Sunday, December 30, 2007

On a (shrimp lasagna) Roll

For Christmas this year I received Giada DeLaurentiis's Every Day Pasta cookbook and I think it's already my favorite cookbook. It is filled with delicious sounding recipes and none of them are too difficult or time-consuming. One that caught my eye right away was Shrimp Lasagna Rolls with Creamy Marinara. Doesn't that just sound amazing? I had nearly all the ingredients on hand so I decided to make these rolls for Joe and I on Saturday night.

Sometimes you just know as you're preparing a recipe that it is going to turn out well. You also usually know when it's not, but luckily this one had a good vibe from the start. There are several steps to this but all are easy. And since the recipe is just packed with yumminess like ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella you know it's going to be worth it. These rolls were seriously fantastic! I can't wait to make them again. I served them with the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit copy-cats and it was a fantastic meal.

Shrimp Lasagna Rolls with Creamy Marinara

1 lb lasagna noodles
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (15 oz) containers whole-milk ricotta (I used part-skim and it was fine)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade (I used a can of Hunt's)
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (I used 2% pre-shredded)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 6-8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and garlic to the pan and saute until shrimp are cooked, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. Coarsely chop the cooled shrimp and place in a bowl with 2 cups ricotta cheese, the Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the nutmeg. Stir to combine.

In another bowl, combine the marinara sauce with remaining 1 cup ricotta and stir to combine.

To make lasagna, cover the bottom of a 9 x 13" baking dish with 1 cup marinara mixture. Lay 4 noodles flat on a dry work surface. Spread about 1/4 cup shrimp mixture evenly over each noodle. Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat twice more to make 12 lasagna rolls.

Drizzle the rolls with the remaining marinara mixture and top with mozzarella. Bake until lasagna rolls are heated through and cheese begins to brown, about 25 minutes.

Just add sugar

In my book, any cookie recipe that involves rolling the dough in sugar before baking has to be good. And when that recipe also contains peanut butter and chocolate, it has to be fantastic. I found this recipe on I Pray to Gouda and with the rave review Faith gave I knew I had to make these cookies. I had given away all of my Christmas cookies, and on Sunday I was wishing I hadn't because I really wanted a cookie. I decided it was the perfect time to try out this recipe - I baked 8 cookies and froze the rest of the dough for later. These suckers are good! I mainly love all cookies, but I am not really a fan of crunchy cookies - I like mine soft and chewy. I tend to think of peanut butter cookies as crunchy, but these were nice and tender and stayed that way. When your holiday baking finally disappears and you find yourself craving cookies, give these ones a try!

Sugar-Dipped Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temp
3/4 cup sugar, leave some aside for dipping
1 large egg, at room temp
1 TB milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter and beat until smooth. Add egg and mix well. Add milk and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Mix in sugar. Stir in peanut butter chips and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets. Using fork, lightly indent with a crisscross pattern, but don't overly flatten the cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes.The cookies won't look done, but they are. Let them cool on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ice Cream for Christmas

I knew as soon as I saw this ice cream cake in the December 2007 issue of Cooking Light that I had to make it. I love the cakes that come from Cold Stone Creamery and Baskin Robbins that combine regular cake with a layer of ice cream so I couldn't resist trying to make one at home. I figured it would be the perfect dessert to bring to Joe's aunt's house for Christmas Eve. The only issue I ran into was that I could not locate any peppermint ice cream at the grocery store, so I wound up using mint chocolate chip. I also cheated and instead of using the chocolate cake in the recipe (below), I used a boxed mix and a can of Diet Pepsi to make this even lower in calories and fat. The cakes didn't rise as much as I felt they should but that actually worked out well in producing and even layer cake. I may try the from-scratch cake next time, but this was great as it was and everyone gobbled it up after Christmas Eve dinner. I'm anxious to try it again with different flavor combinations.

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

Cooking spray
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup boiling water
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
(I used a box mix cake)

3 cups low-fat peppermint ice cream (such as Edy's/Dreyer's Slow-Churned Light), softened (I used mint chocolate chip)
3 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
8 peppermint candies, crushed

Preheat oven to 350°.
Coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray. Line bottom of each pan with wax paper.
Combine cocoa, water, and butter, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cool.
Combine sugars in a large bowl, stirring well until blended. Add egg substitute; beat 2 minutes or until light and creamy. Add cocoa mixture, and beat for 1 minute.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to bowl; beat for 1 minute or until blended. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans. Wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 2 hours or until slightly frozen.
Spread ice cream in an 8-inch round cake pan lined with plastic wrap. Cover and freeze 4 hours or until firm.
To assemble cake, place one cake layer, bottom side up, on a cake pedestal. Remove ice cream layer from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Place ice cream layer, bottom side up, on top of cake layer. Top with remaining cake layer.
Combine whipped topping and peppermint extract, and stir until blended. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints. Freeze until ready to serve. Let cake stand at room temperature 10 minutes before slicing.
16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 251(24% from fat); FAT 6.8g (sat 3.3g,mono 2.1g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 4.3g; CHOLESTEROL 19mg; CALCIUM 63mg; SODIUM 207mg; FIBER 1.7g; IRON 1.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 44.4g

Butterscotch Bread Pudding

Another Christmas Eve dessert. Joe's grandfather and uncle really like bread pudding so I thought that would the perfect second dessert to bring to Christmas Eve. I've never made a bread pudding before, but I found this recipe on All Recipes and decided to go for it since I had a bag of butterscotch chips in my cabinet already. This was very easy to make and came out great. It's very sweet but everyone enjoyed it. This recipe cracks me up though - be sure to check that your finished pudding "wiggles like a well-endowed thigh." Ha!

Butterscotch Bread Pudding

1 (10.75 ounce) loaf day-old bread, torn into small pieces
4 cups milk
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine bread, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and butterscotch chips; mixture should be the consistency of oatmeal. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven 1 hour, until nearly set. (It should have a "thigh wiggle" or wiggle as much as a well endowed thigh.) Serve warm or cold.

How talented are we?

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve I had my 8-year-old cousin Adam over for a visit. I thought it would be fun for us to do something holiday-related, so I bought a pre-assembled gingerbread house for us to decorate. We had a great time with the decorating, and I was quite impressed with our creativity! Check out that awesome marshmallow snowman in front of the house. A stroke of genius! :)

Chicken-Ham Lasagna

I have been making this lasagna for a couple of years now and it's one of my absolute favorites. In fact, it just may be my favorite dinner period. The recipe is from the January 2006 issue of Cooking Light and trust me, it's delicious. The lasagna is unique thanks to the combination of chicken and ham, and the sauce tastes rich and creamy while being low fat/low cal. I make it just for Joe and I, but I've also served it to company. Everyone likes it and it tastes great as leftovers too.
Chicken-Ham Lasagna

2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces, divided
3 cups 1% low-fat milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley object2
Cooking spray
12 no-cook lasagna noodles (8 ounces), divided
8 ounces thinly sliced 96% fat-free deli ham, chopped, divided
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place broth and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Add chicken; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon; set aside.
Combine milk, flour, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl; stir well with a whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture to broth in pan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup cheese and parsley, stirring until cheese melts.
Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over sauce. Spoon 3/4 cup sauce evenly over noodles. Top evenly with one-third ham and one-third chicken. Repeat layers twice, ending with noodles. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
Cover with foil very lightly coated with cooking spray; bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove and discard foil; bake 10 minutes or until the cheese lightly browns. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Beer Bread

I've been intrigued with the idea of beer bread for awhile, since it doesn't require yeast and I have no patience for the kneading and rising required to make bread with yeast, so I decided to give it a try on Saturday night. I thought this bread was just okay. It was very dense and a sort of strange after taste. Joe didn't like it at all and we ended up throwing most of it away. But I'm posting the recipe anyway - maybe you can think of some improvements for it!

Beer Bread

2 cups AP flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 (341 ml) bottle of beer (I used Miller Lite)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan. Mix AP flour, whole wheat flour, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir in beer, cheese and mustard until a batter forms (it will be a thick batter). Turn into loaf pan and bake 40-45 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Creative Cookies

I can't take credit for these cookies, but I thought they were so cute and thoughtful that they deserved to be seen. Joe is the yearbook advisor at the high school where he teaches, and these cookies were made for him by two of his editors. They baked and decorated sugar cookies to represent things Joe likes along with symbols that represent their work on the yearbook. Among others were a Slurpee cookie (Slurpees are Joe's favorite treat), a MAC symbol and a clock. I think the girls are very talented!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

(It's hard to rely on your) Good Intentions

Anyone else remember that song? I believe it's Toad the Wet Sprocket - ah, high school memories. Anyhow, I entered the What's Cooking? recipe exchange with the best of intentions. For those of you who don't know, What's Cooking? is a fantastic cooking message board that I frequent. One of of the other WC? regulars, Katie, of the awesome blog Good Things Catered, arranged a fun recipe swap for us - basically we all submitted our favorite holiday dessert recipe, then Katie shuffled them up and redistributed them so we were all given a new recipe to try out and post about.
I was excited when I got my recipe - Fudgy Mocha Toffee Brownies from Cooking Light - because I have actually had this recipe set aside for several months but haven't gotten around to making it yet. And the trend seemed to continue, as with all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the holidays I almost didn't have a chance to make them for the recipe exchange either. But as luck would have it I ended up needing to prepare a treat for one of Joe's students and decided that I would seize the opportunity to make the Fudgy Mocha Toffee Brownies.

I got started Wednesday night after dinner and the gym. So it was kind of late and I was kind of tired, but I was making those brownies! I melted the chocolate and the butter, preheated the oven...then realized that I did not have any instant coffee. Hmmmm. My brilliant (yet obviously cloudy) mind told me that using regular grounds coffee would not yeild the same result as instant. But since I had already melted my chocolate and felt committed to these brownies, I decided that I would leave out the coffee and make them "Fudgy Toffee Brownies" instead.
I got back to work fully focused on my task - and then my mom called. Since I am normally the queen of multi-tasking, I saw nothing wrong with chatting on the phone while preparing my brownies. I got the batter all ready and scooped it into the pan. It was very, very thick. So thick that I re-read the recipe to see if I'd left something out. It seemed as if I had gotten it right, so I popped the brownies in the oven. 10 minutes later I checked on the baking brownies and they looked exactly the same as they had before I put them in the oven. Hmmmm again. I read the recipe for a third time and this time realized I had forgotten the baking powder. Not the reason for the super thick batter, but still a mistake! Not much I could do at that point, so I crossed my fingers and finished baking the brownies.

And you know what? They were delicious! Super dense and fudgy (I guess that's what a lack of baking powder will do) with a fantastic crunch from the toffee bits. Wow, I love toffee. So much that I began eating the little pieces out of the bag plain after eating a brownie. Yum! I need to find another recipe to use them in. Anyhow, I'm glad I finally got to make these brownies, and I will definitely make them again - maybe I'll even try to get it right next time!

Happy holidays!

Fudgy Mocha Toffee Brownies
(Source: September 2007 Cooking Light)

Cooking Spray
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1/4 cup toffee chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Coat bottom of a 8x8 pan with spray.
3. Combine coffee granules with hot water, stir until the granules are dissolved.
4. Combine butter and chocolate chips. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute until butter melts; stir until chocolate is smooth.
5. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
6. Combine coffee mixture, butter/chocolate chip mixture, vanilla and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.
7. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until well combined. **the batter was really thick**
8. Spread evenly into pan and sprinkle evenly with toffee chips. Bake for 22 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"C" is for Cookie and Christmas!

It's that time of year again - holiday cookie time! I love to bake cookies at Christmas time and pass them out to friends and co-workers. This year, I must say, was my easiest baking experience yet. Thanks to my new silipat mat (thank you, secret santa!), my mom's awesome cookie sheets and my new baking racks, I had zero burnt, stuck or broken cookies. And they all taste great too. I made four types of cookies - peanut blossoms, butterscotch gingerbread, snickerdoodles, monster cookies.

Peanut Blossoms

These are just a Christmas classic. My mom always made these at Christmas when I was growing up so I just associate them with the holiday. I used the classic recipe from Hershey's and a nice bag or pre-unwrapped Hershey's Kisses - a most excellent creation!

48 HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup REESE'S Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates. 2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture. 3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. 4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

Butterscotch Gingerbread

This recipe came from All Recipes and I've been making them at Christmas for years. I like them because they are different from your typical Christmas cookie fare, but still seasonal thanks to the gingerbread flavor. The butterscotch morsels make them very sweet.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup light molasses
1 (11 ounce) package NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Butterscotch Flavored Morsels

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in small bowl.
BEAT butter, sugar, egg and molasses in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Monster Cookies

Aside from a nice chewy chocolate chip cookie, monster cookies are my absolute favorite. Peanut butter, chocolate chunks, M&Ms - how can you go wrong? There are many variations of this recipe and you can really add any mix-ins you like, but I prefer to limit mine to chocolate! The recipe I use came from a friend many years ago, so I'm not really sure where it originated. It's a great one though!

2 eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. corn syrup
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup chocolate chunks (I use 1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup plain M&Ms (I use 1 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy. Beat in the next six ingredients, through peanut butter. Stir in the oats, chocolate and M&Ms. Scoop onto a large baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes.


Another holiday classic. I toss these in each year for those people who don't like chocolate or peanut butter. And again, they just scream "Christmas" to me. There are a ton of variations on this recipe - the one I use has been in my recipe binder for several years. Can't say where it came from, but it makes really good cookies!

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbl. sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl cream together shortening, sugar and eggs. Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a bowl; add to the creamed mixture, beating well. Form dough into 1-inch balls, roll in sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake 8-10 minutes or until puffed. Cool completely on wire racks.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ready for Funfetti?

I've come to the conclusion that there isn't anyone out there who doesn't like Funfetti. Even the most dedicated from-scratch-only bakers will give in and whip up a Funfetti cake or a batch of cupcakes. For some reason the simple addition of colored sprinkles to the batter and frosting make Funfetti irresistible. So when I spotted a holiday version of the Funfetti cake mix and frosting in the grocery store, I snatched it up. I had offered to make a dessert for Joe to bring to his department Christmas party and thought that the Funfetti cupcakes would be perfect - festive, easy and delicious. Plus, I was thrilled to discover that the frosting had already been dyed green - no food coloring was necessary to jazz them up! I topped the frosting with the Funfetti sprinkles, and also did some up with plain red sprinkles and some crushed peppermint candies. Are you ready for Funfetti?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Open Sesame

I've seen a lot of blogs featuring recipes from Every Day Foods, but I had never actually seen the magazine anywhere. Then last week while standing in line at the grocery store I spotted it on the rack. It's a smaller, book-sized magazine, which I guess is why I never noticed it before. It was the December issue and I snatched it up to give it a whirl. The Lighter Sesame Chicken the first recipe I made from it, and it was really, really good! I was nervous at first because my chicken stuck to the pan, even though I had put the vegetable oil in as required. But with a little scraping the chicken came up without burning and was fine. The egg white and cornstarch coating gives the chicken a great texture and flavor without the fat of deep frying. I thought it tasted a lot like the Chinese restaurant versions I've had. I doubled the sauce, since we always like extra sauce and served the chicken over brown rice. Never a fan of prep work or veggie chopping I cheated and bought a bag of Broccoli Wockily (if you've never seen this it's pretty much just pre-chopped broccoli florets that you can steam right in the bag in the microwave) and served that on the side. I also left out the scallions since I didn't have any and neither Joe nor I really like onions. This was a great dinner and I'll definitely make it again soon!

Lighter Sesame Chicken

3/4 cup brown rice
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed with a garlic press
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.
Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with broccoli and rice.

Blue-Ribbon Chili

Both Joe and I really like chili, and it's the perfect weeknight meal since I can just toss it in the crockpot in the morning before work. I usually make a turkey chili in the crockpot and while it's good, it's nothing too special. So this week I went in search of a new recipe to try and came across this one on All Recipes. This recipe was nice and easy and definitely had a chili kick to it. It's going in my recipe file!

Debdoozie's Blue Ribbon Chili

2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 (8 ounce) jar salsa
4 tablespoons (1 packet) chili seasoning mix
1 (15 ounce) can light red kidney beans
1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the ground beef and the onion and saute for 10 minutes, or until meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain grease, if desired.
Add the ground black pepper, garlic salt, tomato sauce, salsa, chili seasoning mix and kidney beans. Mix well, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour.

**I made this in the crockpot, so I just browned the beef with the onion then tossed all the other ingredients into the crockpot where it cooked on low all day.

Monday, December 3, 2007

You just can't go wrong

with peanut butter and chocolate. Seriously, I don't think anything with that combination can be bad. Recently Nestle baking chips were on sale at our grocery store so I asked Joe to pick me up a variety when he was shopping. One of the types he came home with was chocolate peanut butter swirl. I knew I wanted to make cookies with them, so I looked to the back of the chip bag for inspiration. Unfortunately, there was no inspiration there - the featured recipe was just a regular old chocolate chip cookie using the swirl chips instead of plain chocolate chips - boring! I felt that the peanut butter chips called for a chocolate cookie, so I did some searching and found this recipe on Cookie Madness and thought it sounded perfect. My changes are indicated in the recipe below. I used butter instead of margarine and, of course, my swirl chips. I was about to chop up some peanuts and add them too, but then I remembered a half-full bag of Reese's Pieces I had left from a trip to the movies a few weeks ago and decided to add them instead. Mmmmmmm. These cookies are fantastic. Chewy and chocolaty with perfect peanut butter flavor in every bite. Joe ranked them in his ever-changing Top 5 of things I cook or bake, and since 2 of those 5 things contain peanut butter and chocolate, I think I've proved my above point!

Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups unsifted all purpose flour
2/3 cup Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag Nestle chocolate peanut butter swirl chips
1/4 cup Reese's Pieces candies

Cream butter or margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture. Stir in peanut butter chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, or chill until firm enough to handle and shape small amounts of dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees f for 8-10 minutes.

Cool 1 minute before removing from cookie sheet onto wire rack. About 5 dozen.
PS - Joe, fresh out of a Photoshop course, has decided to copyright all my pictures with a little stamp of our dog Tucker's head. So when you see Tucker staring back at you from my photos, you'll know why!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

German Chocolate Pecan Pie

As soon as I saw this recipe in the November issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray I knew I wanted to make it for Thanksgiving. My mom and Nana are huge fans of German chocolate so I knew they would love this. Plus, I was still trying to redeem myself from Thanksgiving two years ago, when I proudly showed up at dinner with a pecan pie only to cut it and find it totally raw inside. My father still teases me about it, but I think everyone forgot about that little incident after eating this pie. It is so, so good - chocolaty and nutty with just the right amount of coconut. I used a frozen pie crust (I've made crust before and find that for all the effort it takes I like the frozen ones just as much) and it couldn't have been easier. The recipe below is how I made it with a frozen crust, but you can find the entire recipe here if you want to make your own crust. I will definitely be making this again!

German Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 frozen pie crust, pre-baked according to package directions
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) pecan halves, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sweetened flake coconut
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Pre-bake pie crust according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. In a heavy, medium saucepan, whisk together the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt with the brown sugar and corn syrup over medium heat until melted and smooth. Whisk the sugar mixture into the beaten eggs. Stir in the nuts and coconut. Spread the chocolate chips in the pie shell. Pour in the filling and bake until set, about 25 minutes. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.

Chicken Parm Pizza

This is one of my standby recipes that I'll turn to every so often. It's actually from a cooking with kids episode of 30 Minute Meals. It's very good and is quick and easy. I've made it with the ground chicken, like the recipe calls for, and also with pre-cooked chicken slices - it's good either way! The red pepper gives it a nice kick and it's perfectly cheesy.

Chicken Parm Pizza

1 store bought pizza dough
Cornmeal or flour, for dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 turns of the pan plus a drizzle)
1 pound ground chicken
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Couple pinches crushed red pepper flakes
Couple pinches dried oregano
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone
5 to 6 leaves basil, torn or shredded

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Coat hands and work surface with a little cornmeal or flour. Using your hand or a rolling pin, form a 14-inch round pizza. Place pizza on a baking sheet or pizza stone and poke the top with a few holes. Drizzle a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil down over the dough and place in oven. Bake 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add meat and break it up with a wooden spoon. To browned meat, add garlic and onions, then season with salt and pepper. Cook together 5 to 6 minutes then add parsley, red pepper flakes, oregano and the tomatoes to the pan. Heat the sauce through.
Remove pizza from oven after 10 minutes and top with sauce and cheeses. Return to oven and bake until golden and bubbly, another 10 to12 minutes. Top the pizza with basil, cut and serve.

Like Warm Apple Pie

Without having to mess with a crust! I wanted to make a nice fall treat the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for Joe and I to have for dessert. Joe loves apple pie, but I didn't want to mess with a crust, have to peel and slice a dozen apples or have an entire pie sitting around the house. So I hit All Recipes and found this recipe for baked apples. I followed the recipe almost exactly instead I substituted pecans for walnuts. It doesn't look pretty (I'm sure it will end up on Ugly Blog Food) but it smelled wonderful and tasted great - just like a crustless apple pie. I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it was a great start to our holiday weekend.

Simple Baked Apples

6 apples - peeled, cored and sliced (I used 4 Granny Smith)
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup whole milk (I used skim)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 2 quart casserole dish, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.
Place apples in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir spice mixture into apples until evenly distributed. Fold in raisins and walnuts. Spoon into prepared dish. Pour milk evenly over apple mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until soft and bubbly. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oatmeal Cream Pies

My weekend baking was originally going to take the form of the pumpkin sandwich cookies from the November issue of Martha Stewart Living. However I've been baking with pumpkin a lot recently, and Joe had a rough week and I wanted to make something I knew he would love. Back when we first started dating (over 10 years ago!) the first thing I ever baked for him were the Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Quaker Oats - and those still rank as one of his favorite baked goods. So I decided to change my plans and make the oatmeal raisin cookies instead, but also make some in the spirit of the planned sandwich cookies. I made half of the cookies with raisins and the other half without. Then I made the filling from the Martha Stewart recipe and used it to make sandwiches with the plain oatmeal cookies - I left the raisin ones as is. These were pretty good, but I wasn't crazy about the cream cheese taste - I was going more for a Little Debbie Oatmeal Meal Cream Pie taste. I would make these again but with a different filling - and make them smaller. I tend to go a little nuts and make giant cookies! But as for the Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie recipe - you can't go wrong there!

Oatmeal Cream Pies

1/2pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
1cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins

2/3 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

While cookies bake, beat cream cheese, heavy cream and powdered sugar until fluffy and spreadable. Spread on flat side of cooled cookies and press together t0 make sandwiches.

Nacho Ordinary Chicken

I came across this recipe on Stephany's blog and was intrigued. I like Doritos. I like chicken. And I like easy, which is what this recipe was. Unfortunately, Joe and I didn't like the finished product very much. It wasn't bad, it just tasted like chicken covered in Doritos. It was a decent dinner and a unique idea but I probably won't make it again. But if you are a big Dorito fan, give it a try - it still beats plain old breadcrumbs.

Dorito/Nacho Chicken

1 Egg + 1 T water
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup crushed baked Doritos (I chopped them in my food processor)

Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and preheat oven to 350. Dip chicken in egg wash and coat in Doritos. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. (My chicken breasts were large so I baked them for 35 minutes.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars

It's rare that I bake anything that doesn't contain chocolate, but I had several containers of oats in my cabinet that I wanted to use up. My first thought was oatmeal raisin cookies, but cookies are so time consuming, especially since my tiny oven can really only accommodate one cookie sheet at a time. So I searched All Recipes for for a bar cookie that would use up my oats and found this one. It was incredibly easy and the bars tasted great. I followed the advice of the reviewers and doubled the recipe to bake in a 13" x 9" pan. I was a little worried about cutting them, as may of the reviews said they crumbled when cut or that it was better to let them sit overnight and then cut them, but mine cooled for an hour and sliced perfectly. I wish I had used a little more jam, but I only had the one jar - next time I'll add a little more. I recommend these for an easy and light dessert. These went to school with Joe along with the pumpkin blondies for his coworkers to enjoy.

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 8 inch square pan, and line with greased foil.
Combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats. Rub in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender to form a crumbly mixture. Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Still more pumpkin

Can't. Stop. Baking. With. Pumpkin. With two big cans sitting in my cupboard and Joe's faculty meeting today I knew the treat I would whip up for his fellow teachers would contain pumpkin. This recipe is originally from Libby's, but I discovered it on Erika's blog. I do not have a 15" x 10" jelly roll pan like the recipe calls for, so I poured my batter into a 9" x 13" baking dish instead. The result was blondies that were more like cake, or possibly pumpkin bread. They were very light and moist, not dense like a blondie would be. But they were still very tasty! As a result of my pan substitution I had to bake my blondies for about 35-40 minutes. I also used chocolate chunks instead of chips, because that's what I had on hand. You can never have too much chocolate!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Blondies
2 1/4 C. Flour
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 C. Brown Sugar
3/4 C. (1 1/2 sticks) Butter, softened
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
1 C. Pumpkin Puree
2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1/2 C. Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 15"x10" jelly roll pan/ cookie sheet. Beat sugar, butter and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in pumpkin and maple syrup. Beat in flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt until well combined and moist. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool a little. Cut into bars and remove to a rack to cool.

Soup's On!

It's no secret that I love my crockpot. I use it all year long, but in the cooler months it's perfect for making soups, stews and chilis. This recipe is one I've had for at least a year but have only made once before. Joe and I didn't love it in its original form, which just called for ravioli - it was too boring. When I made it this time around I substituted cheese tortellini for the ravioli and added mini meatballs. It came out hearty and delicious - perfect for a cold nigh - and it was even better the next day. The original recipe can be found here, my modifications are reflected in the below recipe.

Meatball Tortellini Soup

2 cups sliced carrots
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 oz.) cans vegetable broth
2 (14 oz.) cans Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
18 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/8 tsp. pepper
Half of a large bag of frozen mini meatballs
9 0z. package frozen cheese tortellini
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except tortellini and Parmesan cheese in 3-4 quart slow cooker. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours until carrots are tender. Increase heat to high and stir in tortellini. Cover crockpot and cook for 15-20 minutes until tortellini are tender. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Claim to Fame

I made these Reese's Peanut Butter Bars last year for Joe's department Christmas party and apparently they've made me famous. Joe's co-workers ask him all the time when I'll be making them again, so when Joe told me he had a department meeting this week I decided to whip them up. These are super simple (they don't even require baking) but taste incredible - just like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I also made brownies (just from a mix - I was short on time) for Joe's co-workers who didn't like peanut butter. I'm campaigning for wife of the year ;)

Reese's Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
11 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I usually use more like 2 cups - I like chocolate!)
Combine graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Add melted butter and peanut butter; stir to combine. Press peanut butter mixture into a 9x13" dish. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth. Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter mixture. Refrigerate until firm. Remove from refrigerator and let sit 15 minutes before cutting to avoid cracking.

It's a Rocky Road

On Saturday afternoon I was struck with the urge to bake. I announced to Joe that I was going to whip up some pumpkin chocolate chip blondies, but that suggestion was received by Joe rather unenthusiastically. I asked him what he would prefer and he said "Something really unhealthy." I thought about what Joe liked best (and since he's not a huge sweet person there wasn't much to think about) and decided to make some rocky road brownies. I used the brownie base from the Caramel Cashew Brownies I had made a few months earlier and added chopped pecans to the batter. When the brownies were done I sprinkled the tops with more pecans, mini marshmallows and chocolate chunks, then stuck the whole thing back in the oven for a few minutes to soften the marshmallows a bit. These were delicious and definitely "really unhealthy."

My Favorite Pasta

One Friday afternoon over the summer I was watching an episode of Giada's show and saw her make this pasta. The food on cooking shows always looks amazing, but it's rare that I have the desire to jump right up and make one of the dishes immediately. This pasta, however, inspired me to run to the store the next morning and whip it up for dinner that night. The recipe is so unique and easy - just combine toasted almonds, crushed breadcrumbs and roasted red peppers and toss with olive oil over pasta. Plus, it's delicious! Nice and flavorful and light. It's quickly become my favorite dish, and one of the few things I'll eat as leftovers (I am usually opposed to leftovers for some reason). I usually toss in some cooked chicken sausage too, and this time I used penne since that's what I had available. Definitely try this dish ASAP!

Rigatoni with Red Pepper, Almonds, and Bread Crumbs
1 pound rigatoni pasta
3 cups purchased garlic-flavored croutons, (about 5 ounces)
1/4 cup slivered almonds (about 1 ounce), toasted
1 cup julienned roasted red bell peppers
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl.
Place the croutons and the almonds in a food processor. Pulse until it becomes the texture of bread crumbs. Add the crouton and almond mixture to the hot pasta. Add the peppers and the olive oil. Toss to combine and serve.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween Hash Browns

Okay, this dish really has nothing to do with Halloween, other than the fact that I made it for dinner on Halloween, but the title stands. Honestly, I did not expect to like this casserole. I essentially made it for Joe - his mom makes a hash brown casserole that he loves and I wanted to try a new version for him. But I ended up really enjoying it! It's nice and creamy and has a great flavor. The recipe is from Cooking Light but it came to my attention on an article from All Recipes, 10 Casseroles Under 300 Calories. I prepared it the night before as suggested in the recipe and refrigerated it all day. Then I just popped it in the oven when I got home and I was free to answer the door for trick-or-treaters while it baked. I served it as a side dish to chicken breasts but it would be perfect for a brunch too.

Hash Brown Casserole with Bacon, Onions, and Cheese

6 bacon slices (I used turkey bacon)
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (32-ounce) package frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes
1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded Classic Melts Four Cheese blend, divided (I used shredded sharp cheddar)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium, 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
Cooking spray

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, and crumble. Discard drippings in pan. Add 1 cup onion and garlic to pan; cook for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the potatoes; cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine crumbled bacon, 1/4 cup cheese, green onions, sour cream, salt, pepper, and soup in a large bowl. Add potato mixture; toss gently to combine. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Remove casserole from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake casserole, covered, at 350º for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges and cheese begins to brown.
6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 293(31% from fat); FAT 10g (sat 4.8g,mono 3.3g,poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 12.2g; CHOLESTEROL 31mg; CALCIUM 214mg; SODIUM 720mg; FIBER 4.7g; IRON 0.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 41.4g
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heavenly Pumpkin Bread

This bread is so, so good and easy too. I spotted this recipe on Tricia's blog and knew right away that I wanted to try it. The original recipe is from Cooking Light. The only real change I made was to substitute vanilla yogurt for the vanilla pudding, since that was what I had on hand. I made one loaf with chocolate chips for me and one with pecans for Joe. This bread is so moist and delicious. I ate nearly half of the chocolate chip loaf myself the night I made it. Definitely a keeper. Oh - and I scoff at the "32 servings." More like 16.... ;)

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

2 cups sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil (I used vegetable oil)
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla pudding (I used fat-free vanilla yogurt)
4 large egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
32 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 152(30% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 1.2g,mono 2.5g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 2g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 10mg; SODIUM 137mg; FIBER 1.1g; IRON 1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 26.5g


I came across this recipe on someone's blog, but I can't remember which one! I've searched through all the blogs I usually visit but can't seem to find it. If this was yours - please let me know! At any rate, it was delicious and easy! I made a lot of changes to the recipe based on ingredients I had on hand, and it turned out great. Plus it makes a ton so there are plenty of leftovers. The original recipe was titled "Spicy Chicken with Cornbread," but since I didn't use chicken I re-titled it "Fiesta Cornbread Casserole." The original recipe is below with my changes in italics.

Fiesta Cornbread Casserole

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces (I used ground turkey)
2 Tbl EVOO
1 package taco seasoning
2 cans black beans drained & rinsed (I only used 1 can)
1 can ro-tel drained (tomatoes with diced chilies) (I used regular diced tomatoes and added some chopped jalapenos)
2 cans Mexican corn drained (I used one small can of regular corn)
1 package corn bread with ingredients to make it
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup red bell pepper (I omitted)

Heat oven to 350 degrees spray 3 quart dish with cooking spray.Heat EVOO in large skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken until the middle is no longer pink. Make cornbread according to instructions, then stir in cheese and bell pepper. Sprinkle taco seasoning over chicken. Add black beans, Rotel and corn. Mix together then pour into prepared dish. Pour cornbread over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cornbread is golden.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Peanut Butter Perfection

These cupcakes were by far the best-received baked good I've ever made. They made Joe laugh with joy when he took his first bite, and my friend Jamie stopped mid-sentence while eating one and exclaimed "Hang on, I'm really excited about what's in my mouth right now." Not only were these delicious, but they were super easy. I cheated and used a boxed Devil's Food cake mix and pressed a mini peanut butter cup into the center of each cupcake before baking. For the frosting I made the Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting from All Recipes that I originally spotted on Ashleigh's blog. This is a fantastic frosting - great peanut butter flavor and not overly sweet. I topped each cupcake with some chopped peanut butter cups. I will definitely be making these again - soon!

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.

A Kiss of Candy Corn

I love candy corn, so of course I had to try the new Candy Corn Hershey Kisses. Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan - they taste like combo of white chocolate and candy corn, but since I'm not big on white chocolate I haven't really been eating them. They are incredibly cute though, so I wanted to use them in some baking. I make these cookies from the recipe on the back of the Candy Corn Hershey Kiss bag. Called "Autumn Cookies" these are a peanut butter oatmeal cookie topped with the kiss. If you like crunchy cookies, you'll love these. Joe's co-workers gobbled them up when I sent them to a staff meeting.

Kisses Candy Corn Autumn Cookies
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
66 Hershey's Kisses Brand Candy Corn Flavored Candies
Heat oven to 350. Beat peanut butter and shortening in a large bowl until well blended. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together 1/2 cup oats, flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat int0 peanut butter mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (mine were way bigger). Roll in reamaining oats; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten cookie with tines of fork to form a criss-cross pattern. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Remove wrappers from candies. Place 18 candies in heavy duty resealable plastic bag. Microwave at medium for 30 seconds; knead bag. If necessary microwave again an additional 15 seconds at a time, kneading after each heating until candies are melted. Cool slightly. Cut off corner of bag about 1/8 inch from point. Lightly drizzle cookies. Before drizzle sets, place candy piece in center of each cookie. (I skipped the drizzle part.)
Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Taste & Create II: Apple (no Raspberry) Pie

My first blogger event! Thanks to Nicole Susanne of For the Love of Food for letting me get my feet wet with her event. I also need to thank her for partnering us together - her blog had so many great recipes to choose from! I couldn't decide what to make, but luckily Joe made the decision for me. Last weekend he told me that he was really in the mood for an apple pie. I had only attempted homemade apple pie once before in my life. A few years ago Joe and I went apple picking and made a pie from an old family recipe of my friend. The pie was fine, but Joe and I, inexperienced as we were, didn't take into account the fact that the apples would shrink when cooked and didn't put enough in. So we ended up with crust, apples, then about 2 inches of air before the top crust. That was my last attempt. But when I found Apple Raspberry Pie recipe in Nicole Susanne's blog I knew I had found my entry.

I left out the raspberries because Joe was set on a regular apple pie. Joe did the apple peeling, coring and slicing for me while I made the crust. The crust came together quickly and easily, but I must have done something wrong because when I rolled it out it would not stay together. Pieces kept breaking off and it was unusable. I chucked the batch of dough and tried again, this time adding more water as I thought perhaps my first crust was too dry. This crust worked better - it was still a little fragile but held up when I put it in the pan. The pie came out delicious - sweet and juicy with a nice flaky crust. The filling was a little liquidy, but it did not make the crust soggy, so no harm! Joe enjoyed a big piece with vanilla ice cream right after it was baked, and then had some more for breakfast the next morning. I will definitely use this recipe again!

Apple Pie
2 Pie crusts (see recipe below)
6 Cups of peeled and sliced Apples (I used half cortland and half granny smith)
¾ Cup of Sugar
3 Tablespoons of Flour
½ teaspoon of Cinnamon
dash of Salt
1 teaspoon of Butter

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Place apples in the bowl and mix until well coated. Place 1 pie crust into a pie dish and fill with apple filling. Cut butter into little pieces and sprinkle on top of the filling. Place the second pie crust over the filling and trim and flute the edges. Cut about 6 slits into the top of the pie to let it breath while baking.Bake for 40-45 minutes or until juices begin to bubble through the slits. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Pie Crust

2 Cups Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
2/3 Cup plus 2 Tablespoon Vegetable Shorting for baking
4-6 Tablespoons of cold Water

Unbaked Pie Crust:
Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening, using 2 forks, until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 3 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).
Gather pastry into a ball. Place on plastic wrap and flatten, then completely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 45 minutes or until dough is firm and cold, yet pliable. If refrigerated longer, let pastry soften slightly before rolling.
Roll pastry, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.
Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of pie plate. Fold and roll pastry under, even with plate; flute as desired. Continue with directions in pie recipe.

Cincinnati Chili

This weekend was finally fall-like in weather, so I wanted to make an appropriate dinner for the cooler weather. My friend and co-worker shared with me her father's recipe for Cincinnati Chili. Her dad's job is flavor chemist and he developed this recipe to include all his favorite chili flavors. I've never had this type of chili before - it was more like a meat sauce than the chili I'm used to. It has a ton of spices in it so it's very flavorful, but not spicy. Definitely a perfect meal for fall!

Cincinnati Chili

2.5 lbs ground beef
1 tsp olive oil
4 cups water
12 oz tomato paste
1 ¾ tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp mild paprika
½ tsp hot or Hungarian paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1tsp all spice
¾ tsp celery seed
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp oregano
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp ground clove
1 oz unsweetened chocolate

Brown ground beef in olive oil, then add water, spices and tomato paste. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and replacing water as needed. Add chocolate and continue simmering for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and replacing water as needed. Serve over pasta or rice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Spicy Beef and Potatoes

In my never-ending search for crockpot recipes I came across this on Most of my crockpot recipes are for chicken, so I was eager to give this beef one a try. I was a little nervous about the bbq sauce/salsa combination, but the flavors worked. It's not the prettiest dish, but was a decent, hearty fall meal.

Spicy Beef and Potatoes

2 lb. stew beef
1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can of Italian stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 to 2 pounds potatoes, cut in large chunks
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp each of oregano, cumin and chili powder
1/2 c. BBQ sauce
1/4 c. salsa
2 c. frozen corn
l tsp. salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tb. flour or cornstarch mixed with a little cold water, optional

Combine salt, pepper, and flour; toss with beef and brown beef in 1 Tbsp. of oil in skillet. When browned on all sides, remove from pan and set aside. (I didn't bother browning the beef before putting it in the crockpot and it turned out fine.) Place potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker. Combine all ingredients except corn and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or HIGH for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, Add corn during the last hour (I put the corn in for the entire time and it was fine). If it is too thin, thicken with cornstarch and water mixture.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It's the great pumpkin...

cookie! A ton of pumpkin cookie recipes have been floating around recently, and I really wanted to give one a try. I chose this recipe from All Recipes because I had the ingredients on hand. These smelled amazing while baking and were delicious. A nice subtle pumpkin flavor with a cinnamon kick at the end. They make a very cake-like cookie, and I actually preferred them cold from the refrigerator, just as the recipe suggested. I will definitely make these again!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) (I didn't use)

Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Family Dinner

A few years ago my great-aunt (Christine, but dubbed "Eenie" by me as a baby) moved about an hour away to an assisted-living facility close to her son. We don't see her now nearly as often as we used to, so when she comes to stay with my Nana (which she does every few months or so) I try to take advantage of the opportunity and get together with her and Nana. Last night I had the both over for dinner and whipped up a Beef Penne Pasta Casserole. I've had this recipe for years - in fact it was one of the first real meals I ever cooked when Joe and I first moved in together. The recipe is from It's easy, makes a ton of food so it's great for company and tastes great. It also happens to be one of Joe's favorite meals. I served it with salad and biscuits and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and Nana and Eenie's company.

Beef Penne Pasta Casserole

1 pound dried penne pasta, prepared according to package directions
8 ounces lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups water
2 cans (6 ounces each) Italian tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine or water
1 tablespoon beef flavored bouillon
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I use mozzarella)

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.
COOK beef and onion in large saucepan, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink. Add water, tomato paste, wine and bouillon; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until flavors are blended.LAYER ingredients as follows in ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking dish: 1/2 pasta, 1/2 sauce and 1/2 cheese. Repeat layers; cover.BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Season with salt.

FOR FREEZE AHEAD:PREPARE as above; do not bake. Cover; freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator. PREHEAT oven to 350° F. BAKE for 45 to 55 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Season with salt.
Serving Size: 6

Easy as Pie

I wanted a light dessert to go with my pasta dinner, and I was also feeling kind of lazy and didn't want to bake. I had a box of Jell-o Oreo pudding mix in the cabinet so I decided to work with that. I mixed up the pudding and poured it into a store-bought Oreo crust. I topped it with fat-free Cool Whip and sprinkled on some crushed 100 calorie pack Oreos. Easy as pie!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Meatloaf Parmesan

I've been making my meatloaf with this recipe for the past few years, and it was one of Joe's favorite meals. The meatloaf is moist and tastes like a giant meatball. I typically serve this with a side of pasta, but last night I did roasted red potatoes with Italian seasoning. I definitely recommend this! The original recipe is from

Meatloaf Parmesan

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup prepared spaghetti sauce, divided
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I use a few good shakes of garlic powder, basil and oregano)

Heat oven to 375°F. Using your hands, mix together beef, half the spaghetti sauce, bread crumbs, half the Parmesan cheese, onion, egg and Italian seasoning in a medium mixing bowl. Shape into loaf and place in an 12x8x2-inch baking dish. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce and cheese. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or to desired doneness. During baking time, if desired, use a baster to remove excess grease from pan.
Serving Size: 4