Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Slow Cooker Italian Style Stuffed Peppers

Ok so here is the scenario.............

You are invited to your kids house for dinner.  Your daughter in law and son are both good cooks.  But when you walk in the house  you just know THIS time is going to be different.  You sit down to dinner, and literally moan and groan over each bite of deliciousness.  This is what happened to me. 


My daughter in law and I have a great relationship.  Shocked? HA!  Oh we butt heads, we disagree, but, I just adore her strength, her mothering, her sense of humor, she is just a delight.  (sometimes a sick little delight) ROFL  Anyway, she was kind enough to tell me how she made these stuffed peppers and said that her mom-mom (eastie speak for grandma btw) has made these for years, ths way. 

I am not sure I recall my mom ever making stuffed peppers, I only had eaten them as an adult.  And I have a strange relationship with bell peppers.  If they are cooked, I want them to resemble mush.  If they are warm and crisp tender, I might hurl.  Cold and crispy or hot and soft.  Those are their only chance with me!  Kayla had said she left hers in to long, psshhh......not a chance, they were perfection!  My measurements and such may not be the same as hers but I got the whole idea and made them to share with you. 

I like the idea of the Italian style, I served mine with a little pasta and that heavenly sauce that took on the roasted pepper flavor, was nectar from the Gods.  It tasted VERY much like my Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Marinara.  It was like a meatball, in a smooshy pepper, on some pasta, topped with this sauce, and my goodness was it a delight.

Make these, in your SLOW COOKER!!  I swear it is what this kitchen appliance was MADE for!

This recipe makes 6 peppers.  I used a couple of different colors, for interest.  But next time, I am sticking with green on this one, not generally what I would choose but they hold up the best in my opinion!

You will need:

2lbs lean ground beef
3/4 cup regular rice (not minute)
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 bell peppers
4-6 cups of your favorite marinara/spaghetti sauce

In a large bowl combine ground beef, rice, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Get your hands in there, become one with your food!! Mix until completely combined.  Set aside.

To prepare your peppers, cut the tops off, just beneath the stems.  Use a spoon to scrape out the sides and membranes (the white stuff), rinse and repeat. 

Now start stuffing.  This will depend on size, but I had exactly the right amount of stuffing to exactly fill all 6 peppers.  You can take some, add some, whatever you need to do to fill your peppers. 


Spray the inside of your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray, it just makes clean up easier.  Place the peppers in the crock pot, and pour over your spaghetti sauce.  Make sure each is topped with sauce and there is some standing in the bottom.  Put the lid on and cook for 4 hours on high or 6-8 on low.  Now by all means, don't cook these quite as long if you want a more crisp pepper.


Serve with some crusty bread, or pasta, or both!  These are a delicious version of stuffed peppers and I do hope you give it a try!

Thanks Kay for your recipe!  Love you toots!

ENJOY!

Monday, January 26, 2015

3 Layer Chili Dip

Who is gearing up for the SUPER BOWL?  Not me, and as far as I can tell it will be a long time before my Eagles are in the running again.  Unhappy camper, can you tell? 


I know so many of you are planning big parties, lots of friends, family, food and drink, (please do NOT forget the drinks).  Do you ask everyone to bring something or do you do all the food prep yourself? This is a really easy dip that my son made a couple of months ago when we went over to watch an Eagles game.  He said someone he knew in Georgia  (where he was stationed) had made it and he loved it so he had made it ever since.  I am sure it isn't a new recipe, it is to easy and good for it to have not been around the block a few times!! 

It is delicious, it literally takes 5 minutes to put together and 25 minutes in the oven to to warm up.  I like to serve it with Frito Scoops, but tortillas are awesome as well.  Do what makes you happy!!

GOOD LUCK to your team!! 

You will need:
2, 8oz. blocks of cream cheese
2 cans of chili with no beans
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

In a square or round baking dish or pie dish, spread out the cream cheese in an even layer.  Easy enough, right


 
Next, pour in both cans of chili and spread evenly as well.  I somehow, did NOT photograph this step.  I am sure you can handle it though! HA!  Then add the grated cheddar on top and this is what you will pop in the oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until it is bubbly!
 

Serve up with your favorite chips.  Grab a cold one and enjoy the game!  I...will be shopping!

ENJOY!!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

500th Post!!! Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

Good morning ladies and gents!  Another dessert!  WOOHOO!  Seriously, this is getting a BIT out of control.  I mean, these may not go live back to back but I have literally made 4 desserts in less than a week.  It just happened that way.  Good thing I have lots of family to share with! 


Before I get started, take a look at the piece I cut out and the place I cut it from.  Seriously?  I can't even cut a proper triangle?  Very sad.  BUT interesting, right? HA!

Oh and one more TINY thing.  This is officially my 500th post!  What does this mean to me?  It means 500 times I have sat down at my computer to share food, fun, love, and memories.  I have made loving fun of nearly everyone in my family, and I have been able to share it with you, my Chefwannabe family, the extension of my real family.  Thank you for every bit of support, every ounce of advice, every teaspoon of criticism, even ever single gulp of pride.  I love you all, I respect you all, and you are pure joy in my life.  How many people get to be so blessed?  I count myself as one of those who are!  Crazy love to you every single one of you!

This ricotta cheesecake has been so long coming.  I have eaten it several times, back in the land of my Italian family and friends!  HOLLA South Jersey!  I have just tried to make it myself.  You will see it is so easy to make.  I mean, I used to be all intimidated by cheesecake.  Shhyeeaaahh, not anymore.  I had no recipe for this cheesecake.  In fact, I picked a part a few recipes I found and ended up ditching half the ingredients I came across.  I decided to fly with it, go with my gut on this one and it worked.  I mean, come on food bloggers and home cooks alike, how many times do you "get it" on the first try?  Exactly!.  And  then I decided to take the "no water bath" part from the Cake Boss and see if it really worked.  I figured if it cracks, and tastes like crap I learned two lessons in one day! 

Now, for anyone has never had a ricotta cheesecake.  Do not expect the texture of a regular cheesecake.  It is the same slight sweet flavor, I omitted the lemon, (ugh with the lemons already) and probably left out the most vital Italian ingredients.  But this turned out awesome and I had to share it with you.  The consistency is a bit grainy, maybe not grainy, hmm...what is it.  It has texture, where regular cheesecake it just smooth.  This is much lighter than a New York cheesecake so if you don't like the dense cheesecake this might be for you.  If you don't like light cheesecakes this may STILL be for you! 

Give it a try, and if you feel so inclined, add the lemon zest, but you aren't going to find it in my recipe!

Now, go, make this!

32 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
4 eggs, separated whites and yolks
2 T. heavy cream
2 cups cup granulated sugar
1 T. vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  In your stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat egg whites to a medium peak.  If they go a bit further, no biggie, just get them to at least medium peaks and set aside. 


This part I do in the food processor, but you can easily just do it with a bowl and a spoon.  In a large bowl or the food processor, add in ricotta cheese, egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla.  Mix until combined, or process until smooth and combined. 

 
Transfer to a large bowl if you need to.  Carefully, fold the egg whites into the ricotta cheese filling, in 3 editions.  You don't want to lose all of that beautiful fluff!  When it is completely combined, butter a 9 inch spring for pan WELL.  Bottom and sides.  Pour the cheesecake mixture into the spring form pan, and then give it a slight tap or two on the counter to get out any air bubbles.
 
 
Now place into the oven and IMMEDIATELY turn your oven down to 350.  Let back 55 minutes. and then shut the oven off.  DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT open the door and it shouldn't crack!  No need for the pain in the rear water bath!  When the 55 minutes is up, slightly crack the oven door, and shut off the oven, let the cheesecake sit in the oven until it comes to room temperature.  Chill for at least 2 hours.  I chilled mine overnight. 

Look Ma, no cracks!
Run a knife around the edges, and remove the sides of your spring form pan.  I heavy hand the powdered sugar on top, because, well, I like too!

Enjoy this delicious and unique dessert that will make you look like a rock star!







Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cheeseburger Mac

Ok, truth time.  How many of you are fans of Hamburger Helper?  Don't worry, no judgment here, I use it sometimes as well.  So easy, quick and throw it with a veggie or salad and call it dinner right?   Back in the day we were one Hamburger Helpin' family.  Between practice for swimming, or football, dances, baseball, work, social lives, etc., it was just so dang handy and quick.  I wasn't as much of a cook as am I now back in those early days of marriage and family so we do the best with what we have, right?


Jump ahead to now.  I by no means am an ingredient princess.  I am guilty of rarely reading ingredients, but more and more often it is occurring to me to do so.  (baby steps friends, baby steps).  I mean, am I the only one who can't pronounce half the stuff on most ingredient lists?  I don't need preservatives, because I am making it fresh.  Does mine taste EXACTLY like Hamburger Helpers Cheeseburger Macaroni or whatever it is?  Heck no.  I think it is better!  I suppose if you want to change out the grated cheddar for Velveeta or something it might taste more like the cheese powder we all know and love.  (or don't love).  Notice mine isn't yellow/orange!  You can add your own spices, put own little spin on it.  How about some chili powder and Monterey jack cheese for a little "chili mac" inspiration?  I could go on and one but as a mom, I know how precious these one pot recipes are.  This fed 4 people just fine, but double it, if you have growing boys and girls and hungry parents!!

You Will Need:
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. butter
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups milk
4 1/2 cups short cut pasta of your choice (uncooked)
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a medium pot, brown hamburger, adding in garlic, onion powder, salt and black pepper.  Drain ground beef if it gives off to much fat. 


Add back to your pot and add in butter, water, milk and pasta. 


Place a lid on the pot and bring to a simmer for the amount of time recommended on your pasta package.  Stir every couple of minutes to minimize sticking.  When the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat and add cheeses. 


Stir until melted.  Let sit a couple of minutes before serving. 

I hope you enjoy this one pot dinner.  I know as a mom, of a once busy child, how much these "one potters" are cherished!!

ENJOY!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cinnamon S'more Krispies

Who doesn't love the darn things?  S'mores that is, melty chocolate, sticky marshmallow, and cinnamon cereal?  Hold up.  HOLD up.  Right? 


Cinnamon Toast Crunch is without a doubt my favorite cold cereal.  I don't treat myself often but when I do, don't plan on getting a single solitary crunchy, cinnamon-ee, square of goodness, because they are mine, ALL mine.  We clear?  I have been on this cinnamon and chocolate combo kick lately.  You know, the same way some people think lemon makes everything amazing? Blech.  Or the way some people think nutmeg in white sauce makes it amazing? Double blech.  That is the way I like it.  In your head you are likely thinking, "screw her, cinnamon and chocolate SUCKS".  We are all entitled to our own opinions. As my dad used to say...  Well I am sure you know how the saying goes!

One of my other favorite worldly things is rice crispy treats.  Dear Lord in heaven, what I won't do to get one if I get the urge.  I fear for my own safety.  I definitely fear for the safety of anyone trying to slow my efforts.

So,  I just thought, heck, lets combine it.  Rice crispy treats made out of cinnamon toast crunch AND add chocolate.  Forgetaboutit.

This is very likely not the last rice crispy type of treat you will see here.  I am on a mission to make as many different kinds as possible.  I literally just had another idea.  Be right back need to get it written down.  I almost died when I took a bite of these.  Yes, I took a lot of bites ok, but we aren't TALKING about that. 

Please stop looking at me like that. 

These are easy and just a little change from the beautiful classic we know as rice crispy treats.  Get ready folks, I am about to bring you Cinnamon S'more Krispies!

You will need an 9x9 or 8x8 square pan or the equivalent, of some sort. (statements like this is why I will never be a cookbook writer or real chef)  It's ok, I like "Wannabe" status.  It makes sure people don't expect duck confit, with a raspberry reduction, topped with lightly steamed leaves from the rainforest and garnished with monkey toenails and stuff. 

1/2 cup butter
10 oz. bag of jumbo marshmallows
5-6 cups cinnamon toast crunch cereal or the generic version works perfect as well
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. package of milk chocolate chips

In a large pot get that butter melted, and toss in those marshmallows.  Stir constantly because let's be real, the ish burns in like 2 seconds if you don't.  And don't even try that whole "OMG I am going to stick my finger in and taste it".  See what happens. 

Anyway when it is all melted, add the vanilla, and then mix in the squares of cinnamon gold.  I go light, closer to the 5 cup side, but I don't dig dry treats, if you want to add closer to 6 you will still be fine.  Press down with a buttered rubber spatula or, butter hands.  As you can see in my photo, I still never get them even side to side, always a thicker spot.  Now, melt your chocolate, 15 seconds at a time in the microwave, until melted and spread on the top.  You can also just sprinkle your chips on top, pop in the micro for 20-30 seconds and they will be melted enough to spread.  Let sit at room temp until the chocolate is set.  You can speed this up by putting them in the fridge for an hour and then take them out and let them sit at room temp or you will need to see a dentist.  Fair warning.

Hope you love them, as much as I do!  In fact comment below and tell me how you feel about cinnamon and chocolate together!

ENJOY!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cake Mix Vanilla Chip Sprinkle Cookies

Hello my dear friends!

It is about 5pm in the evening. I am listening to some classical piano music, only a lamp on in my "office".  One sister just visited, and we spent the afternoon just chatting, watching some TV, etc.  We had some coffee, and just had a really nice visit.  I was just thinking how nice it is to unplug, power down, and just talk.  Find out what is going on in each others lives, etc.  We seem to find less and less time to do this.  Call someone you haven't seen or "talked" to lately, have coffee or a soda together.  Don't text them or call them, see them, face to face if you can.  It is like the lost art of human contact.  I have no idea what got me off on that tangent or what in the heck it has to do with my cookies but....  I think I am just in a deep thoughts kind of mood.  Yea, maybe that is it.


So here are my cookies!  Finally, right?  I was inspired by the Pillsbury website, when I got a link for these in my spam folder.  I am in another "use up" phase so I modified the recipe to my taste, and what I needed to use up!  They are sweet for sure, but I think they are delish.  I think they would be fun to do with chocolate cake mix, and add cherry flavor and maybe a cherry on top.  Add some white chips maybe?  Oh, as always the possibilities are endless but this is my version, I hope you try it!

Ingredients:
1 box white cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract (choose any flavor you like)
1/2 cup vanilla chips
3 T. sprinkles
flour
flat bottom glass or your fingers

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Lay your cookie sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. 

In your stand mixer or large bowl combine dry cake mix, eggs, oil, vanilla chips and sprinkles.  Stir or mix just until combined.  Your dough will be a week bit sticky, no problem.

Using a cooking scoop or roll about 1 inch size balls of dough.  Fill up your trays and then tip your fingers OR your flat bottom glass in flour and press the balls down until they are about 1/4 inch thick.  Nobody is coming to your house to measure, so just flatten them out a bit, not all the way but a bit.  Sprinkle the top with extra sprinkles so that everyone knows that fun that is inside!  Bake for 8 minutes.  Mine took literally exactly that amount of time.  They won't get really browned, unless you burn them, they will just get slightly golden!  Let cook for 5 minutes on a cookie sheet to cool before removing.

These are easy and fun, and I wish I had this recipe back in the day of "oh I need to take 2 dozen of something to this meeting in an hour".  They are happy, tasty and cheery.  Most of all they are easy and easy to customize!

This recipe should yield you 2 dozen cookies.  (unless you eat some dough and only get 23)

ENJOY!








Monday, January 12, 2015

Mom's Vegetable Beef Soup

Ahh, this is a good food memory for me.  Sometimes the simplest things are the best.  And this soup is proof of that, in my opinion anyway!


As a family of 12, yes, 2 parents, and 10 kids, money was always tight.  My dad at the time was a high school dropout who signed himself into the military at at 16, and my mom had begun her young adult life as a model and then a teacher.  (lingerie, undergarments and wedding gowns, you GO girl)    Look at these two hottie parents of mine!

Back to the point at hand.  We had a HUGE garden.  We grew nearly everything we ate.  The garden was always full of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, rhubarb, corn, and lettuce, or broccoli.  It would get canned and frozen for winter, my mom had a huge canning room downstairs.  Those tomatoes would become crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, and the cucumbers would be come 200 jars of my moms famous dill pickles.  (My mouth is actually watering just thinking of pickles, HER pickles) The green beans would be canned sometimes with a little bacon, the corn would be cut off the cob and frozen, carrots would be canned, etc.  I used to look at it as a necessity, it was how we got food, now I look at it as a complete blessing, we ate all of that whole, great, homegrown, non processed food everyday.  Any fruit became jellies, or were frozen for pies, she made relish, I mean, she kind of did a lot of everything!

As hard as times would be, we never once didn't have food.  We often joke how there would be only 1 lb. of hamburger to 3lbs of pasta in the goulash,  but if there was a time when there might not be enough, my dad would just take on another job, and another job.  He was usually carrying his full time job trying to grow his insurance agency and 3 or 4 part time jobs. (sports broadcaster, carpet cleaner, jail tending, newspaper printing, school bus driver, etc.)  He believed in working hard to provide and somehow, he seemed to have time for us in between when he was home.  My mom worked full or part time most of the time and that is just how it went.  We all had our weight to pull and we just did it, no arguing, no entitlement, because we knew it was part of being a family, all for one and one for all. 

So with that bit of history comes this recipe.  The ingredients can easily be cross referenced to what we grew in our family garden.  I suppose you could add any vegetables you wanted but, this is how mom made it, and this is how we loved it.  While my mom wasn't big into spices or herbs, I do add a few to mine now.  I will write those in as optional.  My mom would also use fresh canned stock.  This is something I do still, I can't live without fresh stock, but I freeze mine instead of canning it.  The "beef" part of this recipe for us as kids would have been a marked down soup bone at the store that we always loving referred to as "used meat" and the bits of meat that were left would be the beef in our soup.  As much or little as it gave off, is as much or little that was in the soup.  I use stew meat now, and cut each chunk into really small pieces.  So while I have to use canned tomatoes now, the veggies are a collection of leftovers from evening meals, all dumped into one gallon size freezer bag.  So when I write the recipe it will be for a gallon freezer bag full of veggies.  Those can be veggies of your choice. Depending on the leftovers the soup might be corn heavy, or carrot heavy but that is just the luck of the draw and what changes it just a little bit every single time.  Maybe you don't have as many green beans in your freezer bag as you want, so add some more, no biggie at all!   So, while I can't give you exact measurements on the veggies, just use a gallon bag and pour in what you have I guess, when it gets full, that will be the right amount!  If you add any canned veggies pour their juice in as well!  Free flavor friends!  Free flavor!


Oh, and one more thing, feel free to do this in a large slow cooker.  Let it simmer on low all day.  It will be perfection!

If you are going to use a soup bone, go ahead and add a bay leaf and some peppercorns when you cook it!!  My mom just called and told me not to forget that!  I thought she cooked the soup bone IN the soup but NO!  Cook it separate in water, with the peppercorns and bay leaves.  When it is done pick off the meat and get rid of the peppercorns and bay leaf!   She put bay leaves in EVERYTHING!

You will need:
28-30 oz. plain tomato sauce
32 ounces beef stock
2-3 beef bouillon cubes
14 oz. diced tomatoes with juice
4-6 medium size potatoes, peeled and diced into a medium size
1 med-large finely diced onion (just depends on how much onion you like)
1 lb (or more if you choose) of beef stew meat cut into small pieces or a soup bone!
1 gallon freezer bag of leftover frozen veggies.
salt and pepper to taste

Seasonings (Optional) My mom would be MORTIFIED to see this list of "extras"! HAHA
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning

In your slow cooker or large soup pot, add ALL ingredients including seasonings if you are using them.  My mom would NOT have.  In a soup pot, simmer for approx. 1-2 hours.  If you do this in the morning, and then let it cool and refrigerate and then reheat for dinner it will be the BOMB.  If you simmer it and eat it, it will also be the bomb.  In a slow cooker, set on low and let it go a good 4-6 hours.  Set it on keep warm until ready to eat it.  Let those flavors soak each other up.


We would eat this with plain old store brand sliced bread and butter.  Lord have mercy when I ate this last night I was transported right back to my moms tiny 8x10 kitchen, with pink walls, peeling up linoleum, and counter tops that were probably a health hazard!  

My parents financial hardships may be a thing of years gone by, and that kitchen has been all redone, (still small) but the lessons it taught me as a child are priceless.  I wouldn't have had it any other way.  I know what hard work is,  I know how to do it, I know what it gets you and now my parents have retired, and enjoy their lives doing what they want as their health allows.  Thanks mom and dad for working hard for us, and I am so glad it paid off now, for you. 

Enjoy this pot of my childhood.  And remember, it makes a huge batch and I can promise you, it will taste even better the next day!

Love and Blessings friends..........