Friday, August 16, 2013

Cupcake Ice Cream Cones

Oh my, its not been that I didn't do anything this week, but its been a week of some kitchen trials that ended in things that didn't turn out as I had hoped. I take it seriously that if a recipe doesn't turn out well, I won't say it did. So, it has left me with little to write about! However, I offered my boys a special treat the other night that they just LOVED. Its so simple, something I had as a kid once or twice, so I was thrilled to see how excited they were for it!

Thanks to a summer sale, I had some ice cream cones to use up. This brought on the idea to make Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. This recipe isn't fancy or made of homemade, organic ingredients. What I loved about it was easy way the author came up with to bake the cupcakes. I had seen several that took a foil pan and carved out circle, but this was so simple. I just took a sheet of foil and wrapped it around the 9x13 glass pan. I carved an X with a sharp knife, then pushed the cone through the X.

The only thing that I had to differently was the bake time. At 20 minutes, the cake batter in the cones was still gooey. It took my cones about 27 minutes. The other thing we realized the hard way was that if you put the leftover cones in a storage bag, don't seal it all the way or the cones and cake will be mush in the morning.

Overall, this is an extremely simple recipe with an awesome, kid-friendly outcome. This will definitely become a summer recipe that will be repeated in our home!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Crockpot Breakfast Casserole

I love a good breakfast casserole. I make them for almost every holiday and occasionally just because it's Sunday. This recipe, Crockpot Breakfast Casserole appealed to me because of course, it's made in a crockpot. Making a breakfast casserole requires assembling it the night before, refrigerating it, waking early, preheating the oven, sticking it in for an hour, and falling back into bed, hoping to hear the timer to wake back up.

This recipe seemed to take some of that work out of the equation. My husband loves breakfast casseroles with potatoes, so he was really excited for this one. I layered it as described, trying to figure out why I was layering it. Well, I figured it out! Layering it allows the cheese to help fuse the potatoes together into a casserole. Since the casserole is deeper in a crock, the ingredients that melt and meld into yummy breakfast goodness won't penetrate the entire layer of potatoes. This is actually something that other recipes of this kind didn't seem to mention, but it really made the casserole more shaped and easier to eat.

Again, you would think I would buy a new crockpot by now, but mine does run hot, and I think it affected the cooking time a little bit. I think it was done at about 6 hours. Luckily, I woke at the 7 hour point and the edges were just starting to burn. However, 95% of this casserole was perfect, so I am giving it a free pass this time. The bad part of this recipe was I woke several times throughout the night smelling this delicious casserole cooking. It made it tough to stay asleep, but I woke with anticipation that built all night!

I won't even go into any changes that I suggest. Why? Because these types of casseroles are all about flexibility. Put in the veggies you want, or go without! Pepperjack cheese instead of cheddar? Ummm, yes please! Bacon, sausage, ham? Why not all three?! Definitely try this recipe out of you have overnight guests or just a busy morning. You won't be disappointed!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Crock Pot Mongolian Beef Venison

I recently posted below about Mongolian beef in the crock pot. I wanted to update you on this recipe as I tried a new variation. If you have a hunter in your house, you undoubtedly have some game in the freezer. I don't care for venison, the idea of sweet little bambi in a plate makes me lose my appetite and I am an eater, I love to eat. So, trying to find uses for bambi to clear it out takes a lot of creativity. I have read about soaking it in milk, but who has time for that? This recipe has such a strong asian flavor, I immediately thought of venison being a feasible option.

Venison cooked looks just like beef, so I won't bore you with more pictures. But, I will say that it tasted great. I don't think I could eat a whole portion as the idea of venison still pushed me away from the table. But, my family loved it, so who am I to argue? The meat literally tasted like beef and the asian flair left no game taste. Happy Hunting!

It's no secret, I LOVE chinese food. Since moving to Minnesota, I have discovered that what I consider good chinese food is somewhat elusive here. No crab rangoon, no hot braised chicken, what's a girl to do? Make my own, of course! I found this recipe, and thought it had a lot of potential. Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef is a delicious recipe. The beef is coated in a gooey, sweet asian sauce, and served over white rice, makes a delicious dinner.

I love any meal that can taste like takeout, but was cooked easily in a crock pot. Makes me look like a culinary genius to my family. Now, a few words of advice. The sugar easily scorches in the crockpot, so if yours runs hot like mine, watch your temperature closely. I put mine down to warm after 4 hours and it still somewhat burned the sugar. It did not affect the flavor, but as you can see above, the sauce got quite dark.

If you give this recipe a google, you will see there are tons of variations. I have seen a few that recommend coating the beef in corn starch first to give it a slight breading. I am very interested in trying it this way too, just to see what the texture difference is. However, this recipe yields the best sauce. This one definitely pleases my family and I will be adding this to my collection of recipes for future dinners!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Apple Pie Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars

The name is harder to say than these bars are to make. The Apple Pie Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars are just four ingredients...literally four ingredients! They make the most yummy dessert that your family will be begging for more. You will feel like a genius chef and no one has to know it is so easy to make. Sprinkle a bit of flour on your face and let the compliments come rolling in!

You start with a roll of prepackaged sugar cookie dough, but honestly you could use the smaller individual portions if you soften them enough to press them into the dish. In fact, if you want to be a show off amongst those of us that know how easy these are to make, you could even use homemade cookie dough. But really, this is so simple. Create a bottom layer using 2/3 of the roll. Don't forget a little nonstick spray or butter...this will save you lots of cleanup later. Take this as someone that spent a bit with a brillo pad.

After this, sprinkle a bit of your cinnamon sugar, open up your apple pie filling and go to town spreading it out. The throw in a bit more cinnamon sugar because seriously, how can you go wrong with cinnamon sugar? You can't!

This last part really concerned me, I am not sure why. Maybe its because its not really clear and I needed set rules. But really, break up the last bit of dough, make small flat pancakes and put them on however you like. It almost resembles a cobbler like top. You will see apple through it, it won't be enough to cover it all, and its OKAY!

This bakes up in less than an hour. The recipe's author said hers took 35-40 minutes. Mine was more like 45-50, but the great thing about sugar cookie dough is that its really easy to tell when its done. The color shift on the edges is a sure sign. The top picture is a serving of this glorious dessert. You might ask, it doesn't look like a bar...that would be true because my family couldn't wait for it to cool. So it was more of a cobbler style eating it. The rest of it set up nicely and made great looking bars. The only thing I would say could be changed about this recipe is that the base was quite thick. I would use a 9x9 rather than an 8x8 pan, or even possibly slightly larger. 9x13 would be too big, but you could definitely get more bars out of this recipe in a larger dish. Overall, make this...just do it. I promise, you will feel love!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Asian Chicken Thighs

I think I could eat this chicken dish, Asian Chicken Thighs several times a month and never tire of it! It doesn't scream oriental, just gently suggests the most wonderful flavors! The manner in which the chicken is prepared allows it to remain moist and tender, without falling apart. The recipe doesn't say you can or should add anything, but what is Asian chicken without some vegetables or fruit added?!!

The recipe does suggest that you can serve the chicken with rice, but since the day was hot and sticky around here, I opted for fresh corn on the cob and asparagus...perfect choices! As a side note, I want to say that after removing the tough portion of the asparagus, there was no need to remove anything else. When this veggie is young and tender, a quick wash and one cut and it's ready to cook!

This particular recipe calls for Chinese five-spice powder...not a staple in our home. So, I looked it up on pinterest and there are a few versions, all of them fairly easy to prepare, if you desire. I personally added a bit of most of the spices straight into the skillet. I have no doubt I used more than a 1/4 of a teaspoon, but if anything, it enhanced the dish by using more!

My thighs were rather large and we really don't need five pieces of chicken in one setting, so I used three and reduced the amount of oil, but kept all other measurements the same, other than the Chinese powder. During the last few minutes, after having added the cornstarch mixture, I threw in some fresh pineapple...and that was the proverbial icing on the cake! I could also see fresh bell peppers, mushrooms, onion wedges, carrots, squash or whatever else might please your palate!

Another bonus to this recipe is that while the chicken cooks, you will have enough time to prepare your sides, load the dishwasher and hug your family...what a recipe!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken

I have been seeing Wendy's new ads for their pretzel burger and I started thinking about using pretzels in recipes. I love honey mustard and I love pretzels, so I thought this recipe might be something unusual but delicious to try for dinner. Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken was an interesting take on breaded chicken.

I started by grinding up sourdough twist pretzels. The recipe states to use hard pretzels like sourdough. The twists that I used, despite being sourdough, did not yield a very crunchy crust. I would recommend the real, old fashioned pretzels...the kind that make you wonder if your teeth will survive the snack. I beat them with a meat mallet, the threw them into the food processor to grind up into a coarse crumb mixture.

The chicken breasts I purchased looked like they were from the world's largest chickens. Because of this, I sliced them into smaller strips. While dipping them into the mustard, I ran out of the half of the mustard dressing I had made and needed to borrow a bit from the second half. If you have larger chicken breasts, be sure to double the dressing part of the recipe. The pretzels were plenty, just short on the mustard.

I breaded the chicken with the crushed pretzels and then put them in the oven. Once they were done, I took them out and attempted to slice the chicken as shown on the recipe. The pretzel pieces immediately fell off. I decided not to slice the rest of them up, but to serve them as chicken strips.

The texture of the chicken was soft as I mentioned before, rather than crunchy as expected from a pretzel crust. However, the mixture of the pretzel flavor and the honey mustard was a perfect flavor for chicken. While the breading needs a little work, possibly with a different type of pretzel, the taste was definitely enough to get me to try this recipe again.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Greek Lemon Cake

We had a great meal today (This cake was made the same day as the last recipe)! And the only thing that could have made it any more delightful was to top it off with a terrific dessert, so that's exactly what I did! Greek Lemon Cake has a delicate lemon taste and is the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend!

When reading the recipe, I expected this to taste more like a sponge cake, but it's simply an airy cake with a normal texture.

You need to work quickly with this recipe or your egg whites will begin to lose their consistency. I would strongly recommend doing what you can before you turn on the oven; measure out the dry ingredients, grate the lemon peel & squeeze the juice, beat the egg whites; then turn on your oven and begin creaming the butter.

Two important things to note: use cake flour. Regular all-purpose flour will make your cake far too dense and will not yield a light, fluffy cake. Be sure, as well, to grease and flour your tube pan. It is not going to come out easily oherwise.

The recipe does not specify a certain type of icing, although it is pictured with icing. I chose simply to make an icing from powdered sugar, lemon juice and milk, which I then drizzled over the cooled cake. This a great dessert anytime you want something to complement your meal, not overwhelm it!