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!