty much the same.  So here is what I did...

Candied Pecans
(2 cups of pecans)

2 cups unsalted pecans (or walnuts or almonds) 
2 T butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
nutmeg or cinnamon (or both)

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan.  Add the sugar, nuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg or both.  Stir constantly over medium high heat until the sugar melts and turns a golden brown color.  Once the sugar has melted and turns brown remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Mix well. Dump the candied nuts onto the cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and spread out as much as possible.  Let them cool completely. 

Use the nuts in salad or keep in an airtight container for munching! These would be great over ice cream as well!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Poppy Seed Dressing

I got this recipe from my SIL Adena.  It is wonderful! I altered it slightly but will put the original on here with my modifications in parenthesis.  This dressing is quick and easy and I LOVE having it in my fridge!

Poppy Seed Dressing

1 1/2 T poppy seeds
3/4 cup rice vinegar (I used 1/2 cup rice vinegar and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar)
1 1/2 cups oil (I used canola)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 t grated onion
1/2 t salt
3/4 t dry mustard
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion (I omitted this)
1 lb. Mushrooms, sliced (I also omitted this)

Mix all the ingredients together in a salad shaker or whisk in a bowl.  I served this over Spring mix, crumbled Feta cheese, craisins, and candied pecans (recipe coming soon!).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

I have a love affair with muffins.  I could eat them everyday, although I try my best not to!  I also have a love affair with fresh blueberries, Michigan has taught me this.  So when I first saw these, I just couldn't resist (I did adapt the recipe though)!  The first batch I made I kinda forget to put in the egg (yes I am losing my mind, it goes a little more with each child I have) and had to add it AFTER the blueberries.  Lets just say they tasted great but the dull blue color just wasn't very appetizing to photograph.  But the whole thing made for a fantastic excuse to make muffins again!  He, he, he!

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

2 T sugar
1/4 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400.  Grease or paper line a muffin pan. 

In a bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients.  In another bowl mix together water, oil, egg and vanilla.  Stir this into the dry ingredients until just moistened.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  (Do NOT defrost frozen blueberries)

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full.  Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the batter in the muffin pan.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mexican Hot Chocolate Mix

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and was so excited to try it.  First off, homemade hot chocolate is divine!  Not to mention Mexican hot chocolate!  I whipped up a batch to take to my kids teachers and am already dying to make more for myself!  It is quick and easy and so great to have on hand!  This recipe will take the place of any instant hot chocolate that is now in my house!  I altered the original recipe to fit my liking.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Mix
(about 25 servings)

3 cups non fat instant dry milk powder
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 t salt
2 t corn starch
1 t cinnamon
1/8 t cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients.

In batches, pulse through a food processor until smooth and well combined.

Store in a sealed container in a dry, dark place.  

To make the hot chocolate, mix 1/3 cup of the mixture into a mug of hot milk or water.  Serve with fresh whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Peppermint Oreos

Over Thanksgiving we had some great friends stay with us.  On one desperate trip to Wal-mart we came across Candy Cane Oreos.  They were amazing and gone within minutes (desperate times call for desperate measures!) So, the next time we were at a store, we searched them out only to come up empty handed.  That got me thinking, why not just make our own.  Homemade is ALWAYS better.  Well, the days went fast and the nights went faster and we never got back to those Candy Cane Oreos.  But I have been thinking about them ever since and have FINALLY gotten to them.  I wanted to take my homemade Oreos to another level. So I found this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen.  I, of course, had to alter it to make it Peppermint (and a couple of other adjustments) but I made a few the original way too.  Let me just say, these are the real deal! A true homemade Oreo. So go ahead and skip Wal-mart (I know we all have a secret love/hate relationship with it anyway) and just go for the REAL thing!

Peppermint Oreos (and original too)
(25-30 sandwich cookies)

For the chocolate cookies:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 T butter, at room-temperature
1 large egg

For the filling: (peppermint)
1/4 cup butter, at room-temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract*
1 t peppermint extract
1 crushed candy cane (or 5 small candy canes)

*For original Oreos increase the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and omit the peppermint extract and candy canes.

Preheat oven to 375.

In a food processor, or the bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.  While on low speed, add the butter and then the egg. Continue mixing until  the dough comes together in a mass.

Place rounded teaspoons of dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Flatten the dough balls slightly.  Bake for 7-9 minutes until the tops look cracked. Cool completely.

To make the filling, place butter and shortening in a bowl and on low speed gradually add the sugar and extracts.  Once these are all incorporated, turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until the filling his light and fluffy.  Stir in the crushed candy canes, if using.

To assemble the cookies, place teaspoon sized blobs of filling in the middle of one cookie and top with another.  (I used a baggie with one corner snipped off to pipe the filling on.) Press down gently until the filling comes to the edges of the cookie.  Continue with the remaining cookies.  Now, go grab yourself a huge glass of cold milk and dip away!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan-Gingersnap Crust

Ok, so don't hate me but I am NOT a huge fan of pumpkin pie.  It's a texture thing.  However, I do LOVE pumpkin in almost everything else.  So when I came across this Pumpkin Cheesecake over at Our Best Bites, I was slightly giddy!  Besides, I had a great friend here over Thanksgiving who was willing to help me out in all my cooking endeavors (thanks Jen!  You are the best!).  This is my new favorite pumpkin dessert!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan-Gingersnap Crust

1 3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs (about 30 small cookies)
6 T butter, melted
3 T brown sugar
3/4 cup ground pecans

3 - 8oz blocks of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
6 oz melted white chocolate (about 1 cup white chocolate chips)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
1/4 t nutmeg
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t cloves

- fresh whipped cream
- toasted pecans
-caramel sauce, either homemade or store bought

Preheat oven to 350.  Using 2 large pieces of heavy duty foil, securely wrap the bottom and outside of your cheesecake pan.  This will prevent leaks when using a water bath.

For the crust:
Using a food processor, crush the gingersnaps.  Next do the pecans.  Combine these together in a bowl and add brown sugar and butter.  Stir well and then press into a 9 inch spring form pan.  Evenly spread across the bottom and up 1 inch on the sides. Set aside.

For the filling:
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave, being careful not to let it seize.  In a double boiler, heat over the lowest setting and stir constantly.  In a microwave, heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth.  Set aside.  

With an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Next add the pumpkin, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

With the mixer running, slowly add the white chocolate in steady globs.  Once this is all incorporated, pour the mixture over the crust.

For the water bath:
Place the cheesecake pan inside a larger pan, like a roasting pan.  The larger pan should be at least 2-3 inches in depth.  Place in a preheated oven .  With a kettle or pitcher, pour hot water into the larger pan until the water is half way up the side of the cheesecake pan (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches).  

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until set.  The center should be just a tad bit jiggly, it will finish cooking as it cools.

When it is done, remove from the water and cool completely on a wire rack.  Once it is cool refrigerate for at least 12 hours.  This cheesecake is very soft, so sufficient chilling is a must!

When ready to serve spread the fresh whipped cream over the top, drizzle with caramel and top with pecans.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quick Artisan Bread

I am a HUGE fan of homemade bread!  And Artisan No-Knead bread it some of my very favorite!  It is SUPER easy (it only has four ingredients) and it's crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  Can you say perfect!  The only downside it that the recipe I have already posted takes 18-24 hours to proof before you can bake it.  And lets be honest, I usually don't think that far in advance to start it.  So, you can imagine my excitement when I found this recipe here.  I have made it 2 or 3 times in the last couple of weeks and I think it is just as good as that other recipe AND it only takes a fraction of the time.  Total bonus!  

Quick Artisan Bread
(1 large loaf)

3 cups flour
2 1/4 t yeast
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 cups water

Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.  Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Lightly oil a work surface and place dough on it. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and then shape into a rough ball.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450.  Put a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered (oven safe - cast iron, enamel, or ceramic) pot in the oven as it heats.  When dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven.  Slide your hand under the dough and place it into the hot pot, seam side up.  Shake the pan once or twice if the dough id unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Coven the pot with the lid and bake the bread for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

PW's Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is my husband's favorite pie.  So, of course, I had to make one for Thanksgiving!  I got this recipe from the Pioneer Woman, she never lets me down (especially when it comes to dessert!)  And I have to say, it was mighty tasty!  I did add chocolate chips because, lets be honest, you can't go wrong with pecans and chocolate!

PW's Pecan Pie

1 whole unbaked pie crust (I used the recipe below)*
1 cup sugar
3 T brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 t vanilla
1/3 cup melted butter
3 whole eggs, beaten
1 heaping cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Make your pie crust (recipe below) and set aside. Next, mix your sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs and vanilla all together in a bowl.  Pour chopped pecans and chocolate chips into the unbaked pie crust.  Pour the syrup mixture over the nuts and chocolate chips. Cover the top and crust of the pie lightly with foil.  Bake the pie at 350 for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking for 20 more minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans.  The pie should NOT be overly jiggly when you remove it from the oven.  If it shakes a lot, cover with the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes (checking the pie every few minutes) or until it is set.  Allow to cool for several hours or overnight.

*Pie Crust
(adapted from Bon Appetite)

1 1/4 cups flour
1 t sugar
1/8 t salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 T ice water (or more)

Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter, rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles course meal.  Add 3 T ice water and toss with a fork until moist clumps form, add more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time if the mixture is too dry.  Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 12 inches across.  Gently settle into a 9 inch pie pan, being careful not to stretch the dough (this will cause your pie crust to shrink when it bakes).  Fold overhang under and crimp edges.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lasagna Soup

I am a HUGE soup fan, so when I came across this recipe I was more than a little excited!  Talk about comfort food at its finest!  I think this is my new favorite soup! I love all of the different flavors, and the way they blend together.  There is so much going on in this soup, I had to have 2 bowls just to take it all in.  
(Ok, so that was just my justification!)  If you only try one new recipe this week, make this soup!! We served it with some fresh crusty bread, heaven, people, pure heaven!

Lasagna Soup
(serves 8)

for the soup:
1 pound Italian sausage
3 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t dried oregano
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
2 T tomato paste
1 (28 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock
8 oz mafalda pasta (these look like little lasagna noodles, but more curly)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
salt and fresh ground paper, to taste (I didn't need any salt in mine)

for the cheesy yum:
8 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 t salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown sausage in a large soup pot over medium heat, breaking it up as it cooks.  Drain off extra grease.  Add onions and cook until they are softened.  Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente.  Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time or the pasta will be mush.  Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum.  In a small bowl combine ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of cheesy yum in the bottom of each soup bowl, top with some grated mozzarella. Ladle the hot soup over the cheese.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

There is just something magical about the smell of baking pumpkin in my house this time of year!  We have had an uncommonly warm and snow-free Fall here in Michigan (NOT that I am complaining) but it is  making it a little hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away!  So, this morning I needed something to get me in the mood for this beautiful, thankful season.  When I came across these muffins here, I knew they were just what I needed.  I adapted the recipe to my liking and the results were so perfectly pumpkin-y and Fall-ish! (Yes, I just made up both of those words)!

Pumpkin Muffins
(12 muffins)

1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves 
1 t ground nutmeg
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1 t orange zest
1 cup pumpkin
1 stick (4 oz) butter, melted
6 oz white chocolate chips (or semi-sweet)

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt and orange zest.  In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs and melted butter, until smooth.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients until almost all the dry ingredients and moistened.  Add the chocolate chips and mix until the ingredients are just combined. (DO NOT over mix!)  Scoop batter into a greased or paper cup lined muffin tin.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the muffins are puffed up and springy to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lettuce Wraps

I LOVE these!  They are a copy cat of P.F. Chang's, which are to die for.  These come pretty close.  Besides, who doesn't love a healthy, fun way to spice up chicken for dinner?  I got this recipe from my A-mazing sister who (I think) found it online.  So, thanks Abby! Now you won't have to continue to send me the same recipe over and over...

Lettuce Wraps

3 frozen chicken breasts
1 lg. carrot
8 whole mushrooms
3 green onions
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 can water chestnuts- drained
2 T oil
1/4 t. sesame oil

Iceberg lettuce
rice noodles (optional for more crunch)

Boil chicken in water with a pinch of salt and a clove of garlic. Once it is cooked through,
finely chop it.  Finely grate carrot and mushroom.  Finely chop bell pepper, onion and chestnuts. Set aside.

Mix Sauce ingredients

1/2 C water
1/4 C sugar
2T rice vinegar
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. sriracha, this will NOT make these spicy.  Double this for more kick!
1/2 C soy sauce
1/2 t. fresh ginger or 1/4 t. powdered ginger

(Double the sauce so you have some for dipping!)

Now, heat 2 T oil and 1/4 t sesame oil in a large skillet. Add onion, mushroom and red pepper.  Cook 2 minutes to soften.  Add sauce and chicken and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minute until almost all the liquid is absorbed.  Add chestnuts and carrots. Stir to combine.
Serve in the crunchy inside pieces of iceberg lettuce.  Add the rice noodles, if you are using them. Dip in the extra sauce!

 * I will use Low-sodium soy sauce next time, I like to have a little more control over the saltiness without losing the flavor.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bird's Nest

My mom used to make these for us as children.  We LOVED them.  It just made breakfast magical to me. I made them for my kids a couple of weeks ago and they can't seem to get enough of them.  It really isn't a recipe so much as an idea, but here it is just the same!

Bird's Nest


Heat a skillet and melt butter in the bottom.  Cut a hole in a piece of bread (I used a mason jar lid).  Place the bread in the pan.  Crack an egg in the middle and let it cook for a minute or two until the outside turns white.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then flip, carefully, so you don't break the yolk.  Cook on this side for a minute or two until the egg is cooked as much as you like it.  

I have also seen these made inside a slice of bell pepper, YUM!  Gonna have to try it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Glazed Pumpkin Buttermilk Donuts

I have never made donuts before but these caught my eye here and I just had to give them a try.  I mean they are pumpkin, people!  And donuts seem so harvest-y, don't they?  Anyway, I was prepared to do some work on these and they came together so fast.  So if you are looking for a new Halloween/ Harvest tradition (or just a delicious treat) this just might be your recipe!

Glazed Pumpkin Buttermilk Donuts
(about 2 1/2 dozen, plus donut holes)

3 1/2 cups flour
4 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 t pumpkin pie spice
1 cup sugar
2 T butter, melted
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
canola oil (for frying)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, spice and sugar.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients except the oil (it's for frying). Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in.  Mix all together until the dough is well combined.  My dough was pretty sticky.  Turn out onto a well floured surface and roll the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick (this may seem pretty thin but they puff up a lot when frying).  Cut with a donut cutter or I just used a canning jar lid and a medicine cup (you know the ones that come on the top of child rems Motrin?) for the middle.  

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet or heavy pan over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot (I drop a piece of dough in and it started bubbling like crazy when it was hot enough). Gently slide the donuts in tot he oil, frying the first side until the edges are lightly browned.  Carefully flip the donuts over and allow to cook until lightly browned on this side a too.  Remove and place on a plate covered with paper towels to.  While the donuts are still hot dip them in the buttermilk glaze (recipe below).  Place on a cooling rack place over a cookie sheet to air dry until ready to serve.

Buttermilk Glaze*

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 t vanilla

Whisk together until smooth.  Dip hot donuts in the glaze and then allow to air dry on a cooling rack.

*I made one and a half times this recipe for all my donuts.  I also added 1/2 t maple flavoring to half this recipe for a little variety! Super Yummy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sweet and Salty Halloween Treats

I saw these little beauties on Pinterest and just knew that I had to make them for a fun Halloween party I am co-hosting!  They are so super fast and easy and are just so Halloweeny!  Now, go grab the 3 ingredients and whip up a batch of these for your super spooky Halloween friends!

Sweet and Salty Halloween Treats

pretzels (I used the waffle squares but twists would work just fine)
Hershey's Hugs (kisses would also work)
candy corns

Preheat oven to 350.  Cover a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place as many pretzels as you want on the sheet.  Unwrap and place a Hug on the top of each pretzel. Put the cookie sheet in the oven for about 3 minutes, just until the Hugs are shiny.  Pull the tray out of the oven and top each one with a cant corn, pressing down slightly.  Now let these cool and the Hug set up.  I put mine in my cold garage (the fridge would work too) to speed things up.  See, now how easy was that?!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blueberry Syrup

Every summer we go blueberry picking.  We pick TONS!  And this is why!  They are super easy to freeze and freeze really well. Then all year (ok, they totally don't last that long!) We can make super yummy blueberry recipes with the fresh, frozen berries we picked over the summer.  So on this wonderfully sunny, Sunday morning in Michigan we made blueberry syrup to top delicious waffles and fresh whipped cream!  Heaven, pure heaven!

Blueberry Syrup
(2 1/2 cups of syrup)

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 t fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla
1 t cornstarch (mixed with 2 t water)

Mix all the ingredients, except the cornstarch, in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium high, stirring constantly, until it boils.  Once the berries are boiling mix the cornstarch with the 2 t water and mix to dissolve.  Add the cornstarch to the boiling berries and stir to combine.  Reduce the heat and let the berries simmer until the syrup is thickened and no longer milky.  Serve warm over waffles, pancakes, ice cream, or what ever else needs some blueberry syrup!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hot Chocolate

It is so that season, and I am LOVING it!  Hot chocolate season, of course!  I gave up a long time ago searching for the perfect hot chocolate mix.  It doesn't exist and making your own is simple, cheap and easy! So, here is my favorite recipe.  Now, go get your favorite mug and indulge in a big mug and a bubble bath!

Hot Chocolate
(1 serving)

1 1/2 cups (12 oz) skim milk
2 T milk
1 T cocoa powder (the unsweetened kind)
2 T sugar
a dash of salt
a splash of cream
3-4 drops vanilla extract
a dash of cinnamon (optional)

Put milk in a sauce pan and heat over medium.  In a small cup or bowl mix the 2 T milk, cocoa powder and sugar together with a whisk until it is the chocolate is totally incorporated.  (The cocoa powder can be stubborn to mix in and I have found this is the easiest way.) Pour this mixture into the milk that is heating up and whisk to blend.  Now add salt (not too much) vanilla, cream (this gives it just the perfect amount of creaminess) and cinnamon (if using).  Stir until hot (or the perfect drinking temperature).  Pour into your favorite mug and slide into that bubble bath!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fudgy Chocolate Chip-Toffee Bars

I actually have a few other recipes ready to put on here but I just couldn't wait to put these on!  Maybe I was just really craving chocolate or cookies or fudge or all of the above but  I made these last night and I literally moaned out loud when I took my first bite!  And today, well, I pretty much skipped breakfast, lunch and dinner just to justify eating more of these!  So I thought if they are that good they deserve a BIG picture.  Anyway, I think I first saw them on interest but they are from the Pillsbury website.  I don't usually buy into the whole "store bought" cookie dough thing, but in this recipe I don't think it really matters.  Besides, I LOVE how easy it made this recipe.  Ok, now go make these!  Try them warm (my favorite way) or cold (my husbands favorite).  Either way, I don't think you will be disappointed!

Fudgy Chocolate Chip-Toffee Bars
(about 32 bars)

1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs, divided
1 (8 oz) bag Heath toffee bits (found in the baking isle by the chocolate chips)
1 roll (12 oz) refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough (I used Nestle Toll House)
1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 T butter
1 t vanilla

Heat oven to 350.  Spray bottom only of a 9x13 in pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 1/2 cups of the graham cracker crumbs, and 3/4 cup of the toffee bits until crumbly.  Press mixture evenly into the greased pan.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until firm. 

Meanwhile, let cookie dough stand at room temperature until it softens slightly.  In a 2-quart sauce pan, heat chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and 1 T butter over medium heat, stirring constantly until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Spread evenly over the graham cracker crust.

In a medium bowl, break up cookie dough and stir in the remaining 1/2 cu of graham cracker crumbs.  Crumble this mixture evenly over the fudge layer.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining 3/4 cup toffee bits.  Bake 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool as long as you can.  The longer they cool the firmer the bars will be.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Caramel Apples or Apple Dip

I am still working through this HUGE bunch of apples we picked, so I thought I would put up another apple recipe.  Who doesn't love a caramel apple?  I found this recipe on the newsletter of one of my favorite authors.  Her name is Marcia Lynn Mcclure, she writes clean romance novels.  The stories are always fantastic, usually set sometime in history.  They are totally sappy, cheesy, love stories and I just eat them up!  Total eye candy for me!  Anyway, apparently this recipe is one that Marcia's mom made all the time, and I can totally see why!  Now I have amazing caramel apples to enjoy while I read a Marcia book! The great this is this recipe can either be caramel apple dip or you can dip whole apples in it. Either way you won't be disappointed and you may never go back to unwrapping those store bought caramels again!

Caramel Apples or Apple Dip
(makes 10 caramel apples)

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/8 t salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup butter
1 t vanilla
10 medium apples
Popsicle sticks
waxed paper

In a sauce pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and sweetened condensed milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to very, very soft ball stage (for dip) and soft ball stage* for dipping apples.  Once it is at this stage, remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla and completely combined.

For apple dip serve with sliced apples.

For caramel apples wash and dry apples.  Insert a Popsicle stick into to top of each apple and set aside.  Place a length of wax paper on a cookie sheet, butter the wax paper and sprinkle it with sugar (this is very important, caramel apples will stick to the wax paper otherwise). Once my caramel reached the soft ball stage I continued stirring for a few moments until the caramel was a good caramel color (do not do this for too long or your caramel will be too hard). Then I stirred in the butter and vanilla. I let my caramel cool slightly, (when I tried to dip the apples right away, the caramel just slide off the apple).  I let the caramel sit for about 2 minutes and then the caramel was perfect.  Set the dipped apples onto the wax paper and let them set up.  You can leave them like this or you can go on to dip them in melted chocolate, drizzle them with chocolate, decorate them with nuts, sprinkles, or coconut, etc.

*Soft ball stage can be determined with a candy thermometer OR if you are like me and don't have one, just get a small bowl filled with ice water and drop a small amount of the bubbling caramel into it.  If you can pick up the caramel out of the water and it holds together in a soft ball, it is ready!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Apple Crisp

This time of year makes me think of comfort food and apples and trees that look like they are on fire with color.  Michigan in the Fall is AMAZING!  I am really going to miss it!  One of our favorite Fall activities is picking our own apples and pumpkins at one of the many orchards around here.  So with apples coming out of our ears, I of course turn to dessert to use some of them up.  Apple crisp is one the top of my apple dessert list, especially when it has extra crumble on top and good vanilla ice cream melting over the top.  Hungry yet?  Ok, here is the recipe... I found it over at the Parsley Thief. (I did alter it just a bit)

Apple Crisp
(10 servings)

6 apples, peeled and cored (I used Fuji, fresh off the tree)
1 t lemon zest
1 T lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg

Crumble topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 t salt
1 cup oatmeal
2 sticks cold butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350.  Slice the apples into bite sized chunks.  Place in a large mixing bowl and combine with the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Toss to combine and pour into a greased 9x13 pan.

In the bowl of a mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal and butter.  Beat on low for for 1-2 minters until the butter is incorporated and the mixture crumbles.  You can also do this with a pastry cutter or your fingers.  Sprinkle all the crumbles evenly over the apple mixture.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 1 hour, or until the topping is golden brown and the apples are bubbling.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Caprese Salad Skewers

I have seen this salad pop up all over the internet. I love that these are bite sized and individual.  Besides they are so easy and beautiful.  I have made them a couple of times now and they are always a hit.  The last time was for this Fall Baby Shower I put on with my BFF Abby.

Caprese Salad Skewers

Cherry tomatoes
fresh basil leaves
fresh mozzarella (I used and LOVE these little marinated mozzarella balls.  I found them at my grocery store.  The brand is Galbani)
balsamic vinegar
sea salt (optional)
fresh ground pepper (optional)

Place a tomato, basil leaf and mozzarella on a toothpick and repeat until you have the desired amount.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

(If you don't use the marinated mozzarella, you may want to sprinkle the skewers with sea salt and fresh ground pepper)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Crockpot Coconut Chicken Curry

If you are like me and LOVE Indian food, especially Chicken Tikka Masala, then this recipe may just be your new best friend.  Now, if you have never had Indian food, first of all, shame on you, and second MAKE THIS RECIPE!  This recipe is wonderfully flavorful and satisfying.  It is so easy and best of all you get to make dinner at 10 am before the day gets crazy and hectic.  Your house will smell amazing all day and all you have to do to finish it off is make rice and maybe (ok definitely) some Naan bread. I found this recipe at Tasty Kitchen.

Crockpot Coconut Chicken Curry
(4-5 servings)

3 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless) about 2 pounds, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 whole onion
1 whole bell pepper (seeded) I like the sweetness of red bell peppers
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 1/2 t salt
1 T curry powder
1 T Garam Masala (Indian Spice Mix)
Fresh Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Cooked rice
Naan bread (we LOVE this recipe)

Place the cubed chicken into the slow cooker. Place the rest of the ingredients (except the water, cornstarch and cilantro) into a food processor or blender and mix until smooth.  Pour the sauce mixture over the chicken in the slow cooker and mix well.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  if it is not thick enough, add some cornstarch mixed with water about 1 hour before serving.  Serve over cooked rice, garnish with chopped cilantro.  Serve with warm Naan bread.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is such a great cookie! It has a rich flavor, chewy center and a hint of toffee flavor from the browned butter. These really are to die for! I found this recipe on Cook's Illustrated. So, when you are wanting a twist to the regular old chocolate chip cookie, this just might be your answer.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
(about 16 cookies)

1 3/4 cups flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 t baking soda
14 T butter (1 and 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1/2 t salt
2 t vanilla
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like to do 1/2 semi-sweet and 1/2 milk chocolate)
3/4 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk together flour and baking soda and set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium high heat until melted.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the butter is a dark golden brown and smells nutty (about 1-3 minutes). Transfer the browned butter to a large heat proof bowl and stir in the remaining 4 T butter until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to the butter and whisk until completely combined.  Add the egg and the extra yolk and whisk again until smooth and no sugar lumps remain (about 30 seconds).  Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk again for 30 seconds.  Repeat the process of resting and whisking 2 more times until the mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.  Using a wooden spoon stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts (if using).  Make sure no flour pockets remain.

Divide the dough into 16 pieces, about 3 Tablespoons each.  Place 8 balls on each cookies sheet and cook them one at a time until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and still a little gooey in the middle, about 10-14 minutes. Cool on a wire wrack

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Turkey Pesto Grilled Cheese

This is not so much a recipe as it is just a concept, but it has become a staple in my life. My favorite is making this on a good Artisan seed bread (I am still looking for the perfect recipe) but my grocery store has a pretty good version.

Turkey Pesto Grilled Cheese

Artisan bread (seed, crusty, french, or whatever your thing is)
pesto (store bought or homemade)
provolone cheese
herb roasted turkey (I LOVE the Castlewood brand from Sam's club)
Fresh tomatoes

Take two slices of GOOD bread, slather each side with pesto.  Add cheese and turkey.  Now put butter on the outside and grill it on a hot griddle until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. (I like to put a lid over the top of the sandwich, it helps the cheese to melt).  Once it is all melty, remove from the griddle and add that fresh tomato!
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Strawberry-Lime Cream Cake

The one (and ONLY) good thing about having another birthday is getting to make a cake and eat it too! Or in this case having my husband make my cake! I am seriously loving berries and citrus right now so when I saw this cake over at My Kitchen Cafe, I knew it was meant for me! We modified it a little bit. Here is the original and here is what we did...

Strawberry-Lime Cream Cake
(12 servings, or less if you are like me and need more for yourself!)

white cake:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 t vanilla
4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans.  Line the pans with a circle of parchment paper on the bottom and then grease the parchment paper.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the buttermilk, butter and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.  Add egg whites and  beat for 2 more minutes.  Scraping the sides as needed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 28-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs on it.  Do NOT over bake, this will cause the cake to be dry.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Loosen the sides with a butter knife and remove the cakes from the pans to cool completely.

Strawberry Syrup/puree
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
4 T sugar
1 t lemon juice
combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth

Lime Cream:
4 limes, for 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Zest and juice the limes into a medium bowl.  You should have about 1/2 cup of lime juice.  Add the sweetened condensed milk and mix well. Add the whipping cream and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble to the cake, cut each cake in half horizontally making 4 cake circles. Place one cake circle on a cake plat and top with 1/3 of the berry puree.  Next, put 1/4 of the lime cream over the berries, spreading to within 1/4 inch of the edges.  Place another cake circle on top and repeat until all the cake circles are used.  Top the cake with the remaining 1/4 of the lime cream and garnish with fresh strawberries and lime slices.  Chill the cake for 1-2 hours before serving to let the cake set up.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

We have a beautiful garden, my husband totally has a green thumb. It is producing squash like CRAZY! So I have started to get creative. That is where this recipe comes in. It is totally vegetarian because when you have gorgeous veggies in your back yard who would want to go to the store? I just used what I had. I will tell you what veggies I used but really, the *options are endless!

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
(about 9 servings)

1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 medium onion, sliced
6-8 cloves of garlic
1 red bell pepper, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
no-boil lasagna noodles
24-oz small curd cottage cheese
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
32-oz marinara sauce, homemade or your favorite store bought brand
fresh spinach

Turn your oven on to broil. Cut your veggies and place them on a cookie sheet. Leave the peel on the garlic cloves while you roast them. Drizzle the veggies with the olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss them with your hands to coat evenly. Place under the broiler for about 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through. They are done when they start to look dark brown (but not burned) on the edges. Remove the peels from the garlic and finely chop. I like to remove the tomato skins as well. Chop tomatoes and red bell peppers into chunks. Place these back on the cookie sheet and toss to mix.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray. Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan.  Then put a layer of noodles followed by a layer of cottage cheese, then a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and finally a layer of roasted veggies.  Top the veggies with sauce and start the process over again.  You will want to divide all ingredients into 3 equal portions because that is how many layers you will make.  The top layer will be sauce and then mozzarella cheese.  Cover the whole thing with foil and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes.  Allow the lasagna to sit for 10-20 minutes before serving to let it set.  (I was obviously to excited to let mine set before I served it!) We LOVE to serve ours on a bed of fresh spinach, the spinach gets slightly wilted but not over cooked this way.  It is so good!

*You could also use carrots, mushrooms, kale, etc...
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quick French Baguettes

Bread is one of my favorite things to make. There is just something magical about the fresh baked bread smell filling your house. I also love quick bread recipes, because lets be honest, I am not a very good planner. That is what makes this bread so great! It can literally be done in half an hour! I know, I didn't believe it myself. And to top it off, it is really good bread. So next time you are out of time and need bread in a hurry, this is your go to recipe! I found the original recipe here.

Quick French Baguettes
(2 good sized baguettes)

2 cups very warm water (not hot)
2 1/4 t yeast
2 T honey
1 1/2 t salt
3-4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 425. In a large bowl, whisk together warm water, yeast and honey. Set the bowl on top of the preheating oven for 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough becomes soft but not sticky. Knead the dough until elastic.

Cut the dough into4 even pieces. Roll each piece into a long, thin rope. Twist together 2 of the ropes to form one loaf. Repeat with the other 2 ropes to form the second loaf. Transfer both onto a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

You can now bake the loaves right away (if you are in a hurry) or allow them to rise for an additional 15-30 minutes on top of your warm oven.

Now for the secret: Fill a large bowl with 3-4 cups of ice cubes. Open your oven and place the baking sheet with the baguettes inside, then toss the ice cubes on the *bottom of your oven and quickly shut the door. DO NOT open the door for 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown 15-18 minutes. Rub the tops with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.

*I have a gas oven, when I put the ice on the bottom of the oven it leaked out and made a mess of water on my floor. I suggest putting foil or a second baking sheet on the bottom of your oven to toss the ice onto.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blueberry Crisp

Last week we went on this AMAZING family reunion to a beautiful lake in Missouri called Table Rock Lake. We wound far back into rolling green hills and quaint farms to our cabins on the lake.  It was secluded, beautiful, relaxing and wonderful.  There was a you-pick berry farm a few miles away that we frequented throughout the week, coming back with blueberries and blackberries to garnish everything.  While at this farm we had a big bowl of the most delicious Blueberry Crisp with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  We were in blueberry heaven!  So when we got home, we just knew we couldn't wait until our next family reunion to get more of that amazing crisp.  I set out finding a recipe to rival it.  After looking through a million different recipe, I decided I would just give it a try with all the parts I loved the most.  This recipe is what I came up with, and yes, it rivals the one we had at that berry farm!
Besides, July is national Blueberry month, so go get some blueberries!

Blueberry Crisp
(6 servings)

4 cups FRESH blueberries (I guess you could use frozen if you absolutely can not find fresh ones)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar 
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 t cinnamon
4 T butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup quick oats
1/2 cup pecans, chopped 
1 t vanilla
a dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9x9 inch square pan or 2-quart baking dish.

Mix together the cornstarch and lemon juice and toss with the blueberries.  Spread these evenly into the prepared pan.

In a bowl, using a pastry blender or fork (I just use my hands), mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon,nutmeg, butter, oats, vanilla, and pecans until combined and crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over the blueberries in the pan.  

Bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling.  Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gnocchi with Marinara and Fresh Spinach

Gnocchi is the Italian word for dumpling. These have been a favorite of my husbands for a long time.  So when we went to a great little restaurant near us for dinner he ordered this fabulous Gnocchi dish with marinara sauce and fresh spinach.  We both liked it so much we decided to try our hand at recreating it.  It was sooo good!  Just as good as the original!  The Gnocchi recipe we found on Food Network.

Gnocchi with Marinara and Fresh Spinach
(4 servings)

kosher salt (optional)
1 pound russet potatoes
3-4 large egg yolks
1/2 fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1 recipe Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce or your favorite store bought brand
Fresh spinach
chicken sausage (optional)
fresh grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

Spread a layer of kosher salt on a baking sheet and arrange potatoes on top.  Bake until a bit over cooked (about 45 minutes).  Let sit until cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop out the insides.

Grate the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater.  You should have about 2 cups.  Make a mound of the potatoes on the counter with a well in the middle.  Add the 3 eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheese to the well.  Mix well with your hands. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the potatoes and, using your knuckles, press it into the potatoes.  Fold the mass over on itself and press down again.  Sprinkle on more flour, little by little folding and pressing the dough until it holds together (try not to knead it, this will make the gnocchi tough). Work any dough on your fingers back into the dough.  If the mixture is too dry, add another egg yolk or a little water.  The dough should give under light pressure.  It will feel firm but yielding.  To test if the dough is the right consistency, take a piece and roll it with your hands on a well-floured board into a rope 1/2 inch in diameter.  If the dough holds together, it is ready.  If not, add more flour, fold and press the dough several more times and then test again.

On a floured surface, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 1/2 in long pieces.  Lightly flour the gnocchi as you cut them.  You can cook these as us or form them into the classic Gnocchi shape using the times of the back side of a fork.  We watched this YouTube Video and it made it way easier.

Lightly four the Gnocchi as you shape them and then place them on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  If you will not be cooking the Gnocchi now, you can freeze them for a later use.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt.  Drop the Gnocchi into the boiling water and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Drain the Gnocchi.

Place some Gnocchi in a bowl or on a plate.  Top with fresh spinach, then sauce and finally shredded Parmesan and chicken sausage if desired.  The heat of the Gnocchi and the sauce will slightly cook the spinach leaving a slight crisp to it.  Delish!

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