Friday, December 30, 2011

Baby food - Butternut Squash

Now that my baby is 6 months old (and growing too fast), I am very excited to christen my new Baby Bullet I got for Christmas this year! With too much excitement I've purchased bananas, several types of squash, and more. Who would have thought I'd be so excited to make puree foods?! I made pumpkin puree once with my blender but it didn't puree it as much as I'd have liked. The Baby Bullet has worked 10 times better! Side note: Camden did not like the pumpkin .. at all. I am so excited for all the milestones and great times that 2012 is sure to bring us and our new, bigger family! I hope you and yours have a great New Years.

Also, I wanted to note that I saved at least $3 by pureeing the squash myself, compared to $.50 per jar. I purchased one squash at $2 (out of season) and pureed it into several servings!

Puree Butternut Squash
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: 1 ice cube tray (approximately 14-16 "ice" cubes)

1 medium butternut squash
1/4 cup water, plus more for baking

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the top stem off of the squash. Slice squash lengthwise in half and place flesh-side down into an 8x8 baking dish. Add enough water to cover the sides of the squash about 1/4-inch up. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until flesh is easily pierced with a fork.

Allow squash to cool enough to handle and peel the skin off. Place the cooked flesh into a blender and add the 1/4 cup of water. Puree until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Freeze in an ice cube tray for long-term storage (up to 3 months) or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Pinterest is my new obsession! I got an idea to make something similar to these from one of the pins on there. I totally ignored the recipe when I made these because it was really a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. I was making buckeyes and had a ton of leftover chocolate so I was searching for things to dip in it. Think chocolate fountain! I didn't want to use my apples since I was saving them for another recipe. I had some banana's so I dipped them into the chocoalte and froze them. I tasted them 1 hour after freezing (they weren't too frozen) and after overnight (they were rock solid). I definitely prefer and would suggest the 1-hour freezing because you still could taste the banana really well. This is a very easy dessert and a great way to use up all that extra chocolate!!

Chocolate Covered Bananas
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original

1/2 bag chocolate chips (6 oz)
1/4 bar paraffin wax
4-5 large bananas, cut into 1-inch segments
Parchment paper

Melt the chocolate and paraffin in a double boiler on the stove. While that is melting, prepare 1-2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Continue to mix the chocolate until all the wax is melted and there are no more chunks in the mixture. Dip the bananas with the toothpick into the chocolate, completely submerging it. Place onto the prepared baking sheet(s) and allow to freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

If you plan to freeze overnight, I'd suggest letting them sit out for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ants on a Log

Yes, I'm trying to make up for lost time. I know I'm not exactly posting the most amazing holiday food you've ever seen, but let's be real. We aren't going to eat ham, sugar cookies, and peppermint bark 7 days a week. I hope, anyways. Well this is a great little snack for your child or even the fun-seeking adult. I know there are the traditional ants on a log, but I had a lot of other leftover ingredients and I absolutely loved the result so I had to share!

Ants on a Log
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: about 9 "logs", or 3-4 servings

4 long celery stalks
Creamy honey peanut butter (splurge, it's so good)
1/4 cup craisins

Start by chopping the celery into 3-inch long segments and filling them with the creamy peanut butter (this usually works best if you have an outside stalk so there is room to fill). Place the craisins on the peanut butter and press into it to make it stick. Voila! Easy as .. pie?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pasta alla Vodka

Are you needing an easy week night dinner that tastes like you've been slaving for hours? Look no further! This amazing dish has by far the absolute best sauce I've ever made! I made it twice, but it was still too involved and, per my husband, required too many dirty dishes for clean-up. The second try I think was the better of the two recipes! This is so creamy and delicious that I am thinking it might be on our weekly menu. I'm sure the liquor store will think we have really taken a liking Vodka when we keep coming back for it.

Pasta alla Vodka
Adapted from: Annie's Eats, originally Cooks Illustrated
Yields: 5 servings

16 oz dried pasta shapes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can crushed tomatoes (15 oz)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup reserved pasta water, if needed
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente and drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Mix in garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour the crushed tomatoes into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and add enough water to make it 2 cups (about 1/4 cup of water is necessary). Add this and the salt to the pan with the onion mixture. Remove pan from heat and add the vodka. Return pan to heat and simmer briskly on medium heat until alcohol cooks off, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat if simmer becomes too brisk.

Stir in the cream and cook an additional 1 minute, being sure to not cook too long or else the sauce will separate. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss well. Cook on medium-low heat for about 3 minutes to allow the sauce to be absorbed by the pasta. If the pasta seems to thick, add some of the reserved pasta water. Both times I used all of the 1/4 cup and it made the dish much more creamy! Add the basil and top with Parmesan cheese when serving.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mashed Potatoes

I've never really had a go-to mashed potato recipe, unless you call a box a "recipe." I was so sick and tired of taking the time to make instant mashed potatoes (that by the way are disgusting anyways), when I could have made them fresh in the same amount of time. My motivation to find the perfect recipe was jump-started by my mother bringing over bags of potatoes. What else could I do but make mashed potatoes and potato salad (recipe to come soon-ish.. hey, I'm being honest). These are so quick and the only time-consuming part is chopping the potatoes, but what else are you going to do while the water starts to boil?!

Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: 4-6 servings

6-8 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup shredded cheese, cheddar
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
4-6 Tbsp butter, depending on taste, at room temperature

Bring a large pot of water (1/3 of the way full) to a boil and add potato dices. Boil on medium-high until softened and a fork can easily pierce the potato all the way through. When potatoes are done cooking, drain in a strainer and return to the pot. Add cheese, sour cream, and garlic powder. Beat with hand beaters on low speed until cheese is melted and potatoes are the right consistency.

While beating, slowly add the milk a little at a time until potatoes are at the consistency of your preference. Do NOT over-beat the potatoes to get every single chunk out because they will become too starchy. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time with the beater and taste after each addition. Add more or less depending on your taste. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lattice Pie Crust

Pictured above is an apple pie. Directions below were made with a cran-blueberry pie.

First, start by placing the bottom pie crust into a 9-inch (or whatever size the recipe calls for), greased pie pan. Fill the pan with filling; in this case, cranberry blueberry pie (YUM).

If you feel inclined, take some of that extra pie crust and dip it right into the filling. Insert into mouth. Go ahead, you know you want to.

Next, roll out the second pie crust into at least a 12-inch round. Using a pizza cutter or this thingamajigger (yeah, it's a word ..), cut the crust into 1/2-inch sized strips. No need to measure or be precise.

Place half of the strips vertically on top of the pie spaced apart.

Fold back every other strip to the halfway point on the pie.

Place a new strip of crust onto the pie perpendicular to the strips you have just placed on there.

Fold the vertical strips back flat again Then, fold back the other vertical strips (not the ones you just did) and place another strip horizontally across the pie, being sure to space it however far apart from the previous strip that you'd like it to be.

And you guessed it, fold the vertical strips down again. Repeat this process until you get to the end of the pie and repeat for the other half of the pie.

The easiest way I remember (once you get that first horizontal piece down) is to always fold the strips that are underneath the previous strip. If that didn't make much sense, my husband will attest to the fact that I tend to give  way too much detail and information whether it be baking or directions. Psshh.


When you are finished, a little trick my mom taught me with any pie crust is to trim the excess off. Kitchen scissors work great for this.

Then, fold over the top and bottom pie crusts and pinch together with your fingers.

To make the beautiful fluted pattern on the edge, take your fingers as seen in the picture and form the edges. I don't really know how to explain that better, but you've made a pie before, right!? Well, if not, it doesn't take much to do this.

As with almost all pies, cover the crust with foil either the full baking time or at least the first half. Less browning, crunchy crust and more doughy, golden deliciousness.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baby food - Steel cut oatmeal

It's that time. Puree time. Messy floors, fingers and faces. Who knew time would fly so quickly?! I'm thoroughly enjoying motherhood (as you can tell since I've almost abandoned this blog, sorry). This was the first puree food my son had that wasn't rice cereal. Once we start introducing fruits, not until next year, I will start adding more flavors in the form of puree fruits, too!

I didn't grind up the steel cut oats before making this recipe so I had to puree them quite a bit when I was done cooking them. My son is just starting to eat puree foods so it was a bit too chunky of a texture for him, but a friend told me to simply grind up the oats in a coffee grinder until they are a powder. Hopefully when I do that next time, it will take less time to make.

Baby food - Steel cut oatmeal
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: 3/4-1 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup steel cut oats, ground into a powder
1 cup water

Boil water stove top in a small saucepan and add the ground oats, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until softened, about 15-20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add water and puree as needed for your baby's texture preferences. Be sure to test the temperature of the oatmeal before serving to your baby! When making stove top, I had to place it in the fridge for 20 minutes+ before it cooled enough.

If you want to make this in bigger batches, feel free to do so and you can simply freeze in ice cube trays and when frozen, dump into a labeled freezer bag. This way, the food is in perfectly sized portions for your little one and nothing goes to waste!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

There isn't much I can say about this cheesecake that isn't already plainly obvious in the pictures. Other than my cracks, but I kinda like my cheesecake cracks. This cheesecake was so delicious and the pumpkin flavor really wasn't all that overbearing, which is fantastic since (confession time) I don't like pumpkin. I made this for Thanksgiving and I was in charge of something pumpkin for dessert. Pumpkin pie is too strong and bland for that matter so I decided to do something rich, creamy, and that would "wow" my husband's family. Wow, it did.

Next time I think I'll try it without the caramel topping (at least on top) since it stuck to everything and I think it would have been a tad bit less rich that way. I'm all for sweets, but I think Ree has a seriously unnatural sweet tooth. ;) Not that that's a bad thing...

Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake
Adapted from: Pioneer Woman
Yields: 1 large cheesecake (12")

For Crust

12 ounces, weight store-bought gingersnaps
½ cup chopped pecans
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 dash salt


4 x 8 oz packages cream cheese
1 ½ cup sugar
1 can pumpkin puree (15oz) or 1 cup homemade
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs
2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 jar (about 12 oz) caramel topping, optional
Extra chopped pecans
Extra crushed gingersnaps

Crush gingersnaps in food processor or a Ziploc bag with a mallet. Add chopped pecans, melted butter, brown sugar, salt and pulse (or mix) until combined well. Mixture should stick together, but barely. Be sure it’s not too soggy. Press into bottom and sides of a greased 12-inch springform pan. Chill in fridge for 20-30 minutes.

While crust is chilling, make the filling by beating cream cheese and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy (this is where a stand mixer is really helpful). Add pumpkin, spices, and mix again. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each one to mix with cream cheese mixture for at least 20 seconds. Add cream and mix until just combined.

Remove crust from fridge and pour ½ jar of caramel topping on crust, if using. NOTE: Reviews on PW website indicate the caramel can harden sometimes, however I used the same brand she did and mine turned out great. Sprinkle caramel with extra chopped pecans. Gently pour the cheesecake mixture into the pan. Even out the top with a spatula.

Bake at 350°F for no less than 1 hour 15 minutes, or until no longer soupy. It should still be somewhat jiggly in the middle though. I baked mine quite a bit longer, but then again the recipe called for a 10-inch pan and mine overflowed.

Cool on the counter for 30 minutes and pour the rest of the caramel topping on top of cheesecake, if using. Smooth out with spatula and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight. It said to cover the cheesecake, but be careful because the caramel sticks to EVERYTHING.

When ready to serve, remove the rim from the pan and slice. Sprinkle with extra crushed gingersnaps, if desired. The best way to slice a cheesecake is with a knife that has been run under hot water for a few seconds on each side. After each slice, clean the knife off with the hot water and slice again. Sounds tedious, but it makes the best (and most beautiful) slices!

Friday, December 2, 2011

A sign of things to come

I apologize sincerely that I haven't updated this blog (or my other one for that matter) in a very long time. I'm still in the midst of trying to balance baby, sleep, chores, and cooking on a daily basis. It's been quite the learning process for me.

Some of the upcoming recipes include:

Pumpkin Cheesecake (pictured above)
M&M cookies
Chewy, soft chocolate chip cookies (Brad's favorite)
Green beans
Steel cut oatmeal
Baby food puree (so excited to start this!)

If you would like the link to them, I can send that out to you should you need it before I happen to post the recipe. Just email me!! There should be a link on this blog somewhere.. ;) .. but I'm too tired to check.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Classic Apple Pie, revisited

Apple pie is the quintessential all-American dessert; in my eyes it is anyways. Pumpkin pie just doesn't do it for me, even after an amazing Thanksgiving dinner. This year what was I elected to bring? Pumpkin pie. *shudder*

What am I bringing in addition to (yes, I follow directions) the pumpkin pie? THIS! It's my mom's recipe handed down from generations who've made this amazing dish before. I made it last year for the Fourth of July and my husband's friends were amazed it was completely homemade. Needless to say, it was eaten quickly and next time I'll have to make three pies. If you're looking for a classic and delicious pie for Thanksgiving or any occasion (ah hem, week night cravings), this is it!!

Classic Apple Pie
Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: 8 slices; 1 9-inch pie

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
7 medium to large apples, peeled and sliced (or chopped)
3 tbsp butter or margarine
3 tsp lime or lemon juice
2 nine-inch pie crusts

Grease a 9-inch pie plate and place an unbaked pie crust  into it. Stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in large bowl. Mix in apples until mixture is paste-like. Place mixture into greased pie pan lined with pie crust.

Cut the butter into pea-sized portions and lay on top of the apple filling. Squeeze a little lime juice on top. Cover with the second pie crust and fold edges over and make into zig-zag (crust) pattern. Cut 6-8 slits in the top of the pie crust about an inch long. Sprinkle top crust with cinnamon.

Cover the edges of the crust with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 425°F. Remove foil and bake another 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Royal Icing Sugar Cookies

I've made so many batches of these royal icing sugar cookies that I can now almost do it without a recipe. Well, at least the icing I can. For these scary Halloween cookies, I simply made a small batch of white royal icing and piped the ghosts, then dyed the excess orange with two drops yellow food coloring and one drop of red food coloring. It makes the perfect color orange! Once those dried, then I filled them in with a larger batch of icing, again starting with the white.

On a side note, a good friend of mine told me to just put some powdered sugar and a small teaspoon (or less) of meringue powder in a bowl. Then, slowly add a small amount of water at a time. If it gets too watery, add more powdered sugar. This will be your basic white color. I know most people use Wilton's coloring, but I have used it before and personally I think it tastes horrifyingly awful (words cannot describe how much I dislike them). Using basic food coloring actually doesn't change the consistency of the icing. If you feel like it is too watery from that, then just add a little more powdered sugar; no harm done!

Before the icing was dried I sprinkled the orange and black sugar sprinkles on the pumpkins and put red hots on the ghosts for eyes. Use what you have in your pantry! I had these sprinkles and red hots from previous recipes so I thought I'd use them up before they went bad. Be creative and have fun this Halloween!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, revisited

I've made these stuffed peppers in the past and this is a great dish that my husband and I always love to have for dinner. It's quick enough for a week night and easy enough to double if you're having some guests over. We love these as leftovers, too, since they keep well and reheat great. If you're in the mood for Mexican but don't want to spend an hour (or two) making a huge, fancy, complicated dish, then this is your recipe!

From this post forward, I've added a new tag on the right-hand side of the page: leftover-approved. This will be for any dinner (or meal-item) that is approved by myself and/or my husband to eat for leftovers. Some things really do not keep up well after being in the fridge and then the microwave. Hopefully this will help with week night meal selection!

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from: Homemade by Holman
Yields: 4 servings

1/2 lb ground beef
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes (option w/chiles), undrained
1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
4 bell peppers, any color
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
sour cream, (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook rice as directed and set aside. Meanwhile, brown ground beef in a large skillet on medium-high heat and crumble as it cooks. Add 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cayenne and 1/4 tsp chili powder. Mix well and add diced tomatoes, reducing heat to medium low. Add onions, black beans, corn and simmer until rice is cooked and softened.

Meanwhile, prepare peppers by cutting in half lengthwise (top to bottom) and removing stem, seeds, etc. Rinse and set in a large glass baking dish. Add 2 tbsp water to bottom of dish.

When rice has cooked thoroughly, add 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp chili powder and mix well. Stir into the ground beef mixture and add half the cilantro, if using. Spoon filling into pepper halves. Squeeze lime juice on top of stuffed peppers. Cover pan with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Uncover (peppers should be softened) and sprinkle on cheese and continue cooking an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with remaining cilantro and sour cream if desired.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Product review: Oh My Chai!

Oh my Chai! Yes, that is the name of this amazing chai drink mix. I usually am not big on hot tea drinks on a regular basis, but these cold mornings we have been experiencing lately here in the Midwest really make me want to stay curled up in bed all morning. You know those mornings when you wake up and pull the covers over your head? Then you run to the shower because, well, it's the only other warm place in the house? Yup, it's that time of year again.

Cold mornings/weather = hot chai obsession for me. I love love love this chai mix and have been buying it for several years when I first discovered it. I went to a Tastefully Simple party with my mom and I was instantly hooked! Everything they had from beer bread to the dips were absolutely delicious!! Disclaimer: I do not recommend going to a party without intentions on buying at least 3 products; it's impossible.

This chai is the number one thing I always have to purchase at a TS party. It's hearty with tons of flavor and very filling! I've tried it with just water, but you just can't get that amazing chai flavor without a little bit of milk. I normally just eyeball it and fill a mug with 3/4 water and 1/4 milk and microwave it for 2 minutes. Not too hot, not too cool. Then add the chai mix, about 3/4 of a scoop (included). My husband is a traditional tea drinker and doesn't venture from the good ol' Lipton's, but he said this smelled like Christmas, which obviously can't be a bad thing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mediterranean Meatball Skillet

I really wasn't a huge fan of this recipe, but it had lots of zucchini in it, so I wanted to try it before winter came along and zucchini's were out of season. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I actually love meatballs (and veggies) without tomato sauce and pasta. This was a very easy dish to make and even the leftovers were amazing! My husband still wanted to see more of a tomato sauce base, so maybe next time I'll add a can of sauce as well. Try the original and see how you like it. The feta cheese really made this dish go from good to great, so don't skimp on it. The seasonings are great, too, and this is a perfect way to use up all of that extra zucchini!! Don't forget that you can also slice or grate it and freeze, too.

Mediterranean Meatball Skillet
Adapted from: Betty Crocker
Yields: 4-6 servings

2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, cut into wedges
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1 green bell pepper, chopped
20 frozen, cooked meatballs (or try this recipe)
1-1.5 cups water
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Heat oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Once heated, add the onion and cook until crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add rice, bell pepper, meatballs, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.

Stir in zucchini and tomatoes. Cover and cook an additional 8-10 minutes.or until zucchini is tender and water is absorbed (this is why I will use 1 cup next time). Top with feta cheese and remember that with feta, a little goes a long way.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thai Chicken, revisited

This Thai chicken is something my husband requests often. I have a really tough time saying no because it's an amazingly easy and delicious dish, and because it's my husband. The only thing I don't like about this recipe is that it has chives in it. Don't get me wrong, I love chives and without them, this dish wouldn't be nearly as tasty. On the other hand, I hate that they go bad so quickly. While at the farmers market a few weeks ago, a gentleman was selling me some chives and he said you can chop them and freeze them. WHY have I not thought of that before? There will be no more throwing bad chives out of this house again! I'm going to try some recipes with my newly frozen chives soon so I'll update how it went. So far they still look great though!

Thai Chicken
Adapted from: Biggest Book of 30-Minute Meals (Better Homes & Garden)
Yields: 4 servings

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (medium sized, 1-1.5 lbs)
4 green onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup honey roasted peanuts
In a small mixing bowl, combine coconut milk, peanut butter, ginger and pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and cook chicken breasts until cooked thoroughly. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Add green onions to warm skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes until tender. Stir in sauce mixture, stirring until bubbly. Remove from heat.

Place chicken on plate and spread sauce over top and sprinkle with peanuts to serve.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Brulee

Usually I turn my nose away from any recipe that has the word "pumpkin" in it. Yeah, I know, it's totally un-American, but I just don't like pumpkin flavor. Well, ever since I made whipped pumpkin dip and pumpkin pie bars, I've opened up to using pumpkin in more recipes. When it comes to crème brulee, I'll try just about any version! I saw this recipe and just had to try it right away! I actually made three different versions and the one below was the best. I tried with and without granola and cane sugar on top. You can always tweak it, but this brulee is an amazing way to bring in the month of October and fall weather!

Pumpkin Brulee
Adapted from: Pillsbury
Yields: 6 servings

6 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pure cane sugar, for topping

Heat oven to 325°F. Grease 6 (6-oz) ramekins with butter or cooking spray. Place inside of a 13x9-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with wire whisk for 1 minute, or until thickened. Beat in sugar, cream, pumpkin, and spice until mixed well. Divide and pour into the six ramekins.

Pour warm enough warm water to cover the ramekins halfway up the sides. Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes, until set. Carefully remove pan from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove rammekins from pan, dry off and wrap in plastic wrap. Place rammekins in fridge for at least 2 hours to chill.

When ready to serve, sprinkle 1 tsp cane sugar on top of brulee and use small torch to melt sugar. Serve immediately!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

In one word: YUM! Peanut butter is one of my all-time favorite foods (okay, is it really a "food"). I have always had a love for peanut butter; we go way back. I have actually already made these cookies but in the previous attempt, I forgot some key ingredients. Those cookies were a little fluffy for my taste though. These cookies spread evenly and even kept the fork pattern I pressed into them, which takes me back to my younger days. I remember baking these peanut butter cookies often. They were so much fun to make. My mom would make the batter and put them on cookie sheets so I could press the fork into them. Loved it! These cookies haven't changed since then (albeit with a different recipe) and I am always getting compliments from friends and family about how great they taste!

As a side note, because I use light corn syrup for my sweetener, I use a honey-flavored peanut butter. This is not necessary, but really made these cookies stand out from other batches.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from: Annie's Eats, originally Taste of Home
Yields: 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup light corn syrup (or honey)
2 large eggs
sugar, for sprinkling

In medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Cream together shortening, butter, peanut butter and syrup (or honey). Mix in eggs one at a time being sure to incorporate well before adding the second. With mixer on lowest speed, slowly add in dry mixture little by little until blended well.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll dough into 1-1.5 inch balls and place onto greased cookie sheets and slightly flatten with fork to make a cross-section design (see original recipe link for picture). Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar on the flattened cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are golden. Since they are peanut butter cookies they don't change color too much so don't over-cook them. Allow cookies to cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling completely. Serve with cold milk for best results! Store in airtight container.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken Stroganoff

This recipe originally called for cubed turkey, but I'm not seasoned enough yet to experiment with it; nor do I know where to find turkey like that (reasonably priced anyways). Chicken is a great substitute and tasted amazing in this easy skillet dinner. You can always cook the chicken when you have time and just store it in the fridge. That really makes this dinner take no time at all to prepare. We also always substitute frozen corn for peas with any recipe since we both dislike peas. My husband even took all of the leftovers (and yes, I mean ALL) for lunch the next few days. None of this was thrown out if that says anything about the taste. Next time I might not use as many noodles since it wasn't as creamy as I'd like. I added quite a bit more than the recipe called for. :) That's what I do, though.

Chicken Stroganoff
Adapted from: Pillsbury
Yields: 4-6 servings

1 can chicken broth (14 oz)
1 jar turkey gravy (12 oz)
2.5 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp pepper
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken (or turkey)

In a large skillet, heat broth and gravy until boiling. Stir in noodles, carrots, peas, sour cream, nutmeg and pepper. Return pan to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer on medium-low for 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken (or turkey) until noodles and vegetables are tender and warm.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ham & Cheese Sliders, revisited

I have made these sliders before, usually during baseball season, but these little sandwiches are so easy to put together we make them a lot now. With football season well under way (and since I'm participating in fantasy football this year), neither one of us ever want to cook on Sundays. This is our perfect go-to meal nowadays since they involve no cutting boards and knives, pots or pans, etc. Put the few ingredients together and you've got dinner or snacks for a lot of hungry friends!! When I first made these I mentioned in my original post that I wasn't a huge fan, but I did eat them. Now I'm 100% on board and love these little sandwiches. I will probably try some kind of turkey combination soon, too!

Ham and Cheese Sliders
Adapted from: Annie's Eats, originally The Girl Who Ate Everything
Yields: 12 mini-sandwiches

For the sandwiches
12 slider rolls (I bought Hawaiian rolls and sliced them down the middle)
12 slices honey ham
12 slices Swiss cheese

For the topping
3/4 Tbsp yellow mustard
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 Tbsp finely minced onion
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
poppy seeds, for topping

Preheat oven to 350°F. Start by placing the slider rolls on a baking sheet and slicing them, if needed. Slather on some mayonnaise on the top bun, as much as desired. Place a few small slices of ham and cheese on top of the bottom bun and place tops on sandwiches. Mix the sauce ingredients, except poppy seeds, and baste on the tops of the sandwiches. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top immediately. Cover baking sheet with foil and bake 10 minutes, until cheese has melted. Uncover and bake an additional 2 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Southwest Lasagna

I've never really been one to be that adventurous when eating out at a restaurant (of any kind). I find something I like and I get it. Every time. I'm starting to try new things as my tastes "mature" so to speak. For example, I have always hated disliked meatloaf and lasagna when my mom made it for us growing up. I'm not sure why but I think it was just because they looked so gross and messy. At any rate I've grown to love them both. Partly because they are very inexpensive meals and have lots of delicious leftovers. Also, I think they are very flavorful and the type of dish you can change almost any aspect of and it would still turn out wonderfully. Hence why I chose a lasagna theme.

I saw this recipe in an old magazine (yes, I've been digging up oldies here lately). I just had to try it because it sounded amazing. A combination of two amazing things: Mexican food and lasagna!! It turned out amazing and I even took it for leftovers my first day back to work since Camden came into our lives. It was just as tasty as when I pulled it out of the oven! You can top it with chopped lettuce, tomato and sour cream but it really doesn't need them if you don't have any on hand.

Southwest Lasagna
Adapted from: Pillsbury
Yields: 8 servings

9 uncooked lasagna noodles
1lb ground beef
1 package (1.25oz) taco seasoning mix
3/4 cup water
1 jar tomato pasta sauce (28oz)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
9 oz frozen corn, at room temperature
2 tsp ground cumin
1 container ricotta cheese (15oz)
1 can chopped green chiles (4.5oz)
2 eggs
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F and place a large, rimmed cookie sheet on the rack below middle oven rack. Spray a 13x9 casserole dish with cooking spray (use a deep dish if you have one). Cook and drain lasagna noodles per package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain well.

Meanwhile, cook ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until brown. Drain and return to pan. Stir in taco seasoning mix and water. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally. Sauce should be thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in pasta sauce, beans, corn, and cumin. Cook about 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until heated throughout.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, chiles and eggs.

To assemble lasagna, arrange 3 cooked and cooled lasagna noodles along the bottom of the greased casserole dish. Spoon and spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over noodles. Top with 1/3 of the meat mixture and then 1/3 cheese. Repeat layers topping with the cheese. Place dish on middle oven rack and bake, uncovered, 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mexican Beef Melts

I don't know why I really have never thought to make a mexican type of calzone. I guess I'm not much of a risk taker in the kitchen when it comes to making up new dishes. I did, however, stumble upon this recipe in a booklet that was 6 years old and thought it would be a great week night dinner. With just a few ingredients and easy directions, I was determined to make this (even if I do have an 11-week-old). They turned out great even though I was somewhat skeptical of the lack of ingredients inside of the melts; or calzones. I think I might add some peppers to the meat mixture to give it a little more kick. They are still fabulous as-is and make for a quick dinner!

Mexican Beef Melts
Adapted from: Pillsbury
Yields: 4 servings

1 lb ground beef
1 package (or 3-4 Tbsp) taco seasoning mix
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups chunky salsa
1 can homestyle biscuits (16.3 oz)
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1 cup sour cream, optional

Heat oven to 375°F and lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray (or use silicone mat). In a large skillet, brown the meat. Drain and return meat to warm skillet on medium-low heat. Add water, salsa and seasoning. Mix well to combine and continue to cook until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

Separate dough into 8 biscuits and roll out to a 6-inch diameter circle. Spoon about 1/4 cup beef mixture into biscuit rounds on cookie sheet. Top with a tablespoon of cheese and close by folding over. Press the edges with a fork to ensure a good seal. Bake 10-14 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly and serve by topping with salsa and cheese. Serve with sour cream if desired.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Butterscotch Scones

It's starting to feel more like fall and you all know what that brings; cooler weather and pumpkin, well, everything! I am so excited this year to be spending Camden's first Halloween as a family. I remember last Halloween I had just found out that I was pregnant with him and here he is a year later, cute as ever! I'm not getting him a costume since he will only be 3 months old, but he does have a "My First Halloween" onesie for the day time and a cute sleeper for the evening. I swear this kid is so stylish. Anyways, in the fall I usually like to bake everything pumpkin and butterscotch. It's the time for chili's and stews. I LOVE this time of year!!!

This recipe is just the same as my chocolate chip scones, but they taste even better with butterscotch! I have also tried white chocolate which are to-die-for good as well. These definitely will get you and your family into the fall mood and won't disappoint! I would venture to say that 90% of the time, we have a bag of these in the freezer. Yup, they're that good!

Chocolate Chip Scones
Adapted from: Annie's Eats, originally Hershey's
Makes: 6 scones

1½ cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup butterscotch chips (6 oz)
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter, melted
additional sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with grease or a silicone mat. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and stir to mix well. Add in the chocolate chips and fully incorporate them into the mixture. Add the heavy cream to the mixture and mix until dough forms and the dry ingredients are just incorporated. I did this by hand instead of my stand mixer and it turned out phenomenal.

Knead dough very briefly with well floured hands on a clean surface. Scoop rounds onto baking sheet or roll a circle out of the dough about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into triangles (like you are cutting a pizza) and place dough pieces on the baking sheet. Brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake 18-22 minutes, until edges are slightly browned and center is cooked (using toothpick method).

Note about freezing: Only bake the scones you wish to eat right away. The best way to enjoy these scones throughout the week is to freeze them. Once you have shaped the dough pieces, wrap them in plastic wrap and place in the freezer in a ziploc bag.

The morning you wish to have a scone for breakfast, preheat the oven to 375°F and cook on the baking sheet and silicone mat for 20-23 minutes. No need to brush the butter and sugar on top. The frozen ones actually tasted better than the fresh so doing this will ensure a warm, fresh breakfast.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Charred Corn Salad

Even though summer is coming to a close, I usually stock up on fresh corn on the cob for the winter. There is a local grower who I frequently purchase from at the farmer's market and their corn is substantially better tasting than any I've ever had before; hands down. I love fresh corn in the winter and the frozen and canned corn just isn't the same. Most of you are probably thinking I'm a little crazy for thinking this kind of corn is better, but when you bite into that juicy wonderful cob .. you know. Anyways, I saw this recipe on my new favorite show, Kelsey's Essentials, and just had to try it out. It looked amazing, but it tastes even better! This would be a great addition to any late summer hurrahs. Or it has made a wonderful side dish for my lunches lately. :)

Charred Corn Salad
Adapted from: Kelsey Nixon (Cooking Channel)
Yields: 4-6 servings

3 ears of corn, shucked
1-2 Tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper, for seasoning
3/4 cup packed, fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, grated
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved (almost a full 10-oz container)
1/4 small red onion, chopped

Preheat a grill pan, grill or broiler on high heat. I chose the broiler and it took a while, but it was a good alternative to grilling since it's so cold outside. Brush or rub the corn cobs in the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the corn on the grill until charred, about 2-3 minutes, on each side (longer if using the broiler). Once the corn has charred, set aside to cool. Once cooled, stand each ear up inside of a wide, shallow bowl. Cut the kernels off of the cob with a sharp knife. Keep kernels in bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine basil and garlic in a blender or food processor and pulse until it starts to chop up a little. Add vinegar, continue pulsing, and slowly add in the olive oil. Continue to pulse until mixture is smooth. Note: There will be small pieces of basil; this will not completely liquefy.

Add the basil mixture to the bowl with the corn kernels. Add onion and tomatoes and toss well to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Berry Pie Pops

Happy Labor Day to everyone! I am enjoying a very relaxing day at home with my two-month-old son and husband. We had a lovely pancake breakfast, but we really needed something festive to snack on today. I have been watching more Cooking Channel lately and found my new favorite chef, Kelsey Nixon. I absolutely love her show and she makes the most wonderful things! I have only seen two episodes and have 3 foods already bookmarked! At any rate, this was one of the foods I just had to make right away.

With as many pies as I've made over the years, it's surprising that I have never thought to make these cute individual pies. Sometimes when I have to slice pie myself I get a little generous with the portion. These are perfect in that they will always be the perfect portion; no need for guessing! They were absolutely scrumptious, a beautiful presentation, and very easy to make. I wouldn't do the sticks again as I think they would make for fantastic "finger food" at our next family gathering. Hello, these little pies just SCREAM Fourth of July! You've got to try them. You won't be disappointed! The best part is that you can always change the filling to another fruit very easily, too.

Berry Pie Pops
Yields: 8 individual pies


For the dough
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, chopped into pea-sized cubes
5-6 Tbsp cold water

For the filling
1 1/2 cup strawberry & raspberry mix, large chopped
1/4 cup plus2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp lemon juice

1 egg beaten
1 Tbsp water
turbinado sugar, for dusting
8 lollipop sticks (optional)


To make the dough, combine flour and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly and while on low speed, add the butter pieces until a coarse mixture develops. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough forms and is slightly tacky. Roll dough into large ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Keep refrigerated for at least 30 minutes.

While the dough is cooling, make the filling by placing the berries in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir in the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Mix well until liquid forms. Bring mixture to a slight boil and reduce heat to low. Continue to stir mixture occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until a spoon is coated with the liquid. Remove from heat and allow to cool (or place in tupperware and refrigerate for faster cooling).

When ready to assemble and bake, preheat oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper. Roll out pie dough onto a well-floured surface. Cut out 16 circles with a large, round cookie cutter (or 28-ounce can). Place 8 rounds on baking sheet.

Mix egg and water in small bowl. Scoop 1 tablespoon of berry filling onto the center of the rounds on baking sheet being sure to leave a small 1/4-inch edge all the way around. Brush edges with the egg mixture. Place a lollipop stick in the middle, if using, and be sure the stick goes almost to the top of the inside of the pies.

Stretch out one of the extra rounds a little bit and then place on top of the round with filling. Press edges together. Using a clean fork, press the edges slightly to be sure they are sealed well. Take a paring knife and cut several slits in the top of the pies for ventilation. Repeat with remaining rounds making a total of 8 individual pies.

Brush the tops with the egg wash mixture and sprinkle the turbinado sugar on top. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Allow to cool. Filling will be very hot!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sausage Jumbalaya, revisited

Finally I'm starting to get back into a routine with the little one! Even though I still love to cook (bake, mostly) I seem to find little time for myself. Easy, week night dinners are high on my priority list. That and low-ingredient meals since going to the grocery is now a race to see whether I can make it home before bubba wakes up. ;) This meal has both few ingredients, is inexpensive, and utilizes the crock pot. It really couldn't get any easier unless you had a live-in cook! I have made (and posted) this recipe in the past, but now that I have a dslr camera, I'm motivated to repost old recipes that are hidden in the archives and give new life the previously dull pictures. Enjoy!

Sausage Jumbalaya
Adapted from: Easy Slowcooker Cookbook
Yields: 6 servings


1 lb cooked, smoked sausage links, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1 lg can diced tomatoes (28 oz), undrained
1 Tbsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice


Spray slow cooker (or use liner) and combine all ingredients except rice. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Add the rice, mix well, and cook an additional 1 hour on low. Serve warm.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Penne and Smoked Sausage

Ever get into a slump when it comes to weeknight meals? I know I usually do. When it comes to smoked sausage I have two recipes. Two. How sad is that?! I can make hundreds of things with ground beef, chicken, etc. Why should smoked sausage get ignored? Not anymore! I was inspired by some recent commercials of a woman making a pasta dish with her smoked sausage. Seemed like a great idea. This pasta turned out better than I'd expected, but my husband wasn't totally impressed. It was good enough for dinner, but not for leftovers. You can decide for yourself, but I think it was rather tasty. It has very few ingredients and is a quick weeknight dinner for those with a family!

Penne and Smoked Sausage
Adapted from: Taste of Home
Yields: 6-8 servings


2 cups uncooked penne pasta
1 lb cooked smoked sausage, halved and diced
1 1/2 cups milk
1 can cream of celery soup (10.75 oz)
1 1/2 cups french fried onions, divided
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup frozen corn


Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 13x9 casserole dish and set aside. In a large bowl, combine milk and soup. Mix well and add 1/2 cup french fried onions, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, corn and sausage. Mix until well incorporated.

Transfer contents of bowl to the greased baking pan. Flatten slightly with a spoon. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly. Remove foil and top with remaining 1 cup of french fried onions and 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Our little man is here

Because of this little guy:

.. my mom has been cooking for us this past week.

We had Camden Ryan on June 30th and he weighed 8lbs 7oz and was 20.5 inches long. A healthy, beautiful baby boy!

A huge thank you goes out to my wonderful mother for helping out this past week with dishes, cleaning, cooking, yard work and watching Cam. :) We love you mom!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summertime Favorites 2011

Here are just a few of my summertime favorite foods. The first recipe is the number one dish I think of when summer rolls around (not to mention, Fourth of July as well). If there are any recipes you'd like me to experiment with or post, please don't hesitate to comment. I need more variety but my tastes are obviously limited to foods I would normally eat. My next big adventure will be some Indian desserts!


Classic Apple Pie is the definition of Independence Day (in my opinion anyways). You can make this with a lattice top, plain top with slits or go festive like I did last year and cut some stars out of the top. Either way, this pie will top any other apple pie you've ever made before. Guaranteed!

When fruit is in full season and summer is well under way, I love to make this Summer Chicken Salad. It was inspired by a seasonal dish I once got at Paradise Cafe, but I tweaked it to fit my own tastes, just as you can too! It is so juicy and delicious it hardly needs dressing.

Although I first made this homemade Mango Ice Cream back in January, it's still one of my absolute favorite summertime flavors. It's very easy to make and will definitely satisfy your every dessert need on a hot summer day.

These Teriaki Burgers are amazing by themselves, but with this fruit salsa, they are to-die-for good! These are the very first burgers that I've ever had that needed absolutely no additional toppings (can we say mayo overload). I usually drown my always-dry burgers when eating out in mayonnaise, but there is absolutely no need here!

My husband said to me when I first made this Strawberry Soup, "soup is supposed to be hot." Under normal circumstances, I'd agree. However, this is a summertime dish and uses fresh strawberries. Plus, it's amazingly delicious and so easy to make with only 5 ingredients!! You've got to try this one if you haven't already!

Since my husband doesn't like to cook (at all) unless it involves the grill somehow, I had to adapt my recipes each week last summer to incorporate a few grilling recipes. We all need a day off from cooking once in a while. I didn't feel like even making dessert so I tried out these very easy, healthy, and scrumptious Stuffed Peaches. You can bake them like I did as well but we grilled them a couple of times, too, and they are still simply amazing.

I hope everyone enjoys a few of my favorite summertime recipes that I know we'll be adding to with this summer's recipes. I will post a baby-related update when that happens. :) Until then, this waiting game is very hard and I'm the least comfortable I've ever been in my entire life. Worth it though? Of course!