Thursday, December 29, 2011

Strawberry Carrot Smoothie

Smoothie's have been a huge hit in our house lately.  It has been a great way to load up on fruits and veggies.  We also got a really awesome blender from Costco. It's the Ninja Professional one. It's the next step down from the Blend Tech and the Vita Mix, and way cheaper!

Turning raw fruits and veggies into smoothies is way better for you than just juicing.  When you juice, you lose the fiber. This way you are still getting the raw fruits and vegetables. If you have a rough time with the texture, you can always steam the fruits and veggies and it will help them to be less grainy and more creamy.  You can lose some nutrients that way, but it's better than most juices and smoothies.  Also, add in the leftover juices from steaming and that will add some flavor and nutrients back in. (substitute that for milk or other liquid)

Strawberry Carrot Smoothie

25 frozen Strawberries
2 carrots peeled and cubed
2 cups liquid (I used 1 cup milk and 1 cup water)
1/2 C sugar (or to taste)

Toss all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.

Tip: if you are steaming the strawberries and carrots... you may want to add in ice to thicken it up and get it cold again.  You may also need less liquid

Monday, December 26, 2011

World's Best Caramels

My mother in law shared this caramel recipe with me a few years ago. It has been a yearly Plastow tradition to make these puppies.  They are so delicious.  I have never tasted anything better.

The first thing you need to do before starting this recipe, is pull out a good book or put on a good movie, cause you'll be at the stove for a while.  They key to making these shine, is the slow process.  Plan on anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on your stove.  Trust me, it's worth it!

The Most important thing to remember...Each pan and thermometer is different, so you'll need to test it out a little to make sure the right temperature to get it to. The best way to check is to drop the mixture into a bowl of ice water and let it sit for a couple seconds until cooled.  Then pull it out and check it's consistency. Too runny, keep it boiling,  just right... it's done, too hard... take it right off the stove and tell them it's supposed to be that way :)

The Worlds Best Caramels

2 c. Sugar
2 C. Whipping cream, not whipped
2 C. Dark Karo Syrup
1 Square unsalted butter

Mix sugar, syrup and 1 c. cream. Stir constantly and boil until it reaches 260 degrees. Set off stove and add 1 cup cream. Stir cream in and boil again but do NOT stir anymore. Get back up to 260 degrees. Take off stove and stir in butter. Pour into buttered cake size pan and let cool. For dipping caramels, you can use the same recipe and steps only stop at 230 degrees at both points instead of 260.

(My pot seems to work better at about 250 degrees instead of 260)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Easy Egg Salad

I think this is the first thing I'd ever made without a recipe.  It's no Creme Brule but hey I was 16!  I used to work for a place called the Flight Deck Cafe.  One day the owner told me to make a batch of egg salad.  He told me what went in it, but no measurements, and left me at it. So I created my very own version. Everyone said that mine was way better than any other. I had one customer that would come in faithfully and order a bowl of egg salad.  She said it didn't need any bread it was so good.  She would just eat it with a spoon.  If that doesn't make a teenage girl feel like a million bucks, I don't know what does.

Easy Egg Salad

5 Eggs (hard boiled and smashed with a fork)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients and serve on bread or eat with a spoon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mama Mia’s Minestrone Soup

I was first exposed to Minestrone soup when I tried it on a whim at Olive Garden a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed it. I came across this recipe about a year ago and fell in love with it!  The bacon really adds a delicious flavor. 

I adapted this recipe from Real Mom Kitchen.  I just use a good Italian seasoning instead of the different amounts of each herb. Make sure that it contains thyme, oregano and basil in it.  I got a good one from Costco.

Mama Mia’s Minestrone Soup

1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery chopped

Saute the onion and celery in bacon grease until tender.

2 cans Petite Diced Tomatoes
2 cans beef broth
2 small cans tomato juice
1 can northern white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can green beans, UNDRAINED
3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 cups shredded cabbage (not the pre-cut coleslaw mix, it’s too stringy when cooked)
2 cups of water
2 tsp Italian seasoning (make it a good one)

Bring the above ingredients to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Simmer until vegetables are tender.  Then add:

1 cup of macaroni (rotini or shells work well)
Cook until macaroni is tender.  Top each bowl with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nutella Snacks

If you have not yet discovered Nutella, you are totally missing out!!!  The first time I tried this delectable treat was when I was visiting Mozambique with a group called Care For Life. They are an amazing non profit organization that goes to Mozambique and teaches the people the skills they need to have a better chance of survival.

One night we were all sitting around chatting about the next days events out came the Nutella from someones suitcase.  We ate in on a regular ol piece of bread, and I'll tell ya, that bread wasn't so regular after that!  Delicious!!!

One day, about a year ago, Nutella came back into my life. My mom had made some snacks for us while we were hanging at their house.  She made the usual, celery with peanut butter and then decided to try some nutella on the celery.  Man oh Man was it good!  This is a super easy after school snack for your kids! Give it a try, everything is better when Nutella is involved!

Nutella Snacks


Wash celery and cut into desired size pieces.  Spread Nutella into the groove of the celery stick.  Scarf!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joyce's Toffee

A while back, some friends of ours came over for a visit.  She (Joyce) made us this toffee for a holiday treat.  It was simply divine!  I've never tasted toffee so delicious. I wish I was an amazing writer so that I could put into words, just how scrumptious this toffee was! But I'm not... so you'll just have to try it for yourself. Or take my word for it, but that's kind of lame.  Trying it offers so many more benefits than just taking my word for it.

You will want to get a good heavy frying pan for this recipe. Make it big, because the mixture does boil.

 Also, you will need to use your senses when cooking this one.  You will be watching for smoke.  That tells you that you are starting to burn the sugars just enough to crystallize them. You will also want to follow your sense of smell.  It will start to smell really yummy just before you get to the right stages.  It will also turn a nice toffee color when it is just about ready. So watch for that. 

Shown below are different variations.  Some with Almond slivers, some that are plain and some with chocolate.  I think the almond slivers with out chocolate are my favorite! To add an even better flavor, toast the almonds ahead of time!

Joyce's Toffee

4 cubes butter (1 lb)
1/2 C dark Karo Syrup
1/2 C Water
2 C Sugar
1/4 lb chopped almonds (optional)
Chocolate chips or grated chocolate bar (optional)

Melt butter, then add sugar and mix in. Then add all other ingredients into a big fry pan or skillet. When the mixture begins to boil, add almonds (if desired) and turn down heat to medium. Boil and stir constantly at medium heat until it smokes. (Don't mistake smoke for steam. The toffee will turn a nice toffee color. It takes about 10-11 minutes depending on your stove.) When it starts smoking, pour onto a greased pan. Pour chocolate chips or grated chocolate bar over the hot toffee mixture.(if desired) When melted, spread over the toffee. Top with more almonds if desired.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mashed Potato Layer Bake

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We did!  I've had some sick kiddos the past couple of weeks, so I apologize for not posting.  But hey, there's no one more important to me that my husband and children.

This year, my sister-in-law brought this delicious dish to our Thanksgiving dinner. No lie, I could have eaten the whole pan... yeah it was THAT good!  She got the recipe from Kraft. I like how simple it is to make and yet tastes like you slaved over the hot stove all day. 

To cook the potatoes, you can bake them at 350 degrees until tender or just cube them and boil them until tender.  I've even cooked potatoes in the microwave for about 5-10 minutes until tender. For the best flavor, I'd probably bake them. If you have the time that is.

Mashed Potato Layer Bake

3-1/4 lb. baking potatoes (about 7), peeled, chopped and cooked
 1/2 lb.  sweet potatoes (about 3), peeled, chopped and cooked
 1 tub (8 oz.) Chive & Onion Cream Cheese divided
 1/2 cup  Sour Cream, divided
 1/4 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
 1/4 cup  shredded or grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
 1/4 cup Cheddar Cheese, divided

Heat oven to 375°F.

Place potatoes in separate bowls. Add half each of the cream cheese spread and sour cream to each bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mash until creamy.

Stir half the Parmesan into white potatoes. Stir half the Cheddar into sweet potatoes. Layer half each of the potatoes in 2-qt. clear casserole. Repeat layers.

Bake 15 min. Top with remaining cheeses; bake 5 min. or until melted.

Make Ahead- Assemble casserole as directed, but do not add the cheese topping. Refrigerate casserole and cheese topping separately up to 3 days. When ready to serve, bake casserole (uncovered) as directed, increasing baking time as needed until casserole is heated through. Top with remaining cheeses and continue as directed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Perfect Apple Pie

You can't have Thanksgiving without pie right?  This pie is a definite must!!

Perfect Apple Pie

6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (6 medium)
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice.

1 Refrigerated pie crust

Heat oven to 425°F. Place 1 pie crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Press firmly against side and bottom.

In large bowl, gently mix filling ingredients; spoon into crust-lined pie plate. Top with second crust. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust edge, pressing edges together to seal; flute. Cut slits or shapes in several places in top crust.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with 2- to 3-inch wide strips of foil after first 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.

Cool on cooling rack at least 2 hours before serving

This recipe came from Pillsbury 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Here is a yummy sweet and sour sauce to go with yesterday's post for some delicious Egg Rolls.  My Husband is really great with his sauces.  It works perfect, because usually I eat foods for their sauce.  When I'm pregnant and hungry but not sure what to eat... he just goes through a list of sauces and then makes a meal to center around that sauce.  No lie!  What a husband I've got!!

Sweet and Sour Sauce

¼ cup water
2 tbsp corn starch

¼ cup ketchup
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup rice vinegar

Stir in ¼ cup water with corn starch and set aside.  In a small pot boil first 4 ingredients and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3-4 minutes.  Stir in corn starch mixture.  Boil for about a minute, or until thickened. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Egg Rolls

The other night my hubby and I decided we wanted to have a little party.  I have been craving his Lettuce Wraps lately and he had promised to make some for a few people.  So we made a party out of it. I decided to take a whack at egg rolls. I have to admit, I'm pretty impressed with how they turned out! 

Next time I would change a couple of things to make them even better....noted below.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the sweet and sour sauce that Trever made to go with these!

Egg Rolls

1 Pkg Cole slaw mix
1 chicken breast cooked and shredded
½ cup chopped green onion
1/3 cup soy sauce (next time I will try ¼ cup)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chopped or ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 tbsp butter (next time I'd leave this out)
½ c. diced celery
1 Tbsp Hoisen Sauce (not necessary if you don't have it, but is super yummy with it)
2 Tbsp sugar (next time I would do all brown sugar)
1 Tbsp brown sugar

14-16 egg roll wrappers

Melt butter in a large skillet, toss in all other ingredients (except for the egg roll wrappers) and sauté until crisp tender. Place egg roll wrappers with one corner towards you. Scoop desired amount of filling into a wrapper, roll and fry in a skillet or deep fryer until golden brown.

(Drain the liquids from the mixture as you scoop it onto the wrapper. You don't want it too moist.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Libby's Pumpkin Roll

I'm back!!  Two weeks ago, we had another precious spirit join our family.  We now have 5 beautiful daughters! I am so very blessed.  Recovery has been wonderful and I'm excited to cook again.  Although it was so nice having meals taken care of by my sweet MIL and friends. It really helped cut my recovery time down a lot. I've enjoyed soaking in all of the resting and snuggling with my little pumpkin.

That leads me into today's post.  What is the holiday's without pumpkin right? Like I said a couple of weeks ago, we had a pumpkin party with some friends and had some yummy dishes come out of it.  I'm still trying to track down a few of the recipes, so "pumpkin week" will turn into sporadic pumpkin recipes through out the month.

Today's recipe is the one I took to the party.  Leave it to me to make mine a dessert :)  I remember the first time I ate a pumpkin roll.  My dear friend Amber brought it over to my house one day when we were hanging out.  At that time, I had never even tried pumpkin pie, and had no desire to ever try anything pumpkin.  I ate a piece just so I didn't hurt her feelings.  Who knew that moment would change my life forever!!  I love pumpkin rolls!!!  Thanks Amber for showing me the brighter side of life.  (In so many ways)

Libby's Pumpkin Roll

1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (optional for decoration)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts.

BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

BEAT cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Re roll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Be sure to put enough powdered sugar on the towel when rolling up the cake so it will not stick.

I quintupled (x5) the recipe to be able to freeze a few. The amount of pumpkin you would use is the entire large can of pumpkin puree.To Freeze, just cook them according to the instructions and wrap in foil and plastic wrap and throw in the freezer.  Take it out and thaw for a little bit.  It's really good served cold.

Recipe from Very Best Baking

Friday, October 28, 2011

Italian Bread Bowls

First off- this will be my last post for a week or so.  We will be adding one more little princess to our family this coming monday.  As soon as I am up and around, I've got some fun pumpkin recipes for you to try. We had a pumpkin party last week and found some super yummy recipes to use pumpkin.  Things you would never think of!!! So I'll be posting those in a week or so. Everyone have a great Haloween weekend and be safe out there! 

I've been searching for a great bread bowl recipe lately.  I found one! I'm so glad it turned out.  It seemed that everytime I made them, they would rise out instead of up.  I found out that the key to that is adding more flour.  I add flour according to touch and look.  There are so many things to factor in when making bread, like humidityetc that would effect how much flour you should put in.  So every time I made my bread bowls, I would make them like I would a regular roll, just bigger.  The problem is, they needed to be more dense so that they would rise into a nice round loaf. 

I liked the information given in this recipe, because it helped explain a few things that I didn't catch onto before.  Good thing I found this one, because I was asked to make about 100 of these for a family reunion coming up in a couple of months. 

Italian Bread Bowls

Makes 6-8 bread bowls
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast (use 1 tablespoon instant yeast)
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
7 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. (You can omit this step if using instant yeast.)

Add salt, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition until a soft but not sticky dough is formed (you may not need to use all 7 cups). This bread bowl dough needs to be a bit firmer than a roll/bread dough so that the bread bowls rise up instead of out.

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes (or let knead in an electric mixer). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Punch dough down, and divide into 6-8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a round ball. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal (or use silpat liners or parchment paper). If desired, slash the top surface of the bread bowl several times with a sharp knife or razor. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and baked through.

Recipe taken from Mels Kitchen Cafe

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Italian Potatoes

I love red potatoes.  There are so many fun things that you can do with them. Last night I made them Italian style and served them with the Chicken Parmesan.  My kids loved them!

Italian Potatoes

12 red potatoes
4-6 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1-2 tbsp olive oil

Coat a cookie sheet with olive oil. 

Cube potatoes and arrange in a single layer on the cookie sheet.

Cut up butter into chunks and arrange over the potatoes.

Sprinkle salt, pepper and Italian seasoning over the top of the potatoes.

Bake at 425 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown.  Stirring every 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chicken Parmigiana

I was very delighted with this dish! A friend of mine made a similar recipe for me when I had my last baby and I really enjoyed it.  I hadn't eaten it since.  Then I found this recipe on another friends blog and decided to give it a try.  The only thing I think I changed was using Italian seasoning instead of oregano for the sauce.  Yummy yummy yummy!!!

Chicken Parmigiana

4  boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Flatten chicken to 1/4-in. thickness. In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and basil. In another bowl, beat the egg. Dip chicken into egg, then coat with crumb mixture. In a large skillet, brown chicken in butter and oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

Chunky Marinara Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 2 to 4 minutes until crisp-tender, stirring frequently.
Mix in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, oregano and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until flavors are blended, stirring frequently.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lion House Banana Bread

I had some bananas that were starting to get too ripe, so I thought... hmmm banana bread it is.  This recipe comes from the Lion House cook book.  I have a go to recipe that I love but didn't have all of the ingredients for it and had already been to walmart about 3 times that week.  So I found this recipe and was impressed.

We are headed into baking season. What a better way to share how much you love someone than with home baked bread.  I'll be sharing a few bread recipes in the next few weeks. You could make up a goodie plate with all of the different flavors of bread for your friends and neighbors.  It would be a nice alternative to the major sweets that we get/give this time of year.

Lion House Banana Bread

½ cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup bananas, mashed
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup chopped nuts, optional (I didn't add this time)

Cream sugar and butter. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add bananas, milk, and lemon juice. Sift dry ingredients and add to wet mixture. Add nuts. Grease 1 loaf pan. Pour mix into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bagel Bites

As you can tell I have been in freezer meal mode lately.  Especially with my nesting kicking in... I want to be ready!

I've been getting a lot of ideas as I walk through the grocery store.  If it's frozen there, then I can freeze it at home. My kids really like the bagel bites from costco. But I never buy them because they are so expensive! We go through them way too fast to justify the money I spend on them.  Plus, its so basic, I don't even need a recipe to create myself. 

So, I came up with my own version. These are a little bigger than "bites" but they are still mini bagels.  the kids really enjoyed making them with me too.  I'll have to admit, this is my first time making them, so I am guessing on the oven times, from frozen. This is a great meal to pull out when you are standing in the pantry staring or in the fridge/freezer at 5 pm wondering... hmmm what should I make for dinner. 

1 bag mini bagels (I used Thomas brand
8 oz mozzarella cheese
1 jar pasta sauce or pizza sauce
Favorite toppings such as pepperoni, ham and pineapple etc.

Split bagels in half and spread with pasta sauce.  Top with cheese and favorite toppings.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.  From Frozen add about 10 minutes.   Or microwave for 30 seconds. From frozen 1-2 minutes.

To freeze- lay prepared bagels in a single layer in a freezer bag.  To freeze multiple bagels in the same bag... lay them flat on a cookie sheet and toss in the freezer until frozen. Pull out and stack in freezer bags.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Delicious Apple Crisp

If there is one treat that surpasses all for my husband, it's spiced apples.  Any way they come!  If it's got spiced apples in it, he is sold.   I've posted a few of our favorites so far. Cinnamon Apples Like Boston Market, Apple Dumplings, Cinnamon Apple Upside Down Cake but I must say, the Apple Crisp takes it all!  I found a recipe for apple crisp online but ended up changing a lot of it and creating my own.  I've made a few versions in the past and just couldn't get things right... This time.. I am happy to say, I have a DELICIOUS recipe for apple crisp! 

(Sorry for the pict) I scarfed it so quickly I forgot to take a nice picture of it portioned out on a plate!)

Delicious Apple Crisp


4 tart Apples (I used granny smith apples)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 C. Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tbsp flour

Crumble topping
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened (not melted)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Peel apples and slice thin. Sprinkle lemon juice over the apples, to keep them from browning. stir in remaining ingredients (just ingredients for the apples). Coat the apples well and pour them into the bottom of a 9x9 pan.

To make the Crumble topping, combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Stir well using a fork to create crumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the apple mixture. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender.  Serve warm.

TIP: I'm going to make a few of these and freeze them ahead of time. Put apple mixture in the bottom of a foil pan.  Put crumble in a small freezer bag and place on top of apples.  Cover with aluminum foil and plastic wrap.  To cook:  Remove from freezer and uncover. Set crumble aside.  Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes to thaw.  Then top with the crumble and cook for 30 minutes

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Zuppa Toscana

This is my favorite soup at Olive Garden.  It's seriously delicious!  One thing I found in making it, if you like really spicy soup, use the hot Italian sausage.  I was a little too much for me right now.  My kids really enjoyed the flavor but not the spice. They even ate the kale! Next time I think I will make it with the mild stuff. Just a heads up for ya. 

Also, I didn't have cream or chicken broth on hand.  I made the broth out of chicken bullion and substituted cream for 1/2 and 1/2. I also added a little extra half and half to make up for the lack of heavy cream. 

I read the instructions wrong and just left the meat in the pot from the beginning.  It broke the meat down into very small pieces but I don't mind that.  It actually married the flavors really well by doing that. You can also just add it back at the end if you like.

Zuppa Toscana

Yields 8-10 servings

1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 large white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, pureed
10 cups chicken broth
1 pound (about 3 large) Russet potatoes, sliced into disks
1 cup heavy cream (I used 1 1/2 cups of 1/2 and 1/2)
1/4 of a bunch (about 3-4 cups) kale, torn into bite sized pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large soup pot, sauté together the ground sausage until the meat is browned. (drain fat if desired. I sauteed the onions and garlic with it. )When meat is almost cooked through, sauté the onions and garlic until softened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth and heat until boiling. Add the sliced potatoes, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and kale and cook until heated thoroughly.

recipe adapted from The Pastry Affair

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Roasted Salsa Verde

Yesterday was the first day of our produce co-op! It was such a huge success.  I am so excited to continue to work out the bugs and save many families so much money on their fruits and vegetables.  If you are interested in the co-op check it out Here.

Each time we get a new basket, we will get an "item of the week" for the participants to try. This will be a  little known fruit or vegetable so that you will be able to try new things but still get the things you want in your basket. I will be posting recipes for the item of the week, each time we get something new.  This week we chose tomatillos to be the featured item.  There are a few recipes that I have posted already that use tomatillos and even a salsa Verde.  Green Chile Burritos, Homemade Tamales, and Cilantro Lime Ranch Dressing

For those who don't know my husband, you are missing out! Seriously, this guy is AMAZING!  Each time I find a new favorite food, especially when it's a re-occurring pregnancy craving, he will perfect the dish until I am fully satisfied.  This way, I can have it whenever I want and we don't have to run to a restaurant to pay for it. This salsa, just so happens to be one of those dishes! 

I love when he cooks for me.  He loves to cook for me too!  He is amazing at creating his own recipes to give it the perfect blend of flavors.

This recipe MUST be roasted!  When you roast jalapenos and garlic, it changes the spice and the flavor.  This salsa is super mild, even though there is so many jalapenos in it.  If you don't want to roast them, then you will end up with way too strong of a garlic flavor and a VERY spicy salsa.  So with that being said... Here is out item of the week, tomatillos in a delicious roasted salsa Verde. 

Roasted Salsa Verde

1 Cup pureed roasted tomatillos (about 25-30 of them)
1/2 yellow onion roasted
3 roasted jalapenos
4 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/8 tsp cumin (just a dash)
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp lime juice
Salt to taste (we used about 1 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar

Peel the husks off of the tomatillos and discard. Cut tomatillos in half and place cut side down on a foil lined cookie sheet.  Cut onion in half and peel off skin. Place garlic cloves on the cookie sheet.  (if you want to roast the entire head, cut off the top and place it on the cookie sheet, as shown below)
Cut stems off of jalapenos, cut out the seeds and the ribs and cut them in half. (For spicy salsa, leave in seeds and ribs)  Place cut side down on the cookie sheet.

Set oven to broil on high.  Place cookie sheet in the oven and cook until skins and outsides or scorched.  (just a few minutes, so watch it good!)  Remove from oven and immediately place items in a plastic or paper bag. Close the end and let the items sit for about 10 minutes.  At this point, you will be able to remove the scorched skins and discard.  The tomatillos will almost be pureed at this point.  Toss all items into a blender or food processor, and add the rest of the ingredients.

Tip:  Make sure to taste as you go, And adjust according to your liking

Pulse until pureed. Chill and serve.  Great with chips, or even in the Homemade Tamales and Green Chile Burritos.

This is what they will look like roasted.   We doubled the recipe, so you should have about half of this. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cheesecake filled Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I have to admit, I saw this recipe on pinterest and had to try it! My mom had a great idea to use our families cheesecake recipe as the filling instead of what the other person suggested.  Great idea mom!  These things are so heavenly!!! No kidding.  They are also addictive, I ate 6 just on the way to drop off a few to some friends. 

The first time I made them, I forgot the cool whip and so I made my own with whipping cream.  It didn't turn out too well.  The whipped cream was too heavy and I ended up adding too much of it.  Bummer!  They were still good. I took them to a family party and they were gone with in minutes.  I'm talking, an entire platter.  Granted we had about 30 people there!

So I made a second batch the next day and voila! They were perfect.  One other thing I learned as I made the different batches, is that it is SO much easier to dip the strawberries with the stems still on.  I tried to dip them last, the first time and in order to get a good enough grip I had to hold the strawberry low enough that I burnt my fingers on the chocolate multiple times.  So dip them before you core them!

You will also want to chill them in between each step.  If makes things so much easier to handle when the chocolate is solid and the cheesecake filling isn't too soft.  It's a little bit of a process, but super easy and super worth it!!!
Cheesecake filled Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

3-4 pints of large strawberries
1/2 brick of dipping chocolate (like almond bark, Or whichever you like)
One recipe of Cheese Cake  (just the filling)
Wipe strawberries clean with a damp paper towel.  Don't rinse them, because the water will make them sweat and go bad faster once the chocolate is on.  Make the Cheese Cake filling and chill it in the fridge while you are doing the other steps. 

Put a cookie sheet or a plate in the freezer to chill it for a few minutes. On low heat, slowly melt chocolate over the stove in a small pot.  Stir frequently.  If it starts to get clumpy, turn off heat and stir vigorously.  That sometimes helps.  It will burn if you have the stove on too high.

Pull out the cookie sheet.  Begin dipping the strawberries half way into the chocolate.  Lay them on the chilled cookie sheet to harden the chocolate. When done dipping, put the pan or plate back in the fridge or freezer to completely harden the chocolate.  (not necessary steps, just faster that way. ) You can also use wax paper on the cookie sheet to keep them from sticking.

When the chocolate is nice and solid, pull them out and gently core them with a small sharp knife.  Do this, by cutting around the stem area into the strawberry.  It should pull out in a cone shape. Discard stems.

Put the cheesecake filling into a pastry bag or plastic bag and cut the corner of the bag off (you don't need a big hole) Pipe the filling into the strawberry as full as possible.  Chill them again for a few minutes.  Then drizzle with more chocolate. Chill again. They are now ready to serve! Or eat yourself!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stuffed Bell Peppers

You know how food, sometimes brings back memories of the first time you ate it, or a special moment in your life when you ate it?  This one is both for me. 

I had the opportunity to go to Mozambique Africa years ago with a group called Care For Life. It was the most amazing and special trip of my life.  Things happened to me there that changed my life forever.  Because of that trip, I later found and married the man of my dreams!

Wow, lots of emotion there... back to food.  So when we first got there, we were staying with an amazing couple. He was a counselor in the mission presidency.  She, was an awesome cook.  She made us stuffed bell peppers one night. I didn't even like bell peppers then. I was sold. The flavor combo just melted in your mouth.  It was so delicious.  I think I've had them once since that day.  Almost one of those things that you don't dare eat, for fear of contaminating the experience or something. 

Anyway, I came across this recipe from my dear friends blog and thought I would give it a try.  I'm so glad I did! Try it, you'll love it! 

Stuffed Bell Peppers

6 green bell peppers (next time I'm going to try a variety of colors)
2 tsp salt (divided)
1 pound ground turkey (I used ground beef
1/3 cup dehydrated onions (or 1/2 cup chopped onion)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup water
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup water
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


1. Bring a large pot of water and 1 tsp salt to a boil. Cut the tops off the peppers, and remove the seeds. Cook peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes; drain. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tsp salt inside each pepper, and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, saute turkey(or beef) and onions for 5 minutes, or until meat is browned. Drain off excess fat, and stir in the tomatoes, garlic, rice, 1/2 cup water, soy sauce, and cayenne pepper. Cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill each pepper with the turkey and rice mixture, and place peppers open side up in a baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine tomato soup with water to make the soup a gravy consistency. Pour inside the peppers. Sprinkle with cheese.

 4. Bake covered for 25 to 35 minutes, until heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly.

Recipe taken from Pickle Boat Recipes

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dulce De Leche

I like to call this one "heaven in a can"! This stuff is seriously dangerous if you are on a diet.  Wow it is so good!!! This is the easiest thing you will ever make. No lie!  It only takes one ingredient... a can of sweetened condensed milk. Yep that's it!

I remember years ago, going to Lake Powell with some friends of ours.  They made this for us.  Best trip ever!!!. The jet skiing was fun too :)

Dulce De Leche

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Get a large pot of water.  Do not open the can! Peel off the paper. Put the can in the pot of water. Make sure it is completely immersed in water. Boil the can for 1 1/2-4 hours.   1 1/2 hours makes it runny (for things like ice cream topping... 4 hours is really thick.  I did the apple dip for 2 hours.

Let can cool, open and scarf.   Use anywhere you would use caramel.

The great thing about this... I read online that people make a few cans at a time and store the extras on their pantry shelf up to a year.  I haven't tried this myself but love the idea! Instant caramel! (just make sure that the can is unopened.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Basic Breakfast Burritos

Another burrito recipe for ya.  The one is the last of the 4 burritos we have been making at our burrito class.  These freeze really well for up to 3 months.  Just wrap them individually with foil and toss them into the freezer.  One thing to remember, is you will not want to add moisture to your eggs, (such as milk) if you are going to freeze them.  They will get to soggy if you do.  The freezing process naturally moistens things, so keep them on the dry side and they will be perfect after they have been frozen.

If you are going to eat them right away, feel free to add a splash of milk.  This recipe will make about 6-8 burritos give or take. So if you are going to make them to freeze, I triple the recipe to make about 30 burritos. Use the Scrambled Eggs For The Masses recipe for big batches. 
We also found that when you add cheese to them, it holds it all together a little better.  The eggs and such, don't fall out all over the place as easy. Plus cheese just makes everything better eh?

Basic Breakfast Burritos

2 dozen eggs,
1 lb of ground breakfast sausage
salt and pepper
splash of milk (optional) (I wouldn't add if you are freezing them)
Cheese (I use the cheddar or the jack and cheddar mixed)

Brown the breakfast sausage in a large skillet.  Remove meat, reserving the fat.  Scramble the eggs in a large bowl and add milk if desired.  Pour into the large skillet with the fat from the sausage. (not necessary but it adds flavor to the eggs.) Season them with salt and pepper. On medium heat, cook the eggs through, stirring constantly. Pour both the eggs and sausage in a large bowl and stir to combine.

Place desired amount of mixture onto a tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese.  (I use about a tbsp.) Wrap and eat or freeze.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Scrambled Eggs for the Masses

I grew up in a family with 9 kids.  I don't know how my mom cooked scrambled eggs for 11 people but it couldn't have been easy.  After needing to scramble 26 dozen eggs to do my first burrito class, and only being able to fit about 2 dozen eggs in my pan at a time... I decided it was time for a change. 

I got online and tried to look for answers.  Then I found out that you can bake them.  Makes sense, you can bake them in casseroles etc, so why not.  I gave it a whirl, and voila!  It worked! I only had to make 3 batches total instead of 12-15 batches.  If you have a load of people to feed, or you are making a few hundred breakfast burritos... (I'll share my recipe with ya on Monday)  Then this is the way to go!

Scrambled Eggs for the Masses

Milk (if desired)
large baking dish

Scramble the desired amount of eggs in a large bowl and stir in a splash of milk.  The more eggs you will use, the more milk you will need.  It also depends on how creamy you like your eggs.  I left the milk out for the burritos, because the eggs naturally moisten up when frozen in the burritos.  Stir well, making sure that each yolk is scrambled.

 Pour into a large baking pan.  Do not fill more than 2/3 full.  The more eggs you want in there, the bigger the pan needs to be.   Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees until eggs are cooked through. Again, depending on the size of the pan.  Plan on about an hour for a good sized load. 

Stir every 10-15 minutes. To help them scramble.  When finished, remove from the oven and add your favorite add-ins if desired, cheese, bacon, sausage etc.

Tip: if you are lazy and forgetful like me... you can just leave them in the pan without stirring.  I think I stirred them once about half way through... Bake it like you would a breakfast casserole, and then just pull it out and dump it into a huge bowl.  Then you can just chop it up with the spatula to scramble them.  I found two slight problems with this method... You don't get the nice even color that scrambled eggs have, because you haven't stirred them frequently. The yolks and whites won't combine as well.  But it still tastes the same, so no big deal to me! PLUS, because I didn't have to stir it, I could fill the pan fuller without worrying about over spillage.

Also, I used an aluminum pan and found that the bottom part took on a slight greenish/silver color in some areas. Probably just a few extra minerals in it. he he he. That's why people push STAINLESS steel so much I guess. :) 
This is what it looks like about half way through.  Not so appetizing right now but I comes out much better in the end. 

And the Winner of the Giveaway is...

Congratulations to Peggy C. from San Tan Valley! You are the winner!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Zuchinni Bake

I went to a friends house a few weeks ago to hang out for a play date. She brought out this amazing dish for our lunch. Wow, it was absolutely delicious!!!  I ended up making it for dinner a couple of days later. Everyone loved it!  It's a great way to get in some veggies.  You can use just zucchini, or combine it with yellow squash.  You can also add in some shredded chicken or even shredded broccoli. As long as it is shredded or chopped extremely fine... go for it! Get creative with it. I would love to hear from you.  How did you make it? 

Zuchinni Bake

4 zucchini or yellow Squash 
1 chicken breast shredded (optional)
1-2 tbsp butter or olive oil
1/2 onion chopped fine
spices to taste (I did about 1/2 tsp of each) parsley, oregano and basil
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
1 cup cheese (Parmesan and mozzarella mix is super yummy! but any cheese will do)
2 packages of small home-style refrigerator biscuits

Pour in butter or olive oil into a skillet.  Then add vegetables, chicken (if desired) and spices.  Saute' until cooked through.  Just a couple of minutes. Drain the fluid.  Mix with eggs and cheese.  (feel free to go liberal on the cheese.  I used about 2 cups).

In the bottom of an 8x8 pan. (or you can use a 9x13 if you don't want it as thick)... press the refrigerator biscuits into the bottom of the pan, filling all holes, creating a crust.  Bake at 300 for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven. Turn the heat up to 350 degrees.  Pour your skillet mixture on top of the crust evenly. Can top with more cheese if desired.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden on top.

Remove from oven and serve. 

tip: I used the refrigerator biscuits that were not as thick and big as the ones such as Pillsbury grands.  You could use the bigger ones and just may need one can instead of two.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chile Lime Chicken Burritos

These burritos have got to be my favorite, of the 4 we make at our classes.  There is so much depth to them, and so many different flavors to enjoy. The chicken for this recipe comes from my
Chile Lime Chicken Tostadas In Slow Cooker recipe. I also created a yummy cilantro lime rice to go with it. 

Give these a try, you won't be disappointed!  These make an awesome freezer meal to put away for another day.

Chile Lime Chicken Burritos

To make the burritos,  put 1/2 cup of rice on the tortilla (recipe Below), about 1/4 to 1/3 cup chicken and  2-3 tbsp of black beans. Roll into a burrito. Heat and serve with salsa and/or sour cream.

This recipe makes about 12 burritos

Cilantro Lime Rice

3 Cups Uncooked white rice
6 Cups Water
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 1/2 tbsp chicken bullion

1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice

Pour first 6 ingredients into a rice cooker. (you can also cook it over the stove.  Simmer for about 20 min or until cooked through and there is no more water.) Cook on white rice setting.  When rice is cooked add chopped fresh cilantro and another 2 tbsp of lime juice.  Stir well.

black beans

(10 inch) Tortillas

 If freezing... wrap each burrito individually in foil and freeze up to 3 months. Then when ready to eat... microwave on high for 4 minutes or until heated through. You may also fry it, or bake it until heated through.

Tip: Double or triple the batch to store a bunch of burritos for a rainy day!

Mini Corn Dogs

I'm actually a big fan of corn dogs believe or not.  Especially if they are fried.  I found this recipe for mini corn dogs and really enjoyed it. You can also use the same recipe to make regular sized ones.  This is a fun meal to make.  you want to get a good quality hot dog.  It makes it taste that much better. I really like the Hebrew National brand.  But find which one you like and go for it!

Mini Corn Dogs

oil for frying (I use canola)
12 beef franks (I used Ball Park franks I got from Costco)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup yellow (or white) cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk plus 2 tbsp

Preheat some oil in a deep fryer or large skillet to 365 degrees. You need it to be a couple of inches deep and the pan needs to be large enough to fit the corn dogs in. You want to completely submege the corn dogs in the oil.
Cut each of the hot dogs into thirds and toss in the cornstarch. Shake off any excess.
In a bowl, whisk together the corn meal,flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Add egg and buttermilk, then whisk until well combined. If needed, add more buttermilk to make desired consistency. You want it like a thick pancake batter so it will stay on the hot dogs.
Now if you want, you can insert toothpick into each piece of hot dog, dip in batter until well coated, and fry. I dipped the hot dogs in the batter and just removed each one from the batter using 2 toothpicks and gently dropped them into the oil. I recommend only doing 6 at a time. This amount was manageable. Fry until golden brown. Drain on towels.
If you want to keep them warm while you fry the others. Place them on an oven safe cooling rack placed on a cookie sheet and place in a 200 degree oven. This will keep them warm and crisp. Makes 36 mini corn dogs.

recipe taken from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Autumn Harvest Trail Mix

Even though it doesn't feel like it outside here in's autumn time!  We are making our way into baking season and I am so excited!   To kick it off, I've got a simple yet delicious one for ya.

My mother-in-law made this for us a few years ago and it has become a must have for me ever since. As soon as they put those candy corn on the shelves... I'm there!  I actually like it even better without the m&m's just cause they aren't my favorite... but either way it's still pretty good.  I have always like the sweet and salty combo.  You know, like back in high school when we would by fries and a shake for lunch every day, and use our fries as the spoon?  Yeah, weird I know... but don't knock it until you've tried it!

This time I used the autumn candy corn mix. It has the pumpkins and chocolate ones in it too. But usually I just use regular candy corns. Totally up to you.

Autumn Trail Mix
1 ½ cups salted roasted peanuts
1 cup candy corn
½ cup m&m’s
Pour all items into a bowl and scarf!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I really enjoy a good Chicken Salad.  My mom made one growing up that I'll share in the future.  I have really enjoyed more fruit in mine lately. I've been playing around with a couple of recipes and my husband and I combined some and made this one.  It's super yummy!

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

2 ( 12.5 oz) cans of chicken (or 3 cups diced cooked chicken)
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup red grapes, halved
1 green onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 cup diced apple
salt and pepper to taste
pecans or cashews, optional
¼ cup of sugar

Combine all ingredients into a bowl. Stir well.
Serve on any type of bread (I like to put it on a bagel.  Using lettuce to cover the holes.)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cooking Class Picts

Here are a few pictures from our last couple of cooking classes!  We had such a great time. 

 I had 4 crock pots going for almost a week, for our burrito class.  That's a lot of food!!!

The first Burrito class. Making the Chile Lime Chicken Burritos. Yummm

My friend September was my Sous Chef for the day. I couldn't have made it without her!!

2nd burrito class.

A Huge thanks to all that attended and helped out.