Dec 20, 2012

Gingerbread Pancakes



Pancake ingredients:
1 T. ginger
1 T. cinnamon
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. molasses
1 1/2 c. water
4 c. buttermilk pancake mix
-Mix together and cook on medium heat

Applesauce topping:
3 c. unsweetened applesauce
1-2 peeled apples, cut into 1/2" chunks
1/4 c. red hots candies
1/4 c. water
-Mix and cook in saucepan on med-low heat until apples are soft: approx 20 min.
(Can be done ahead of time and reheated)

Maple Cream topping ingredients:
2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. maple syrup
Mix in mixer until stiff.

Top pancakes with applesauce topping and then whipped cream. Serve warm.



Jun 6, 2012

Little Pickle

Just thought I should come on here and appologize for my absence! We have another Baby Pickle on the way... which means lots of nausea, lots of sleepiness, and zero desire to be cooking anything. Most foods don't even sound good. If I were to blog what I'm eating right now it would be lots of plain noodles and crackers. Not so exciting! I promise the moment I'mfeeling back to normal, I'll make up for all of the missing posts. Plus, you get to look forward to weird craving foods! So thanks for the patience.

May 8, 2012

Cherry-Nutella Brownies


Heaven... I'm in heaven... Every time I look at these pictures I just want to dive right in; go back in time and relish in this gooey deliciousness. 

But I have a small confession to make. I lied. Just a little. The title here is Cherry-Nutella Brownies... but there isn't any Nutella. I actually used Trader Joe's Cocoa Almond Spread. Basically the same thing as Nutella, but made with almonds instead of hazelnuts. Both are super fantastic and taste almost the same. You can use either!

Also, this is more assembly instructions than a recipe... but so good! My husband is a lover of all things cherry/chocolate, so I threw this together for him and he loved it. It was gone by midday the following day. 


1 can cherry pie filling
1 jar Nutella (or Trader Joe's Cocoa Almond Spread)

Directions:
Follow directions for Second Best Brownies:


Immediately after removing brownies from oven, gently spread with Nutella:


 Then spread with cherry pie filling. Let cool, cut, and serve.




May 4, 2012

Thai Chicken Enchiladas


These enchiladas are soooooo sooooo soooooooooo good. If I could reach through your computer screen to shake your shoulders while telling you this, I would. You must understand how amazing they are! 

I was really nervous about making them because my husband spent two years serving a mission in Thailand and came home with amazing Thai-food-cooking-skills. He doesn't really follow recipes (hence why there are no Thai food recipes on here), because he just remembers how the food is supposed to taste, and then adds a little of this, a little of that... I was so worried he'd take one bite and say something like, "This is NOT Thai food."

Well, it would be true if he did say that. Enchiladas are Mexican, not Thai. But he didn't say that. He didn't care that Thai enchiladas aren't really Thai food. He didn't care that these didn't resemble anything he's ever eaten in Thailand. He just wanted to eat them. And eat more. And then eat more. I'm not kidding. He even scraped the kids plates. 

I used whole wheat tortillas from Costco, which were delicious. Honestly, this dish wouldn't have been so amazing if it weren't for the delicious tortillas, so make sure you get some good quality yummy ones. 

Ingredients
10-12 tortillas
2 cups boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped/shredded carrots
1 cup chopped/shredded cabbage
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 green onions, sliced, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped peanuts, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 (12 oz) cans coconut milk
1 cup sweet chili sauce (divided in half)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Throw in onions, cabbage, carrots, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring to mix. Let cook until vegetables are soft, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in chicken, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, remaining salt and pepper, tossing to coat, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add in 1 1/4 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce, mixing thoroughly to combine. Turn off heat.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Whisk together remaining coconut milk and sweet chili sauce. Pour about 1/2 a cup or so on the bottom of the dish. Slightly warm tortillas if desired to make them more pliable, then place a few spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in each, rolling up tightly and placing in the dish. Cover with remaining coconut milk and chili sauce mix. I usually take a spoon and cover every inch of the tortilla with the sauce, just to make sure it’s coated.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and top with additional peanuts and cilantro. Since sauce is not as thick as traditional enchilada sauce, when you remove them from the oven, spoon sauce from the bottom of the dish all over the tortillas. Additionally this can be done halfway through cooking too.


recipe adapted from howsweeteats.com

May 3, 2012

Second Best Brownies



I know my title is probably not the best lead-in to get you to want to make these brownies. But think about how great second place can be in other areas... American Idol? Guaranteed record deal. Second place in a hot dog eating contest? Who really wants to be first in something like that? Third grade playground games? ("First the worst, second the best, third the nerd!") So, second best can be a good thing!  

Also, the only reason I say second best is because the Best Brownies have frosting. These don't have frosting, but are great because they're super chocolate-y, slightly fudgey without being soggy, and are very easy to whip up quickly. 

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks of butter (3/4 cup), melted
4 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (first 5 ingredients). Add melted butter and eggs and mix thoroughly. Add chocolate chips; stir to combine. 

Bake brownies for 25-30 minutes, or until done to your desired liking. The toothpick test doesn't work so well for these brownies because the chocolate chips will stick to the toothpick, making it look like moist, under-cooked batter. I usually bake them until they don't jiggle anymore when I lightly jostle the pan. 




May 2, 2012

30 Minute Cheesy Ham Casserole (freezer meal!)


Years ago our church had a huge Christmas dinner party. Apparently we were the "poor starving students" of the bunch, because we were sent home with at least 30 huge baked potatoes and a few whole hams. At the time, I also was the Compassionate Service Leader for our church, which meant I was blessed with the responsibilities of making sure the needs of the members were being taken care of (meals/cleaning/etc for a family with a new baby or a death in the family, families moving in/out, illnesses, childcare, arranging food for funerals, etc.) I knew I could figure out a way to use all of that food to help fulfill those needs. 

I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, whipped up some cheese sauce, and voila! I had plenty of freezer meals ready to heat at a moment's notice! I even had to borrow friend's freezer space to help with the storage. 

Since then, we've used this recipe many times as a quick but yummy meal that the kids always love. 

Shown here with my Apple Spinach Salad
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups (about 8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese - separated 
4 cups milk
4-5 medium peeled, cooked potatoes (steamed, boiled al dente, baked, microwaved...)
2 cups ham, cut into bite size pieces

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.

Pour milk into pot, mixing quickly with a whisk. Return pot to stove and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Quickly add 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, stirring until melted. 

Grease 9x13" baking pan. Place ham, potatoes, and cheese sauce in baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. At this point you can cover and freeze, cover and refrigerate to eat later, or bake in 375 degree oven about 15 minutes - until casserole is bubbly and cheese is very lightly browned. 

*some tips - if you bake your potatoes in the oven earlier in the day, they'll be cool to the touch and easy to hand-peel the skins off by the time you're ready to cook dinner. Also, ham lunch meat makes an easy substitution if you don't have a leftover holiday ham.


May 1, 2012

Apple Spinach Salad





This salad is one of my all time favorites. We eat it pretty regularly, especially as the weather begins to warm up and I want my kitchen to cool down. It's super versatile - we've substituted mandarin oranges and pears for the apples and added chicken to make it a meal. You can use candied nuts, raw nuts, roasted nuts, sliced almonds, or any other crunch (croutons, chow mein noodles). The main parts of it are: greens, fresh fruit, dried fruit, crunch, and my amazing Poppy Seed dressing



Ingredients:

4 cups washed, dried baby spinach leaves
4 cups washed, dried, sliced romaine lettuce
2 Gala apples, cored and very thinly sliced
1 cup Craisins
1 cup candied walnuts (click here for recipe)
Poppy Seed dressing (click here for recipe)

Directions:
Combine greens in a large bowl and mix. Add apples, Craisins, and nuts. Pour Poppy Seed dressing on everything, or leave it next to the bowl so each person can add their desired amount. Yum-O! 


Candied Walnuts


This is so super simple and is a fun way to add some crunch to your salads or just eat as a yummy snack.

1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup raw walnut halves (or pecans)

In a cool medium-large skillet, evenly pour sugar, coating the entire bottom of the pan. Place walnuts gently on top of sugar. Turn stove to medium-high heat. Now, leave the skillet alone, but watch carefully. In about 5-10 minutes the sugar will start to melt. As soon as most of the sugar has melted, but before it begins to burn, remove skillet from heat and quickly stir nuts to coat in melted sugar. Remove walnuts from skillet, and spread them out on a sheet of aluminum foil to cool.


Poppy Seed Dressing


1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar or Splenda
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh grated onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients in blender. Pour over your favorite salad.


Apr 30, 2012

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars


The summer after I turned 16 I got a phone call at 7am on a Saturday morning. It went like this:
Me: (super groggy tired) Hello?
Caller: Megan? It's Shannon (my 19 year old sister). My boss wants to talk to you.
Me: What? Your boss? Why?
Shannon's boss: Hi, Megan? This is Janeen, the Aquatics Director at the YMCA. We are way understaffed today and need you to come in. Can you be here in an hour? (The pool was 45 minutes away.)
Me: (still super groggy tired) Umm ok?

I threw on a bathing suit, drove down to the pool, and jumped in the water with 10 kids I'd never seen before. I began my first job as a swim instructor at the YMCA.

The only reason I tell you this is because the snack bar at the YMCA had the most amazing fruit and oatmeal bars. Some local bakery would drop off the oatmeal bars and huge chocolate chip cookies, all individually wrapped and all amazingly delicious. For $1.25 you could get a huge oatmeal bar that I would swear I was only going to eat half of on my break, but would always end up eating the whole thing. For three years I ate those amazing treats and the whole three years I never got sick of them. I probably had one at least once a week.

But now... I can make them myself! And these are equally delicious. But better because I don't have to pay $1.25 every time I want one!



2 cups flour
2 cups uncooked quick oats
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups raspberry jam (or any other kind - apricot is the bomb-diggity)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13" pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. 

Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; mix well. Add butter and stir with a fork until mixture is crumbly. 

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of crumb mixture for topping. Press the rest evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Spread jam onto crust and sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting and serving. 


Apr 29, 2012

Hawaiian Haystacks


This dish is a serious oxymoron. It's sweet and savory. Hot and cold. Creamy and crunchy. And super yuuuummy.

The first time I ever ate it was after our first baby was born and a sweet friend, Ruth, brought us dinner. She was so surprised I had never heard of it before. I looked it up and according to Wikipedia - it's not a Hawaiian cultural dish, but a Mormon one. Who'da thunk?

Regardless of where it came from, it's a fun dish to serve. It starts with a base of rice and chicken in gravy. After that, you can add whatever toppings you want! I think it traditionally has pineapples and coconut (hence the name - Hawaiian Haystacks), but really "there's no limit to the excitement you can explore." Uh... what?! I asked my husband what I should say there and that is what he came up with. Maybe I won't let him be a guest blogger anymore. I think it's going to his head.

So, moving on.... What I was planning on saying was more along the lines of  "you can use any combination of ingredients that your family will like." And the kids love making their own. It's also great for feeding a crowd!

Most recipes use cream of chicken soup, but since I would rather eat soggy cereal than cream of chicken soup, I made my own chicken gravy.

Chicken Gravy
1/4 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

In 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in onions, flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.

Pour milk and broth into pot, mixing quickly with a whisk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; boil and stir 1 minute. Add chicken and remove from heat, stirring to combine chicken and gravy.

Hawaiian Haystack ingredients (in the order we stacked them):
Rice (we like brown)
Chicken gravy
Pineapples or Mandarin Oranges
Diced Tomatoes
Diced Bell Peppers
Sliced Olives
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Chow Mein Noodles
Toasted Coconut (I forgot to toast it when I took the pictures, but the next night we had it again and it was SO much better toasted.)
Sliced Green Onions
Anything else your family likes!

Apr 24, 2012

Whole Grain Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cinnamon Cream (Guest Post!)



 

I'm so excited to have a guest post today! The best part is, I didn't even request it! My sweet husband made us breakfast yesterday morning and by midday, he'd emailed me this post! Sure makes my job super easy!

So, here you go: Whole Grain Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cinnamon Cream, by my husband, Ian.
____________


I woke up craving pancakes. I can’t stand the lack of substance in pancakes made from mixes, and I don’t like plain white pancakes, even if they’re made with buttermilk.


In my opinion, there should be a bigger difference between pancakes and white bread toast. We consequently have a bunch of different recipes for pancakes, but I didn’t feel in the mood for any of them. Besides, cooking is always so much more fun when you try a new recipe.


I decided I wanted to make pumpkin pancakes but our regular recipes for those use white flour and I wanted something heartier. My internet search didn’t return anything exciting enough, so I decided to come up with my own: Whole Grain Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cinnamon Cream.




Whole Grain Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup flax seed meal
3/4 cup dry milk powder
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar


Preheat griddle to medium (approx. 375 degrees).


Grind oats by using a blender or food processor. Combine the ground oats with whole wheat flour, flax seed meal, dry milk powder, allspice, cinnamon, ground ginger, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.


In a separate bowl, beat eggs and stir in water, pumpkin, oil, vinegar, and sugar. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients. Let the batter sit for 5-10 minutes.


Use a 1/4 or 1/3 measuring cup to pour batter onto the griddle. These pancakes take some time to cook. Be patient and wait to flip until the batter is set around the edges. I knew it was time to flip mine when there was a ¼”-½” ring around the outside of each pancake.


Cook the second side about half as long as the first. There’s a fine line between gooey and too dry, so it might take you a few rounds to get the timing just right.



Maple Cinnamon Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Whip heavy cream for about one minute. Then beat in syrup and cinnamon, adding more or less according to your taste.



Apr 23, 2012

Guacamole


When we moved to Washington last year, we discovered Juanita's Tortilla Chips. Oh. My. Stars. They are everything from my childhood trips to San Felipe, Mexico all wrapped up in one tasty, crunchy bite. These chips are the real deal. 

They are so good, in fact, that when I went to buy them last June - and they were sold out - I almost cried. Apparently with all of the graduations and barbecues, everyone and their brother was stocking up. When the cashier saw my obvious dismay, she had someone run in the back and see if he could track down a bag for me. And he did! And all was well in the world. 

Now I know to buy a case of them before summer hits. 

And I will eat them with homemade salsa and guacamole. Yum. Then I'll go run ten miles. 

Well, not really. Duh.

Guacamole is one of those foods that doesn't need a specific recipe; it's just a little of this, a little of that, until it ends up how you like it. So, this recipe isn't the only way to make guac, but it sure is my favorite. I like a lot of flavor, but not a lot of chunky onions or anything. So I dice everything really small and then mash it with a potato masher. 




4-5 medium-large ripe avocados, peeled, and pitted
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles or jalepeños - depending on your desired spice level
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
juice from one lime - can substitute lemon
cayenne pepper to taste
seasoning salt
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients (except for cayenne, salts, and pepper) into a flat bottomed bowl. Using a potato masher, smash the heck out of all of the ingredients. Continue until most of avocado is smashed, leaving a few small chunks here and there. Add remaining ingredients to taste.

Serve with quality corn chips (Juanita's!), add to tacos, spread on enchiladas, eat with a spoon...

This recipe is super flexible - if you want more spice, add more spice. If you like it creamier, add some sour cream or mayo. If you like it chunkier, make it chunkier. This is just my favorite version.

Also, if you're making ahead and planning to serve later, just press a piece of plastic wrap on the top of the guacamole, completely covering the top layer of guac so there is no air trapped between the guacamole and the plastic wrap. This will help keep it fresh and green - instead of getting that gross brown color.


Apr 17, 2012

Orange Rolls




Anyone who's been close friends of ours in the last 5 years (or family) has heard about or partaken of my husband's amazing cinnamon rolls. (And, if you thought you were close friends, but you haven't yet tried these... uuhhh... call me?)

They're not made from a secret recipe and he didn't come up with the recipe on his own. It's just an allrecipes.com super gem. I've met some friends over the years who also use the same recipe. But it's something about the way my man makes these treats that turns them into manna from heaven. 

My husband used to bring them into work when the branch offices had no document errors since the last time he was there. He makes them when friends or family stay overnight with us. He recently made them into a birthday cake. Seriously, we will find any excuse to eat these!

However... as amazing as those cinnamon rolls are - these are better. I never thought it was possible to improve upon an already perfect recipe, but he did it. When he made these for Easter Sunday, we made sure the extras were delivered to neighbors (because I would probably end up bent over the toilet for the rest of the day from cramming 18 too many into my tummy) and they all loved them. True story. 

This is basically just a modified version of the Clone of a Cinnabon recipe, only even more delicious. 

Ingredients:

Orange roll:
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup margarine, melted
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine
yeast

Filling:
1 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons orange zest (finely grated orange peel)
1/3 cup butter

Frosting:
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 Tablespoons orange juice
2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

1. Place dough ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.

2. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup white sugar and 2 T orange zest..

3. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/zest mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until lightly golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 1 teaspoon orange zest, orange juice, powdered sugar, and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.






Apr 13, 2012

Pretzel Dogs


State Fair food: Gooey cinnamon rolls. Gyros. Funnel cakes. Cotton Candy. Buttery Corn on the cob. Dill pickles. Kettle corn. Snow cones. Elephant ears. Chocolate dipped bananas. Fried twinkies. Fried anything. 

It's one of those "so wrong, but so right" things. 

There is something seriously wrong with Americans. We pay oodles of money for cheaply made foods that almost don't qualify as foods. Most of them are just fat fried in more fat. Or fat dipped in chocolate. Or chocolate fried in fat (fried Oreo, anyone?). Yummmm.

But soft pretzels? No frying. No chocolate. Just pure carbs! Dip them in some nacho cheese for that extra punch of flavor and grab some napkins to mop up your drool. Then go ride on the Zipper.

These pretzel dogs were so simple, but ridiculously delicious. I thought pretzel making would be much more difficult. I also assumed boiling the dough would make it wet, mushy, and hard to bring out of the water and onto the baking sheet. Wrong on both. 

Now, I can't wait to try out some fun bagel recipes, since bagels and pretzels both employ the water boiling method. 

1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle room temperature beer
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
sea salt for sprinkling
18 hot dogs


Directions
Heat the beer in a saucepan over low heat until it reaches 110 degrees. Candy or meat thermometers work great. 

Combine the warm beer, sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt in a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, and let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast softens and begins to form a creamy foam.

Place the flour and butter in a bread machine. Add the yeast mixture, then select the dough cycle.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease with vegetable oil.

Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Stir baking soda into 10 cups water in a large pot until dissolved, and bring to a boil.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly-oiled surface, and roll into a 10x20-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into 18 1-inch wide strips, then wrap each strip tightly around a hot dog in a spiral, pinching the edges to seal, and leaving the ends open. About half an inch of hot dog should peek out of each end of the dough wrapper.

Drop 2 or 3 dough-wrapped hot dogs into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and arrange the boiled hot dogs on the prepared baking sheets. Brush each pretzel dog with the egg yolk mixture, and sprinkle with the sea salt.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
Freezer tip - Since this is such a large recipe, you can serve enough for one night and freeze the rest for quick lunches or another dinner. Just be sure to NOT salt the ones you plan on freezing, as the salt will cause the dough to "sweat" as it defrosts, and nobody likes a soggy pretzel. After baking, let cool completely and throw them in a freezer bag. Reheat on half power in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. Delish!

Recipe adapted from Jan's Pretzel Dogs

Apr 12, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Cake


It's no secret that I have a lot of kids. (We haven't quite figured out what's causing all of these children, but when I do - I'll be sure to let you know!) Because of this, I am always afraid that my kids are going to feel like they're just one of the crowd, i.e. nothing special. So, when their birthday comes around, I make sure that it is not only super special, but everything they want.

My kids get to alternate years for friend parties and family parties. This year my oldest son's 5th birthday fell on a family party year. Usually we do one fun activity as a family (and invite extended family), and have a dinner of whatever they want with a special cake. For David's special day, he chose to have a pool party at the local pool, and then go back to our house for hot dogs and chips. I love simplicity! As for his cake, he told us he didn't want a cake, he just wanted cinnamon rolls. So we surprised him by taking the Clone of a Cinnabon recipe, and turning it into a cake!


We just made the regular recipe, but cooked it in two 9" round pans, instead of the 9x13" pan. We doubled the frosting (I think we should have quadrupled it) and frosted between the two layers and then all around the outside. Then, we just sliced it like cake, heated the slices in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds and served. Everyone LOVED it... and especially my sweet boy!

 Clone of a Cinnabon recipe

Apr 9, 2012

Balsamic Glazed Meatloaf



Wait! Don't run away! I promise you'll thank me...

This is the meatloaf for all of the meatloaf haters. Well, for the meatloaf lovers, too. And everyone in between. It's absolutely packed with flavor and has the perfect consistency. Moist and slightly dense, not hard or mushy. So delicious. And it has balsamic! Yes!

Ian and I went to a Greek restaurant in Tucson for our 7th anniversary and were bowled over by the hospitality, food, and - of all things - the balsamic! Athens on 4th is the very best Greek restaurant I have ever been to in all my 30 years of life. If you ever have the chance to visit Tucson, please check out this little slice of heaven. It's a bit hidden, but worth the search.

After I had doused everything I ordered with their balsamic vinegar, I joked that I might as well just drink it straight from the bottle. After we left, I was kicking myself for not doing just that. And thus my love affair with balsamic vinegar began.

This is a somewhat basic meatloaf is drowned in a warm, sweet balsamic glaze that is ten times better than plain ketchup. Make it... tonight!


Balsamic Glazed Meatloaf

INGREDIENTS:

Meatloaf
2 lbs ground beef
1 cup quick oats
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Glaze
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all meatloaf ingredients in a bowl and then mix together with your hands (if you are weird like me, just throw on some rubber or latex gloves - I usually wash them with hand-soap first). Shape into a loaf form and then place in a loaf baking pan. Place pan on a baking sheet lined with foil - meat juices may bubble over the sides of the loaf pan and nobody wants a smoking oven!

Stir together the glaze ingredients and spoon over the top of the meatloaf prior to baking.

Bake in a preheated oven until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Much better to go by internal temperature than a specific time. Mine took about 90 minutes. 

recipe adapted from Barefeet in the Kitchen on Chef Dennis

Apr 4, 2012

Homestyle Chicken Pot Pie


If you're looking for a super simple open-a-can-of-cream-of-chicken-soup, open-a-bag-of-mixed-veggies, and open-a-box-of-Bisquick recipe... you are in the wrong spot. Head on over to Betty Crocker for that. But if what you want is a home-style, made from scratch, and super delicious meal... then you're in the right spot.

This really is super duper yummy.

I recently made this for a freezer meal group that I belong to. After I assembled the pie, I wrapped it up in foil and stuck it in the freezer. When I was ready to cook it, I just took the foil off, wrapped it around the edges of the crust to prevent over-browning, and cooked it for about 90 minutes. Perfect!

This recipe makes 2 pot pies... one for dinner tonight and one to freeze for later. If you're just wanting one, it's pretty easy to cut the recipe in half.


Ingredients
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
2/3 cup chopped onion
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
2 recipes Easy as Pie (crust)


Directions
Place potatoes and carrots in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender (be careful to not overcook!). Drain and set aside. 

In a large skillet, saute onion in butter until tender. Stir in the flour, salt, thyme and pepper until blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add the chicken, peas, corn, potatoes and carrots; remove from the heat.

Line two 9-in. pie plates with bottom pastry; trim even with edge of plate. Fill pastry shells with chicken mixture. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pies. Cut slits or decorative cutouts in pastry. Place over filling; trim, seal and flute edges.
Bake one pot pie at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Cover and freeze remaining pot pie for up to 3 months.

Apr 3, 2012

Wheat-ish Zucchini Muffins


Another family favorite from growing up. My mom's pumpkin bread and zucchini bread are two recipes I'll stand by and have no need to look elsewhere for anything better.

That said, I'm now a little embarrassed to say that I changed this one up to be a bit healthier, because the zucchini recipe really is delicious - as is. But, as is - is really not all that good for you. The fact that it has zucchini in it should counter all of the oil and sugar thrown in, but let's be real here. That's just not possible. However, since I substituted half of the white flour for wheat flour... now we can pretend it's healthy!

I'm shocked I don't have this one on the blog already. I'll make some traditional zucchini bread soon and put it up, but it's the same as this, except only white flour, baked in a loaf pan, and cooked longer.

I made these as mini-muffins for my son's preschool snack to share with the other kids and they gobbled them up!

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups unpeeled, grated zucchini
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottoms of muffin pan with shortening.
Beat eggs; add zucchini, oil and sugar.
Mix the dry ingredients separately and gradually add to wet mixture, stirring to combine.
Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Mar 26, 2012

Spicy Truffles




Today we are going to be talking about Valentine's Day. Well, I am going to be writing about it and you will be quietly agreeing with me while you read. If you agree, just nod your head. I'll know.

I just have to confess my dislike of Valentine's Day. And before you go thinking this bitterness comes from a woman scorned, or even just from a woman who hasn't gotten what she wanted on this special day of love, think again. My husband is both sweet and thoughtful. He never forgets a birthday, anniversary, or Valentine's Day. And until a couple of years ago, he always bought me beautiful flowers each February 14th.

That's because a couple of years ago, I asked him to stop. I'm sure right now plenty of you are thinking I'm insane. And you'd be right. But for many other reasons besides this (I do have four children).

Still here? Okay we'll continue... I asked him to stop bringing me flowers because flowers on Valentine's Day do not mean that my husband loves me, thought of me, cares deeply for me, or even that he thinks I'm kinda great. Flowers on Valentine's Day mean my man thought that if he didn't buy me flowers, his wife would be upset that he didn't bow to society's pressures to spend $100 on something that will be dead and in the trash in 2 weeks.

Flowers because my husband was afraid of sleeping on the couch? No thanks.

Now, flowers on May 7th? December 11th? August 3rd? Any random day and just because he thought of me? Yes please!

I do know that for some women, Valentine's Day might be the only day they do get flowers. To you I say... make your husband these spicy truffles. Randomly. On April 3rd. January 15th. Any day in November. Surprise him and make him feel special. Maybe he'll love them so much that he'll go to the florist right away and bring home a dozen red beauties. You never know...

INGREDIENTS:
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1/3 cup cocoa powder


DIRECTIONS:
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine cream, cinnamon, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Heat and stir until simmering. Add chocolate and stir until melted.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until firm - about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Place toasted coconut and cocoa powder in separate bowls. Remove chocolate from fridge and let sit 30 minutes to soften. Scoop out chocolate into tablespoon-size segments. Roll into balls and roll in toppings to coat.

Mar 19, 2012

New York Cheesecake




Have you ever been to The Cheesecake Factory? And had a brain aneurysm trying to pick a flavor of cheesecake to eat? Seriously, there are more flavors on that menu than in a bag of Jelly Bellies. Don't get me wrong - I loooove The Cheesecake Factory. I love their meals and their cheesecakes. I just have serious commitment issues when it is time to pick a cheesecake. Fruity or chocolatey? More basic original flavor or something so un-cheesecake-ish, like red velvet? Caramelly? Oreos? Cookie dough? Nuts? Snickers? Gah! Do you see my dilemma?! Luckily for you, I made a perfect, plain, New York Cheesecake that you can either eat simply, or jazz up as much as you like. I added my friend's blueberry sauce recipe and it was perfect. No aneurysms in sight. 

One little note to keep in mind - this cake cooks for an hour and then cools in the oven for 5-6 hours. And then it needs to chill in the refrigerator a few hours before serving, so it's nice and cold. It's best to bake it the day before you plan on serving, so it's cooled and chilled before you need it. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (About 15 whole crackers chopped in the food processor. Or smashed with a hammer. Your choice)
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Boiling water


DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a spring form pan (or a cake pan) with foil and grease with nonstick cooking spray. 

Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter or margarine, and cinnamon until well blended. Press mixture onto the bottom of a spring form pan (or on the bottom and up the sides of a cake pan).

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Boil about 4 cups of water and pour into a large baking pan. Place cheesecake inside pan filled with water. 

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Do not open oven. Turn the oven off, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 5 to 6 hours; this prevents cracking. Chill in refrigerator until serving.


Mar 16, 2012

Double Chocolate Cookies


This is just a variation of our traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe for when I'm craving a little more chocolate... well I suppose that's always. But these are the perfect craving calmer. And carb calmer. And yummers.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup cocoa
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and sugars together until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add cocoa and mix again.

In a separate bowl combine flour, soda, and salt. Stir dry mixture into wet mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes in preheated oven. Cool on baking sheets for two minutes and then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Or shove them in your mouth while their hot... and burn your mouth. Totally worth the pain.

Mar 13, 2012

Vanilla Birthday Cupcakes



My baby boy is 5... years... old. *sniff* He has always had a special place in my heart. I got pregnant with him 2 months after my mom passed and 4 months before my daddy passed. We named him after my dad. I like to think that my son was sent to us with a little extra sweetness from my parents. He is super sweet, super snuggly, adores his momma, and has the most warm, big, brown eyes I've ever seen. His favorite color is pink. He loves Legos. And flying kites. Most days he can do no wrong. But on the rare occasion he does, he sure knows how to get out of it. 

So when my angel boy asked for pink birthday cupcakes to take to his preschool friends, I happily obliged. I even spruced them up a bit by adding nonpareil sprinkles to the insides, making them like Funfetti cupcakes. I adapted a recipe from my favorite blogger, Jessica. They were just right!


INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup assorted nonpareil sprinkles + more for top of frosting
DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the milk. Once mixed, add remaining dry ingredients. Fold in assorted sprinkles.
Pour into cupcake tins and fill 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool, then frost.
 Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of milk, if needed
Cream butter in the bowl of an electric mixture until completely smooth and creamy. With the mixer on low speed, add in powdered sugar slowly. Gradually increase mixer speed and add vanilla, then beat for 2-3 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of the bowl. If frosting is too thick, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached If it’s too thin, add sugar gradually until it thickens. Frost cupcakes and top with sprinkles. 

Mar 12, 2012

Bananas Foster Cookies



I sure wish I'd taken the time to get a really good pic of these yummy treats. This pic definitely does NOT do them justice. We were running out the door to go to our church's talent show and I didn't have good lighting or time to really show these babies off.

I'm not a huge banana fan, but I am a lover of sweet carbs (hello, have we met?). This is the perfect blend of sweetness and texture to make these cute treats melt in your mouth. So good!

INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet puff pastry - thawed (half package - can be found in the freezer section of grocery store)
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon milk
3 medium bananas, peeled
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon brown sugar - divided
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 18 muffin cups with cooking spray.

Make egg wash by mixing beaten egg with milk.

Unfold thawed pastry onto lightly floured surface. Roll out into an 18x9 inch rectangle. Brush with egg wash. Use a pizza slicer to cut pastry into 18 (3 inch) squares. Press the pastry into prepared muffin cups. Press center with finger.

Bake 10 minutes. Press center with handle of wooden spoon. Bake 6 to 8 minutes longer or until golden brown. Immediately press again in center. Let cool.

While pastries are cooking, heat 1/2 cup brown sugar, butter, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a pot over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Combine remaining tablespoon of brown sugar with sour cream.

Remove pastries from muffin cups to serving dish and fill with 2-3 slices of bananas. Drizzle brown sugar sauce over the tops and add a spoonful of sour cream mixture. Serve immediately.

Mar 9, 2012

Sweet Potato Burgers

AKA Yamburgers!



These little yummies took a little longer to make than I expected, but in the end, they were worth every minute. They were so full of flavor and texture and deliciousness that I have vowed to make them weekly. I'm thinking of making a huge batch and freezing them. I'll let you know how they work out when I do.

They're also extremely good for you with lots of fiber and vitamins. See? Sometimes I make healthy food too. I don't eat dessert all the time. Well at least not for every meal. Maybe only two out of three.


INGREDIENTS:
2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs.), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
15 oz. black beans, drained
1 cup sweet corn
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup quinoa, cooked
1/2 cup rolled oats
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
Oil for pan frying.

DIRECTIONS:
Cube your potatoes (leaving the skin on) and either oven roast (400f.), steam, or microwave in a large heat-safe bowl with a couple TBSP water until tender - I find the microwave to be a real time saver, and takes about 6-8 minutes. Stop to give them a stir every minute or two, until mashably soft.

Meanwhile, cook your quinoa. A 1/2 cup of dry will make enough for the burgers, but feel free to make extra. Add the quinoa to a small pot over medium heat, and let it toast for a minute or two. Add double the amount of water, bring to a simmer, and cover. Let cook 12-13 minutes, turn off the heat, and let it sit without removing the lid for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, meanwhile... Add your oats to the bowl of your food processor and pulse until it looks like very coarse flour. About 30-40 pulses.

In a large bowl, combine about 2/3rds of the beans, and 2/3rds of the sweet potato. Mash with a potato masher until slightly chunky and not quite smooth. Add in the rest of the beans, sweet potato and all of the seasonings. Give it another mash or two, keeping some of the texture. Add all the other ingredients, and stir to combine.

Heat a skillet over medium-high, and add a drizzle of oil. Form about 1/2 cup of the mixture into a tight ball, then press it between your hands into a patty. Place patties in the hot skillet and cook 4-5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate in the oven to keep warm, and repeat with the rest of the mixture. Add oil and adjust the heat on the pan as needed.

Chipotle Mayo

1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
2-4 tablespoons of milk

Place 1 chipotle pepper, milk, and mayo in blender. Blend until smooth.
Serve on hamburger buns.



Recipe from http://willcookforfriends.blogspot.com/2012/02/yamburgers-with-sweet-potato-fries-for.html
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