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!