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!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Today, I felt like I hit the recipe jackpot! This recipe, Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole makes enough to serve at least 8-10 generous portions or enough for leftovers! Either way, it's a win-win situation! The flavors are perfect and you need only add a simple salad to have a super Sunday meal! My husband made homemade Mayfair dressing to serve over our salad and the whole meal tasted like we had eaten at a 5 star restaurant!

This recipe does require a little preparation. You will need to boil chicken, chop vegetables, cook rice and make cheese sauce, but it is sooo worth it! Of course, with the free time we all enjoy (he-he!), you could easily do some prep work in advance.

There isn't much I changed in the recipe, except for one major thing. The recipe calls for 2 cups each of white & wild rice. I did exactly as the recipe called for, and once it was done, I realized we would have had enough casserole to feed an army. So, when it was time to add the rice, I only added a little over half the amount called for. As you can see from the picture, the casserole basically filled the 9x13 dish. Another bonus is that, with less rice, the vegetables and meat really stand out and are so flavorful! And, if you are a carb counter, you will be extra grateful for fewer carbs!

I would be proud to serve this dish anywhere, anytime and to anyone! Just be sure to serve this casserole on your best china!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Crock Pot Mongolian Beef

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!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Low-Fat No Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake

My brother brought me a peanut butter cheesecake cupcake from a work dinner that was beyond delicious. What is a good word for beyond delicious? I can't even think of a word that comes close to the perfection that was this cupcake. However, I knew I didn't even want to know the calories I would have to count for the 1/4 of this cupcake that I ate. I knew I needed to find a replacement that would be safer for my diet, but satisfy this new craving for peanut butter. I came across this recipe, Super Easy, Low Fat, No Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake.

I made the crust as described, but honestly the crumbs were gooey after a little water to make them stick. I continued on, despite my concerns for the crust and followed the recipe. I took a taste of the batter before putting it into the pie plate, and it honestly tasted pretty good. I could already tell it was short enough peanut butter for the true peanut butter taste I was looking for, but I realize I have to make compromises if I want to stay diet friendly.

I put the cheesecake in the refrigerator, and it to did firm up nicely, almost like a Jello No-Bake cheesecake kit would. After cutting into it and tasting my first bite, I knew immediately that some substitutions aren't worth the calorie savings. The crust never did get less gooey. It was actually worse. I would definitely use a real pie crust, even the reduced-fat Keebler variety, to keep the true cheesecake graham cracker crust. Skimping on the fat here just wasn't worth it. Second, I would personally up the peanut butter. Either leave it out or add more, but the small amount of peanut butter in this recipe was just enough to give the smell of peanut butter, but little to no taste of peanut butter. The texture was good for a no-bake cheesecake, so doubling or even tripling the peanut butter, and I think you will have a dessert worth eating. This recipe has potential, but be prepared to customize it to your own taste.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mosquito bite home remedy

We have been on a small vacation in "Up North" Minnesota. I came home with many pictures, fun memories, and a massive amount of mosquito bites. Afterall, the state bird of Minnesota is the mosquito. I won't gross up the site or your brain with pictures of my swollen, itchy bites, but rest assured, they are miserable. We slept for several nights with the windows open, as it was getting down into the fifties at night. Yes, FIFTIES in July! Unfortunately, the windows were apparently not mosquito tight, and every morning I awoke to a new area that mosquitoes had feasted on me like an all-you-can-eat buffet. 2 days later, I am still itching and miserable. I took to my favorite source of information, Pinterest, to find a home remedy. I have tried Benedryl, Benedryl spray, alchohol...nothing seems to be working. So, in all desperation, I searched the web.

This, fast and effective mosquito bite remedy seemed too good to be true. Rubbing a banana peel into my skin seemed strange, especially since the massive amount of carbs and sugar in bananas seems to be a magnet for mosquitoes when you eat them. However, rubbing the banana peel into the bites really brought some quick relief.

I have been itch free for six hours so far! The redness and puffiness of the bites have not gone down, but I am not making it worse by scratching them, so hopefully they will recede quickly.

While we like to focus on recipes, this was too great of a tip to not pass on. I hope this brings you some relief this summer as it did me!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Million Dollar Spaghetti Casserole

Pure & simple, I love casseroles! Mostly, they are easy & flavorful...what a great combination! Now I have one more casserole to add to my recipe box of dinner time delights! There may be a little too much hype in the name, but over all, Million Dollar Spaghetti Casserole is an excellent recipe.

I did make a few small changes just because I know what I like! The recipe suggests you add peppers, mushrooms or onions, if you are so inclined. I added fresh onions and mushrooms. In my estimation, they make almost any dish better. I did not saute them prior to adding the meat. They were tender enough by the time the meat browned. And I most certainly did not use a full stick of butter! Between the sour cream, cream cheese & butter, there are enough fat grams to give your doctor a coronary! I did use about a tablespoon to grease the glass pan and I did dot the noodles with a modest amount of butter. Before pouring the sauce over the noodle mixture, I tasted it and it was rather bland and that I attribute to the jar of sauce I bought. So I stirred in about 1 tsp. of garlic powder which made a huge difference in the flavor! Otherwise, I stayed true to the recipe. This recipe does allow you a choice of cheeses. Nothing says italian to me like mozzarella and it was fabulous, but I can picture a variety of cheeses that would taste equally great!

This dish makes plenty and could easily be prepared early in the day to serve guests that evening by assembling all of the ingredients, less the cheese, refrigerating it, then allowing a few extra minutes bake time before your guests arrive. Just be sure to serve a little red wine with supper when you are entertaining!

My husband and I both loved this dish. He is beginning to think I am a culinary genius! Please don't tell him differently! I served the casserole with a fresh salad and some wonderful italian bread and it wowed!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cherry Pie Bars

If you're like me, you won't want to wait until February to make a cherry dessert! These red and white, Cherry Pie Bars are so delicious and guaranteed not to make you blue! (Just had to work in a little 4th of July humor!) The crust definitely has a cookie taste, so don't bite in thinking it's like a little piece of cherry pie!

Be sure to grease your pan. I personally recommend butter for this dish. Crisco will be a bit too greasy tasting and oil or Pam may cause the crust to stick. Did you know oil and oil products can do that? That's my bit of useful trivia for the day!

There is a lot of sugar in this recipe; sugar in the crust, sugar in the cherry pie filling and sugar in the icing! To offset all of the sugar, I used half sugar and half baking Splenda in the crust and light pie filling. Not the total answer, but it does help. Spreading the dough in the pan can be a challenge. I tried a fork, a spatula and a regular dinner knife. The winner for this cook was the knife. And please don't try to make one can of pie filling stretch. I saw some recipes that suggested one can may be enough, but I am here to tell you it's not! I tried spreading one can first, just to see. You will not be able to get it edge to edge and you won't enjoy having a single cherry here and there.

The pan of cherry bars baked 45 minutes in my oven. Not only did I check with a toothpick as suggested, but I was also able to tell when the bars were done because the edges were beginning shrink back from the pan in a manner similar to a cake baking.

All in all, this recipe was fun to try and even more fun to eat! George Washington would be proud!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sausage, Egg and Biscuit Casserole

I always have good intentions! But, by the time the dark of night falls on our community, the thought of preparing a casserole for the tomorrow's breakfast is just more than I care to tackle. That is just one reason I love this Sausage, Eggs & Biscuits Casserole!

Using kitchen shears, cut your biscuits, toss into a greased 8 x 8 pan, add your drained sausage, egg mixture & cheese. Bake 30-35 minutes, let cool 5 minutes and you have breakfast that will please the whole family!

I used pre-cooked Jimmy Dean sausage patties and Pillsbury Grands. Sausage was perfect, but I think the Grands were too grand! Next time around I will use regular sized biscuits. I also omitted adding any salt as eggs contain salt naturally and the sausage and cheese also contain a healthy dose.

I baked the casserole 35 minutes to make sure the biscuits were cooked through, but then, the top became a little too brown as you can see from the picture. Again, next time I will use smaller biscuits & bake it only 30 minutes. No matter how it is baked, though, the flavor is fabulous!

When serving this dish, don't bother with toast or muffins. There are plenty of carbs in each serving! However, a little fresh fruit on you plate will make a nice accompaniment! I chose honeydew melon and bing cherries.

Your 8 x 8 pan will give you 6 generous servings or 9 smaller servings.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

4 days left, don't let this opportunity slip away!

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Hawaiian Chicken

Crock pot meals are so much fun when you are on a tight schedule or just want to focus your energy on things other than meal preparation! Hawaiian Chicken is no exception! Very little effort goes into this tasty dish. but definitely gives you great-tasting results! Serve over rice, add your favorite vegetable and a little fresh fruit and voila, a meal that will please everyone in your family!

I bought a can of pineapple juice, but actually found I didn't need it. I opened a can of pineapple tidbits and the juice measured almost a cup exactly! Plus, there was the added bonus of bits of pineapple throughout! Yummy!

Cost can be another factor, but I found a great way around it! When shopping for chicken breasts, I realized they ran $5.49 per pound...ridiculous! So I ran over to frozen foods to check the price of chicken breasts in a 3 pound bag...$3.00 per pound...still ridiculous! So I headed back to the fresh meat dept. and found split breasts with ribs for a mere $.99 per pound! You will need a sharp knife and about 2 minutes to remove the bones and skin from the chicken. Cut at the solid white bone/cartilage and you will be able to remove the bones with one simple cut! Remove the skin which will also come off in one piece, cut the chicken into bite sized portions & toss into your crock pot! But don't throw the trimmings away. They too are useful. Put them in a medium sized pot (about 2 quarts), add water to cover generously, add about 1/2 tsp. salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for at least an hour. Pour broth through a strainer so no small bones remain and use to cook your rice or freeze and use at a later time for soup, to cook veggies, etc.

One thing I wish I had done during preparation was use a crock pot liner. It would have made cleanup so much easier! So this is a word to the wise...use a liner!

This recipe can be varied. I saw similar recipes that used ginger, peppers, Hawaiian style barbecue sauce...among other things. But whether you keep it simple or let your imagination run wild, I'm pretty sure you will love this dish!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beef Stew and Beef Stew Seasoning

It has been rainy and storming here in Minnesota the last few days. So despite the heat, when I wake up and its still dark out, it kind of makes me think of comfort food. What could be more comforting than a hearty beef stew? I found this recipe, Super Simple Crock Pot Beef Stew, and loved that it was just that, super simple!

This stew is chunky, but missing enough veggies for me. I did add a bag of carrots to the mix, but that is the great thing about beef stew. There are few vegetables that couldn't go in a beef stew. What I found difficult about this recipe was the lack of seasoning directions. Salt Pepper Herbs to taste is very loose and could result in a disaster for someone like me that likes to just start tossing things in. This put me on a hunt for a good combination of seasonings. I wanted something that didn't have MSG or fillers, just a good additive that takes the guesswork out of flavoring. I found this recipe, Beef Stew Seasoning Mix, and it seemed to be the right mix for my family. My husband loves things with a bit of spice, so the cayenne really appealed in this recipe.

As you can see from from the photo, the recipe makes a large quantity. But the great thing, is that this recipe will work for beef stew, pot roast, even a venison roast! The original recipe shows the seasoning packaged for gift giving, so if you are handy with baked items for Christmas, it might even make a nice addition to a food basket.

The combination of the good, basic stew recipe and the flavorful seasoning mix made a stew that my family will not soon forget. My husband was talking last night about how he couldn't wait for leftovers today because he knew with the great seasoning, it would have melded into something fantastic today. These recipes are definitely worth saving, even if the weather is holding you back on stew for now.