Creating memories in the kitchen...One meal at a time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Dinner Ideas

Halloween is such a fun holiday. It's so fun to plan themed meals, especially when there are kids involved. I live in the greatest neighborhood where every year we block off our whole neighborhood and everyone brings chili, baked pastas, and every type of treat imaginable.The adults chat and eat while the kids jump in the bounce houses and visit the cotton candy machine.
I still try to do a Halloween breakfast or some type of festive lunch or dinner close to Halloween just for fun. My sister always has her in-laws over for fun Halloween meals. Whatever you do I hope you find something below that you will enjoy and have a fabulous Halloween!

Taco Soup
Ezra Pound
2 pounds ground beef
1 to 2 diced onions
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (10-ounce) can RO*TEL® diced tomatoes and green chilies
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 (4 1/2-ounce) cans chopped green chiles
1 (1-ounce) envelope taco seasoning
1 (1-ounce) envelope ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
Garnishes: Corn chips, cheese, sour cream, green onions
1. In a large skillet, cook beef and onions over medium heat until beef is no longer pink. Drain, using a slotted spoon, as you transfer browned beef and onions to a Dutch oven, stockpot or slow cooker.
2. Add tomatoes, black beans, pinto beans, corn and green chiles. Stir in the taco seasoning and ranch salad dressing mix.
3. If you’re cooking on the stove top, cover the pot and simmer soup over low heat for 30 minutes up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If you’re using a slow cooker, cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours.
4. Garnish individual servings with corn chips, cheese, sour cream and green onions, if desired.

Jack-O-Lantern Quesadillas
My Recipes
Ingredients :
16 (8-inch) flour tortillas, preferably red or orange
8 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 cups grated pepper Jack cheese (12 oz.)

Preparation :
Preheat broiler to high and place an oven rack about 5 inches from heat source. Line a baking sheet with foil and mist with nonstick cooking spray. Stack 8 tortillas on a cutting board and use a sharp paring knife to trim away some of top, leaving a 1-inch "stem" so tortillas are shaped like pumpkins. Repeat with remaining 8 tortillas. Use a knife to cut two triangles for eyes and a crescent for a mouth into 8 tortillas.

Warm 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add a tortilla without eyes and mouth, sprinkle with a scant 1/2 cup cheese. Cover with cutout tortilla. Cook until underside is golden, 1 to 2 minutes, slide onto baking sheet, and repeat to make three more quesadillas.
Place baking sheet under broiler and broil until tops are golden. Slide onto a serving platter and loosely tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas and cheese. Serve immediately.
Dinner In A Pumpkin
All Recipes
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground pork sausage
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken stock
1 1/2 cups long grain and wild rice mix
1 sugar pumpkin
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 (4 ounce) cans mushroom stems and pieces, drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans French cut green beans
In a large skillet over medium heat, mix ground beef and sausage. Cook and stir until evenly browned. Mix in salt and pepper, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar. Drain meats, and mix in chicken stock and rice. Cover, and cook 25 to 30 minutes, until rice is tender. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Remove and reserve top of pumpkin. Scoop out seeds and stringy pulp. Mix cream of celery soup, cream of mushroom soup, mushroom stems and pieces, and green beans into the beef and sausage mixture. Spoon mixture into the pumpkin, and replace pumpkin top. Place pumpkin on a large baking sheet, and bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until pumpkin is tender. Scoop out portions of filling and parts of the cooked pulp to serve.
Pumpkin Dip
All recipes
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate
In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Gradually mix in the pumpkin. Stir in the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and orange juice until smooth and well blended. Chill until serving. Serve with ginger snaps, fruit, graham crackers, etc...

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Cider Cream
Williams Sonoma

4 baking pumpkins or kabocha squash, each about 2 lb., quartered and seeded
Olive oil as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
6 shallots, thickly sliced
2 celery stalks, thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbs. minced fresh sage
12 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup apple cider, reduced to 2 Tbs. and cooled
Directions:Position 1 rack in the upper third of an oven and 1 rack in the lower third, and preheat to 425°F.
Divide the pumpkins among 2 baking sheets. Drizzle the pumpkins with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkins, cut side down, on the baking sheets. Roast, turning the pumpkins occasionally, until they are tender and beginning to brown, about 45 minutes; rotate the baking sheets halfway through the roasting time. Let the pumpkins cool, then scoop the flesh into a bowl.
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the carrots, shallots, celery, salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, nutmeg and sage and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the pumpkin flesh and broth, cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
In a bowl, whisk the cream until slightly thickened. Whisk in the reduced apple cider until blended. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle with the cider cream. Serve immediately. Serves 12 to 14.
Pumpkin-Shaped Chocolate Cake
2 package(s) (18.25-oz.) chocolate cake mix, plus additional ingredients as directed on package
1 1/4 cup(s) confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon(s) (light) corn syrup
4 teaspoon(s) milk
red and yellow food coloring , or orange, if available, optional
1/3 cup(s) chocolate frosting
1 wafer ice cream cone
1 small tube green decorating icing , optional
edible leaf or petal sugar decorations, for garnish, optional
Mist two standard 12-cup Bundt cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare cake mixes as package label directs for 2 Bundt cakes. Bake as directed. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto wire racks to cool completely. You can also prepare cakes one at a time using the same pan. Meanwhile, prepare glaze: In a small bowl, stir confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup and 4 tsp. milk together with a fork until smooth. Blend in remaining 1 tsp. milk, if necessary, for desired consistency. If you like, use food coloring to tint glaze orange, or just leave glaze white. Trim the flat side of each cake with a serrated knife so it’s even. Place one cake, rounded side down, on a serving plate. Spread chocolate frosting on top (not a thick layer, just enough to hold the two cakes together). Position second cake on top of the first, flat side down. Stir glaze again and drizzle over cake. Invert ice cream cone into hole in top of cake to make the pumpkin’s stem. If you like, use green icing to decorate the cone and arrange edible leaf decorations around it.

Slithering Snake Sandwich
Better Homes and Gardens

1 16-ounce loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
4 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese, diagonally cut in half
4 ounces sliced cheddar cheese, diagonally cut in half
1 3.5-ounce package sliced pepperoni
1 8-ounce can
pizza sauce
1/2 cup red, green, and/or yellow sweet pepper strips
1 strip roasted red sweet pepper
2 pimiento-stuffed olives
1. Place thawed bread dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 22-inch long rope. Place on a large greased baking sheet forming a "snaky S" shape. Let rise in a warm place for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until double in size. Bake in a 350F oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature.
2. Hollow out the center portion of the loaf about 1-inch deep and 1-1/2-inches wide, leaving about 2-inches on each end of the loaf. Layer cheeses down the center of loaf, pressing cheese slices down into the hollowed portion of the loaf. In a medium bowl, stir together the pepperoni and pizza sauce. Spoon atop the cheese. Top with the strips of sweet pepper. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in 350F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.
3. Make a slit in the front of the loaf and insert a roasted red pepper strip for a tongue; insert two pimento stuffed olives with toothpicks for eyes. Makes 8 servings.

Jack-O-Lantern Sloppy Joe Pie
Taste of Home

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 cup frozen corn
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 sheet refrigerated pie pastry
1 egg
Orange paste food coloring
In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salsa and chili sauce until blended; stir into skillet. Add the corn, chilies and brown sugar.
Transfer to a deep-dish 9-in. pie plate. Unroll pastry; place over filling. With a sharp knife, cut out a face to resemble a jack-o'-lantern; flute edges. Beat egg and food coloring; brush over pastry.
Bake at 450° for 9-11 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Yield: 6 servings.

*You could easily do this with a pot pie too*

The Ghost of Monte Cristo Sandwiches
adapted from Martha Stewart
4 slices Country Potato Bakery Bread or any high quality white bread
4 slices Baby Swiss Cheese
2 slices Oven Roasted Breast of Turkey
2 slices Sliced Baked Ham
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
Lay bread slices on work surface. On 2 bread slices, place 1 slice cheese, 1 slice turkey, 1 slice ham, and 1 more slice of cheese; top each with remaining bread slice.
Using a 5-by-4-inch ghost-shaped cookie cutter, cut out a ghost-shaped sandwich; repeat with remaining ingredients. Set aside.
In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, and salt.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Dip each sandwich in egg mixture to coat well on both sides, and place in skillet. Cook, turning once, until golden brown and cheese is melted, about 4 minutes per side. Serve immediately, dusted with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

*I think I am going to make this as French Toast for a fun Halloween Breakfast.*
Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cakes
Paula Deen
1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Fresh whipped cream, for topping
Candy for toppings (recommended: M and M's, Reese's pieces, crushed Snickers, Heath bars, mini chocolates, peanuts)
Special Equipment: 10 (5-inch) removable bottom tart pans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the cake mix, egg and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Divide the mixture into 10-equally sized balls. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand and gently press into the bottom of each tart pan.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs, vanilla and butter. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spoon a scant 1/2-cup of the pumpkin mixture over cake batter in the tart pans and bake for about 40 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing.
Serve with fresh whipped cream and candy topping.
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No Tricks, Just Treats

I have to resign myself to the fact that from now until Jan. 1st there will be way more treats than necessary around here. I gave up long ago trying to be the candy police and do what a good Mom should and dole out a few pieces a day. Instead I just smile when I see their bright orange pumpkins, overflowing with the evening's treasure and beautifully, sticky, Halloween faces. And then I let them eat it. Until it's gone. Is that a crime? I figure they're going to eat it anyway so why not just go for it? Just in case the kids eat all their candy before you can steal some of the good stuff ( a.k.a. chocolate) here are some of my favorites for this year. Am I the only crazy Mom who lets her kids do this ? Tell me I'm not alone in this!
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Cheesy Chili Mac w/ Corn and Green Chilies

First, off the subject, a little funny story for Monday. Apparently Halloween has come early to my house this year. Let me explain. We have a very sweet neighbor who gives out candy to all the school kids walking home on Thursdays. Of course my youngest felt left out so her sweet sister Emma took her over to get some too. Apparently they figured if they could get candy on Thursday why not Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, you get the picture. I apologized to my neighbor for the repeated intrusions but thankfully she just laughed and said it was fine. I had to sit my kids down for a little talk about how it isn't polite to keep asking her for candy everyday.

Today the kids were happily playing in the garage and when it was time for school I noticed they had candy! I asked where they got the candy from and they said, the neighbor, and I said I thought we talked about not going over there everyday, and Emma said oh, not her, the other neighbor to which I replied how did you get candy from them and she said oh, we just knocked on the door and asked! Goodness. What am I going to do?

Well, onto the recipe for today. After the successful homemade mac and cheese,I spotted a similar recipe in the same book for Chili Mac. I've actually never tasted it but what caught my eye was the variation that called for corn, cilantro and diced green chilies! Yum! And as if that wasn't convincing enough it a nice, healthy layer of melted cheese. It was done in about 30 minutes and thanks to the gooey cheese, the little kiddies couldn't even detect the green chilies and gobbled it right up.

Cheesy Chili Mac with Corn and Green Chiles
slightly adapted from The Best Skillet Recipes

**If you want a traditional chili mac, omit the corn, chiles and cilantro**

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 tbsp chili powder (you can reduce this to 3/4 tbsp. if you're worried about too much heat)

1 tbsp ground cumin

3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 lb. ground beef ( the original recipe calls for 90% lean)

15 oz can tomato sauce

2 cups water

8 oz. (about 2 cups) elbow macaroni or 2 1/2 cups small shells

1 8 oz pkg. (2 cups) shredded Mexican cheese blend **I used Colby cheddar**

ground black pepper

1 cup frozen corn

1 4.5 oz can diced green chilies

2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, chili powder, cumin, and salt and cook, stirring often until softened 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic, brown sugar, and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the beef and cook until lightly browned and no longer pink. Drain grease if necessary.

Stir in the water and tomato sauce, then add the pasta. Cover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat to maintain a vigorous simmer until pasta is tender, about 9-12 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in 1 cup of the cheese, corn, green chilies, and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over top, cover , and let stand off heat until cheese melts. Serves 6.

*If you want to kick it up a notch add 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes along with the chili powder*

Posted by: Sallie
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Olive Garden Salad

This is the delicious salad I love to have with the Zuppa Toscana soup. My husband has been in love with the Olive Garden Salad since the first time we ate there and now I can re-create it at home. It's just like eating out only cheaper and healthier. This salad is a favorite of mine too. I love the homemade crutons which are so easy and way better than store bought. The dressing is the perfect mix of flavorful but not too heavy and then there's the kick from the peppers. Yum. This salad goes great with any pasta dish or with some soft, chewy breadsticks for a delicious lunch.

Olive Garden Salad
Sister's Cafe
Olive Garden Salad Dressing:
½ c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. white vinegar
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 Tb. corn syrup
2 Tb. Parmesan cheese
2 Tb. Romano cheese
¼ tsp garlic salt – or one clove garlic, minced
½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp parsley flakes
1 Tb. lemon juice
1 large head romaine lettuce
slices red onion
black olives
2-4 banana peppers
2 small tomatoes, quartered
½ c. croutons
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For homemade croutons:
4 slices sandwich bread
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tb. butter
salt and pepper
dried parsley flakes
Mix all dressing ingredients in a blender until well mixed. If this is a little too tart for your own personal tastes, add a little extra sugar.
Chill one salad bowl in freezer for at least 30 minutes. Put lettuce in bowl. Place on top of lettuce red onions, black olives, banana peppers, tomatoes, and croutons. Add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you like, and add plenty of Olive Garden Salad Dressing on top.
For the homemade croutons:
Cut off crusts of sandwich bread, and cut bread into cubes. Melt butter in small saucepan and add minced garlic. Toss sandwich cubes in the butter and spread out in a pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper and parsley flakes to taste. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°, turning half way through baking.
Posted by: Sallie
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

This is one of those recipes that supposedly came from someone who used to work at the Olive Garden, although it has been adapted to serve 6-8. Not sure if it's the true recipe but it is delicious and one of my favorite soups. Just the thing to warm you up on a crisp fall night. It's brothy and creamy and I love the kick from the red pepper. It's perfect with a delicious salad (that I will post later) and a big basket of warm breadsticks.
Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1½ tsp crushed red peppers
1 large diced white onion
4 Tbsp bacon pieces
2 tsp garlic puree
10 cups water
5 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
¼ of a bunch of kale

Sauté Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.
In the same pan, sauté bacon, onions and garlic for approxiamtly 15 mins. or until the onions are soft.
Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onions, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling.
Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.
Add heavy cream and cook until thoroughly heated.
Stir in the sausage.
Add kale just before serving. Delicious!

Serves 6-8

Posted by: Sallie
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Friday, October 16, 2009

French Bread

My latest kick has been making bread. Maybe it's something about the cool mornings and fresh autumn air that makes me want to bake and fill my house with warm, yummy smells. I found this recipe at Sister's Cafe and it's so great. This bread is soft and tender and just perfect for a variety of recipes or just to go along with some fabulous italian or a bowl of creamy soup. It's one of those recipes that you can multi-task and be making the other part of dinner at the same time. It was really simple and uses everyday ingredients you probably already have. This recipe makes two delicious loaves so you can give one to a friend or use it in one of these delicious recipes :

South of the Border Sandwiches

Grandma’s French Bread

2 ¼ c. warm water

2 T. sugar

1 Tbsp yeast

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp oil

5 ½ -6 cups flour-stirred before measured

First dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm water. Let this proof—or sit for a few minutes until it bubbles. Then add salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and beat well (At this point I switch to my dough/kneading attachment on my Bosch mixer) Add in 2 1/2 -3 more cups of flour. The dough should clean off the sides of the bowl and not be too sticky. Knead for a few minutes. Leave the dough in the mixer to rest for 10 minutes and then stir it down (turn on your mixer for 10 seconds) and then allow to rest another 10 minutes. Repeat for a total of 5 times. Then turn dough onto a floured surface and knead it 2 or 3 times to coat with flour. Divide into 2 equal parts. Roll each part into a 9x13 rectangle. Roll dough up, starting from long edge of loaf to seal. Arrange seam side down on large baking sheet that’s been sprinkled with corn meal, allowing room for both loaves. Repeat with second part of dough. With a sharp knife, cut 3 gashes at an angle on the top of each. Cover lightly; allow to rise 30 minutes. Brush entire surface with egg wash (one egg beaten slightly with 1 Tbsp of water). If desired, sprinkle with sesame seads. Bake for 30 minutes at 375. Cool on racks

NOTE: For a crustier loaf, a pan of hot water may be set on bottom of oven while bread is baking.

Posted by: Sallie
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Melanie over at the Sister's Cafe was just posting about how she is trying to feed her family more vegetarian meals. It reminded me of this delicious meal we had over the summer. This meal is perfect if you're looking for a healthy meal to use up more garden vegetables. It's just a light, delicious and vegetable filled pasta dish mixed with marina and of course cheese! I love Smoked Mozzarella but both Fontina and Smoked Mozzarella can get pretty pricey and are sometimes hard to find. You could easily substitute Gruyere, provolone, regular mozzarella or a good Italian mixture. This is a meal that tastes great and you can feel good about feeding to your family.

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables
Giada De Laurentiis

2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound penne pasta (to make it even more healthy use Barilla Plus Pasta)
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.
In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Posted by: Sallie
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Lunchbox Brownies

I have really been trying hard this year to make all of the kids lunch treats from scratch instead of buying the overpriced, packaged stuff at the store. And even though they're still treats, I just feel a little bit better having made them myself because I know exactly what went into them. These lunchbox brownies turned out perfect. Nice and sturdy and perfect for tucking into the kids lunch bags or for these cute little brownie sundaes. Next time I'll follow my instinct and use muffin tins. Although they came out of the pan okay, it would have been much easier using a muffin tin. You could also make a mini version using a mini muffin tin, just make sure to decrease your baking time. These are also open to lots of different topping ideas- nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles, or toffee chips. The skies the limit!

Lunchbox Brownies
America's Test Kitchen

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped coarse

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped or 1/2 cup any other toppings like mini chocolate chips, toffee chips,sprinkles etc. (optional)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line and 8 in. square pan with a foil sling and grease the foil. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the toasted nuts if using (or other topping). Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached 22 to 27 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
4. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil, cut into squares and serve.
For Muffin-tin Brownies:

Portion the brownie batter into a greased 12-cup muffin tin (about 3 tbsp. per cup), and bake as directed, reducing the baking time to 18-20 minutes.
Posted by: Sallie
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

New York Style Crumb Cake

I'm such a sucker for sweet breakfasts and this one was no exception. Although I've never tasted an authentic New York Crumb cake if it's anything like this, count me in. A delicious , buttery, yellow cake topped with a yummy, struesel-like brown sugar cinnamon crumb topping. This would be delicious addition to any brunch or holiday breakfast.

New York Style Crumb Cake
Cooks Illustrated

Crumb Topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk

Confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.
3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Hints - Don't use all-purpose flour in this recipe as it will result in a tough cake.

When topping the cake be careful not to push the crumbs into the cake.

This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9 x 13 pan. Increase the baking time to about 45 minutes. Cooled leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature up to two days.

Posted by: Sallie
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Thursday, October 8, 2009


Here's a chili recipe my family really likes. I love a good bowl of chili and have several different recipes bookmarked to try this winter. This is a good basic chili recipe. You can easily alter the recipe to suit your tastes. One thing I love about this recipe is that it doesn't have chunks of tomato in it, so my kids will eat it. (That ranks high on the priority list for me. ) Another thing I love is that is can be made in the slow cooker and left to simmer all day. When dinner time rolls around your main dish is already done. I think chili is better the next day so if I can I try to make it the day before.


2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (46 fluid ounce) can tomato juice
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup chili powder

Tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, green onions if desired for garnish.

Place ground beef in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and crumble.
In a large pot over high heat combine the ground beef, tomato juice, tomato sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans, onions, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, oregano, ground black pepper, salt, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. (Note: If using a slow cooker, set on low, add ingredients, and cook for 8 to 10 hours.) Garnish if desired.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Plum Crumble

While visiting our friends Rob and Crystal last weekend in Sunnyvale, we got to experience a real Farmer's Market. They set it up in a parking lot, and farmers from all over the area bring in their freshest produce, which you can sample and purchase right there. One booth had these delicious white plums, so we bought them thinking they would be good for some sort of dessert.
When we got back to the house, I jumped on and found this recipe. We served it along side some non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt for a light, but yet delicious dessert.
It was super easy to prepare and tasted wonderful, still warm right out of the oven!
Plum Crumble
3 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 lb. plums, pitted and thickly sliced
2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1 tsp. five-spice powder

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish with 1 1/2 tsp. of the butter. Combine the plums, orange juice, vanilla and 2 Tbs. of the brown sugar in the prepared dish and toss to coat the plums evenly. Then spread the plums out evenly. Cut the remaining 3 Tbs. butter into small pieces. In a bowl, combine the butter, oats, flour, orange zest, five-spice powder and the remaining 3 Tbs. brown sugar. Using your fingers, rub the ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the plums. Roast the crumble until the topping is browned and crisp and the fruit is bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven. Serve the crumble warm or at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6.
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Beautiful Hamburger Buns

With only 7 simple ingredients I am wondering why I waited so long to make these amazing hamburger buns. All it took was me thinking I had some hamburger buns in the freezer for dinner, which in fact I didn't, and not wanting to drag 4 kids to the store or call the husband, yet again to ask "could you please pick something up on your way home?" Soft and slightly sweet and a beautiful golden yellow, these buns would be perfect for not only burgers but chicken, ham, italian beef sandwiches or sloppy joes . Made smaller they would be excellent for mini sliders. Or, for those little picky eaters (which I'm sure none of you have) just slather them with some good old strawberry jam. They were simple to make and done in about 2 1/2 hours. Much easier and a lot less painful that a trip to the store.

Beautiful Hamburger Buns

King Arthur Flour

3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

1) Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—to make a soft, smooth dough.
2) Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it's doubled in bulk.
3) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round 1" thick (more or less); flatten to about 3" across. Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until very puffy.
4) If desired, brush buns with melted butter. Or brush lightly with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
5) Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, till golden. Cool on a rack. Makes 8.

*Note- brushing with butter will give them a soft, light golden crust. The egg wash will result in a shinier, darker crust.*

Posted by: Sallie
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chicken and Corn Chowder with Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of those things that I didn't learn to appreciate until later in life. As in a year ago. Every time I saw them at Thanksgiving it was something I had no desire to taste. Finally, when trying to eat healthier I tried a plain one cooked just like a baked potato with butter of course, and guess what? It was so delicious. From there I branched out to Sweet Potato Souffle (I don't think I can have another Thanksgiving without this and will have to post it ASAP) and sweet potato fries. They are amazing in this soup and it is now one of my favorite fall meals. It combines both sweet and smoky flavors for a soup that's sure to please.

Chicken and Corn Chowder with Sweet Potatoes
Cooks Country

3 cups whole milk
1 cup yellow corn muffin mix (recommended Jiffy Brand)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion , chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast , cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 sweet potatoes (about 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 cups frozen corn (not thawed)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix milk and muffin mix in bowl until well combined. Meanwhile, heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat until foaming. Add onion and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, chicken, and sweet potatoes. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until sweet potatoes are just tender, about 8 minutes.
2. Stir in milk and muffin mixture and simmer until soup thickens, about 10 minutes. Add cheese and corn and cook until cheese begins to melt, about 2 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper. Serves 8-10. (Soup can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days.)
Posted by: Sallie
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Pumpkin Muffins and Pumpkin Marmalade

Last weekend, Vince and I went to Sunnyvale, California to visit our dear friends Rob and Crystal. To thank them for being such good hosts to us all weekend, I brought them some homemade pumpkin muffins and pumpkin marmalade. Both turned out really good and we were munching on them all weekend.

Pumpkin Muffins
adapted from Alton Brown

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup pecans
1/4 cup sugar in the raw

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Line a muffin baking pan with 18 muffin tins and spray with cooking spray.
Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Combine both mixtures and fold in the shredded pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. Once the ingredients are all incorporated pour into muffin pan. Sprinkle sugar and pecans on top.
Bake for 30minutes. At this point a knife inserted into the middle of the muffins should come out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Pumpkin Marmalade
from Better Homes and Gardens

2 cups cooked fresh pumpkin puree or one 15-oz. can pumpkin
1 cup orange marmalade
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

In a medium saucepan combine cooked fresh pumpkin puree, marmalade, and ginger. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and cool. Serve as a spread with cheese and bread. Makes about 3 cups or 24 (2-tablespoon) servings. Spread will keep in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Makes about 3 cups spread (24, 2 tablespoon servings)

Posted By: Julia

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Ranchero Mexi-Chicken Crostada

Everyone has those nights when they're wondering how they're going to get a meal on the table. This meal is perfect because It's made from simple ingredients you can keep on hand and it comes together without much work. It's also one that lets you use your imagination. You could easily substitute shredded beef for the chicken, change the kinds of cheese you use, maybe even throw in a can of black beans (rinsed and drained) for something extra. It's also delicious and hard to believe it's so easy to make. The tomatoes and green chilies give it a delicious kick and the cilantro adds a great fresh flavor. Just the word Crostada conjures up something special and no one ever has to know how easy it was.

This could also work as a great football snack. Serve with some tortilla chips and queso dip. Yum!

Ranchero Mexi-Chicken Crostada
Picky Palate

1 roll Pillsbury Pie crust, thawed
1 can chunk chicken (from Costco), or about 1 ½ Cups cooked shredded chicken
1 drained can Mild Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies
½ Cup fresh chopped cilantro leaves
1 Teaspoon Ranch dressing seasoning, from packet that makes the dip
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of salt and pepper
½ Cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon Lawry’s garlic salt with parsley

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Unroll pie crust and place onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non stick cooking spray.
2. Place chicken, tomatoes, cilantro, ranch seasoning, cumin, salt and pepper into a large bowl. With a fork, stir and cut up chicken pieces until well combined. Pour chicken mixture into the center of pie crust and top with cheddar cheese, leaving about 1 ½ inch border around edges. Fold crust up over chicken forming little pleats every 2 inches or so pressing gently. Brush edges with olive oil and sprinkle crust with garlic salt.
3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown on edges. Let cool for 5 minutes then cut into wedges to serve.

Posted by: Sallie

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Gooey Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies

Photo Courtesy of Mommy's Kitchen

This is another favorite brownie recipe of mine. The chewy brownie, gooey marshmallow, and rich chocolate frosting are the perfect combo. They're super simple and always a crowd pleaser.
It makes a whole jelly roll pan so it's perfect for feeding a big group.

Gooey Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies
Andrea Wittwer


2 cubes butter, softened

1/3 cup cocoa

2 cups sugar

Mix until fluffy.


4 eggs (beat well after each addition)

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp. vanilla

Mini Marshmallows

Spread on greased Jelly-roll pan. Bake 10-15 minutes or until done. remove from oven and cover with mini marshmallows. Bake 3 more minutes or until marshmallows are melted. Cool for one hour. Then frost.


1/3 cup cocoa

1 cube butter, softened

1 2/3 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup canned evap. milk

Mix all ingredients until smooth. Frost after brownies have cooled for 1 hour.

*Note- You may substitute your favorite brownie mix (you'll need two boxes) for the brownie recipe above. Make according to package directions for CAKE-LIKE brownies.

Posted by: Sallie

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Easy Chicken Pot Pie

This is my favorite easy recipe for chicken pot pie and this is the perfect time of year to make it. I usually just use the Pillsbury ready made pie crusts but homemade will work as well. I love dinners like this that I can just throw together, add a salad and wa la. Dinner is served. Amazingly, even though none of my kids like peas they will all eat this. This is a definite family favorite.

Chicken Pot Pie
Jen Jerman

1 10 oz. package peas & carrots

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup onion, diced

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 3/4 cup chicken broth

2/3 cup milk

2 1/2-3 cups diced chicken or turkey

pastry for 2 pie crust (1 for top and 1 for bottom)
Rinse frozen peas and carrots in cold eater to separate. Drain. Heat butter in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat until melted. Stir in flour, onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly, remove from heat. Stir in broth and milk. heat to boiling stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in chicken and vegetables.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Ease pie crust into pie pan. Pour chicken mixture into pastry-lined pan. Top with remaining pie crust. Turn edges under and flute. Bake about 35 minutes or until golden brown. 6 servings.

Posted by: Sallie

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Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

In an attempt to get my kids to actually eat at dinner time I tried two different versions of this recipe which were both a great success.I'll post the first one today. Let me just say that even though I made this for the kids my husband and I enjoyed it too. My favorite part of this recipe is that it is actually creamy, not a stringy, gloppy, cheesy mess. See my notes at the bottom for a one pot dinner.
Creamy Macaroni & Cheese
Cooks Country
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (see note)
Salt and pepper
3 3/4 cups water , plus more as needed
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
3 cups elbow macaroni
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons hot sauce
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl and wipe out skillet.
2. Bring water, 1 1/4 cups evaporated milk, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to simmer in skillet over medium-high heat. Add macaroni and cook, stirring often, until macaroni is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Whisk remaining evaporated milk, cornstarch, and hot sauce in small bowl, then stir into skillet. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in cheeses, one handful at a time, adding water as needed to adjust consistency. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs. Serves 4.
*Bread Crumbs- This recipe recommends homemade breadcrumbs which are totally optional. If you would like to make them simply pulse 2 slices of hearty white sandwich bread in a food processor until coarsely ground.*
Ham and Pea Variation: Follow the recipe, adding 4 ounces deli-style baked ham, diced medium, and 1/2 cup frozen peas to the skillet with the cornstarch mixture in step 3.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Black Bottom Coconut Bars

I've been a slacker lately when it comes to the Cookie Carnival but as soon as they e-mailed the recipe for this month I knew I was in. The bottom layer is a rich chocolate brownie then topped with a chewy macaroon like coconut topping. They came together fairly easily and quickly, and used ingredients I had already. Bonus, I think they look so pretty. I refrigerated mine and they cut up really nicely. I think they would look great on a plate or in a celaphane bag with a pretty bow as a gift. I wish my brother in law Vince lived closer I'd rush some right over as he is a big fan of coconut.

Black Bottom Coconut Bars
Martha Stewart
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 package sweetened shredded coconut (7 ounces), 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling
For chocolate base: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil (not overhang).
Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; melt in microwave. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake just until sides begin to pull away from edges of pan, 10 to 15 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.
For coconut topping: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and coconut (except 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling).
Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup coconut.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan, peel off foil, and cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days. Makes 24 bars. *I beg to differ. Those would be really small portions. I got about 16 out of mine.*
Posted by: Sallie
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