Friday, September 28, 2012

Not your mom's CINNAMON ROLLS!

That's right, that is what I said.  These are NOT my mom's cinnamon rolls!  Her rolls were always a treat on holidays or for big events.  I learned one thing from my mom and that is, everything doesn't have to be SO MUCH WORK to be amazing.  It seems like it took my mom 2 days to make cinnamon rolls, and I grew up thinking they were this intense labor of love when in reality, these are ready beginning to end in maybe 3 hours.  Ok, maybe 4 with rise time.  Regardless, they are so easy. These cinnamon rolls are so light, so moist and just amazing.  And for the record kids, it is a new day, and these rolls o' mine are incredible, better than hers!  Make them, you can be the judge!

Now, as far as cinnamon rolls go, I like them plain.  I mean, no extemporaneous crap, raisins, nuts, etc.  I want them dead fly free *raisins*, I want everything in my life raisin free in fact.  So those things are all optional and I won't write them into the recipe because we discussed it here.  Also, it is possible that I used more brown sugar than what is called for, for the filling.  Sue me.  You know you will too. 

OH, one more thing about these lovelies.  They freeze SO well.  After the dough rises and you get the rolls cut and put in the pan, this is where you seal them up tightly with foil and put in the freezer.  When you want to bake them, you take them out of the freezer the night before, and set them on your stove top to thaw and raise, they will be ready for morning baking!  Just an FYI. 

Ok, let me give you the icing recipe first, you can get it made and get it done with.....
(Btw, I am writing this in the order it goes.  I hate having to scroll up and then down and then up and then down for measurements and directions so you will need to scroll down and under each green heading are ingredients you will need!)

Cinnamon Roll Frosting
4 ozs softened cream cheese
4 tbsp softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar/icing sugar/confectioners sugar
1 tbsp milk/cream/half and half/flavored coffee creamer
Combine all ingredients and set aside!
 Cinnamon Rolls
1 pkg dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water at 110-115 degrees
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4-4 1/2 cups flour

In a measuring cup place hot water and 1 tsp sugar.  Put a thermometer in it and if it is to hot, wait for it to cool to 110-115 degrees.  I know some people say they always kill the yeast so better to have it to hot and have to wait for it to cool a bit.  I do it like this and just wait for it to get to the temp I want!

When it gets to the correct temperature add in your packet of yeast, give it a tiny stir and remove thermometer.  Let sit 3-4 minutes.  It should get foamy on the top!

Now in a bowl or stand mixer  (using your dough hook) add in the egg, milk, melted butter, sugar and salt.  Mix until combined.  Now add in the yeast mixture, flour, cinnamon, and vanilla.  I mig ht have slipped and added extra vanilla too!  I always do, you know that! HA!

Now once you get it all combined, by hand or machine, either knead it for 3-4 minutes until smooth, or let it go in the stand mixer the same amount of time, or until smooth. 

Turn the dough out into a buttered, or sprayed with non stick cooking spray, or oiled bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and sit in a warm, draft free place.  Sometimes I turn the oven on to preheat for baking and set the bowl on the stove top.  This could take an hour, or it could take 3 hours.  The warmer the area, the faster it will happen.  It should about double in size!

When it is doubled in size, take it out of the bowl unto a floured surface.  Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape.  It should be about...hmmm.....14-16 by about 10-12.  Never thought about it, just always did it!  What comes next is the filling and here is what you will need for that....

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup VERY soft butter (can melt and use a pastry brush as well)
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Spread the butter over the dough, make sure to get it covered everywhere!  Sprinkle brown sugar evenly and then the cinnamon. 

Get your oven preheated to 350 degrees.

Now, why didn't I take a photo of this part?  Grr.  Starting at the bottom start rolling the dough, go from the bottom and work your way across so it is eventually all rolled up.  When you get to the end, pinch the seam together.  Now you could get up to about 14-16 out of this, but I get 12.  I like tall, substantial rolls.  So using a serrated knife, gently cut it in half and then go from there.  However many you want out of the roll, make it happen!  If you cut them thinner and get 14-16, make usre to take 5 minutes or so off of your bake time!

When they are cut, put them into a generously buttered 9x13 pan.  I fit 12 perfectly.  Get them situated and then cover them with a clean dish towel and let raise again, for approx 1 hr.  If you have your oven on, and use my trick, it won't take that long. 
Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove them from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  I turn mine out unto a large cookie sheet because I find them easier to cut and serve that way.  You have to flip flop a couple of times to get them right side up on the cookie sheet but I trust your problem solving skills will take you far in this one!  I then frost them with half of the frosting.  I wait until they are nearly completely cooled to put the rest of the frosting on.  Some of it melts into the roll and you still have plenty on top!

If you you are making these for a holiday, I find it pleasant to sprinkle them with sprinkles in the appropriate colors for your holiday.  I didn't do it here so that you could just see the roll.

Whoa.........was THAT fun or what?!?!

Now get some coffee on, and let's sit down and discuss how awesome these are.  If you wait to long you might have to give it 20 seconds in the microwave to warm it up because that is always how they taste best in my opinion!

Enjoy this sweet treat!!

Your "loves all things cinnamon"chefwannabe

Adapted from: Laura In The Kitchen

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Better Than Sex Cake!

Ok, so you KNOW a woman named this cake, right?  NO man would go there.  I mean, am I wrong about this?  Yea, didn't think so.

So, I thought EVERYONE knew what this was.  When I posted about it on Facebook, I got lots of different versions, some completely different and some variations of how I make it.  I could think of 10 different ways to change this up, but I stuck with the recipe that I have always known and always LOVED! 

I would not advise asking your husband if he wants any of this before bed.

This recipe calls for caramel.  I don't particularly enjoy the ice cream topping variety.  I decided to make mine from sweetened condensed milk.  Let me tell you how I do this.  Take one can (for this recipe anyway) of sweetened condensed milk.  Put it in a pot that is much taller than the can.  Fill it with water and make sure the entire can is submerged.  They say if you let the can peek out of the water there is a chance of it exploding.  Some scientific yadda yadda I don't need to hear about, just make sure the can is covered.  Put it over medium-high  heat, until it comes to a boil, cover and turn your burner as low as you can while still keeping it actively simmering.  I cover mine with a lid to keep the water from evaporating to quickly.  I check it every 30 minutes for water level.  After 3 hours, remove the can with some tongs, and set on a hot pad or in the sink and let it come to room temperature.  Open the can after cooling and you have a can of awesome caramel.   You can feel free to go get some ice cream topping, but, be awesome and just try this!

First you need a chocolate cake baked in a 9x13 pan.  I don't care if it is from scratch, or out of a box, because you know how I feel about that.  So get it made, and while it is baking gather up the rest of your ingredients...

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can caramelized sweetened condensed milk or 14 ozs of caramel topping
3-4 Heath or Skor Bars (crumbled) or 1 bag of chocolate toffee bits (found by choc chips)
1 regular sized container of whipped topping (or make your own)

When you take your cake out of the oven, poke holes in it, with either the handle of a wooden spoon or something similar in size.  Pour over the can of sweetened condensed milk and let it absorb.  Then spread over your caramel sauce and let it sit 30 minutes in the fridge or if it is cool let it sit an hour on the counter.  You want the caramel to cool and set so the whipped cream doesn't melt off.  When it is ready cover the top with whipped cream and toffee bits.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

So you be the judge.  IS this a true "Better Than Sex Cake"?   If you actually answer that question below, please, use an alias, we don't need anyone in divorce court!

This cake is awesome, and a long time family favorite, I hope you enjoy it too!

Your "who can think about sex when you have a huge piece of cake" chefwannabe

Monday, September 24, 2012

Start YOUR day with a McGeorge!

We meet again........odd how that happens isn't it? :)

You know for the first time, I caught so much heck for a recipe I posted.  So let me clear a few things up from this point on.  First off, all things in moderation.  I was referred to as "killing children" with my Alien Hot Dogs and Spaghetti recipe, it is recipes like that, that are "handing children heart disease".  Oh for the love of all that is holy people, there are a few things you need to understand.  1. MOST kids love hot dogs.  2. It was a fun Halloween or special day kind of recipe.  3. Some people, feed their children what they can afford and don't have so many choices in their diet.  Let me rephrase, they have choices, but perhaps, not as many as your finances afford you.  4. I try to write recipes for ALL walks of life and ALL sorts of people.  And last but not least, if you don't like a recipe, skip over it.  What is the need for the negative, nasty, plain old rude comments?  Not in my house folks, I respect everyone's opinions but rudeness is not, and will not be ok here.  I believe any food I make at home, and don't buy frozen, or canned, or prepackaged is ALWAYS better because I know what is in it and it isn't full of chemicals and preservatives.  At the same time, I use my share of canned or prepackaged items for quick meals.  I don't all the time, but let's be honest, we all have times we need things in a hurry.  Stop judging, as my husband always says, "When you point a finger, you have 3 more pointing back at you".  Keep it in mind and just enjoy the friends, the food and the laughs.  Does it need to be harder than that?  No!

Ok now that I am done with THAT.  Let me get to the recipe.  It isn't really a recipe, it is more of an assembly but, sometimes, you need some assembly recipes too!  I will tell you, I am a sucker for a good breakfast sandwich.  I like almost any sandwich.  Sue me.  These are awesome and my husband used to make tons of them and put them in the freezer.  If we were in a rush, we could zap them in the micro and head out the door or take them to work/school frozen and heat them up when we got there.  And we would have these for dinner just as often as we had them for breakfast! 

So we decided we needed either smaller English muffins or a jumbo muffin tin which I am going to pick up this weekend.  It really doesn't matter that the egg is smaller, just want it to look nicer.  Hubs always does the eggs in a muffin tin and bakes them.  This time he used cupcake liners, I assured him it would never work.  I even laughed saying, "ok but when we have to make another batch because you can't get the papers off don't forget I told you so".  Alas, it worked.  He did spray them I think with nonstick spray though.  Actually it worked REALLY well. 

You will need:

English Muffins
Eggs (however many sandwiches you want to make)
Meat (sausage, bacon, turkey bacon, ham, or skip the meat)
Cheese  (I use the "not cheese" singles because they taste most like the McDonald's version, use any cheese you like)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with liners and spray with a light coat of nonstick cooking spray.  Crack your eggs into the cups.

Now take a skewer or toothpick and just break the yolk, no need to scramble it, unless you want but just break it.  He was adamant I not forget that part!  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  You will know when they are done, they will be all white and firm to the touch. 

While they are baking, toast muffins and butter liberally.  Prepare your meat, if you are frying it, baking it, heating it in the microwave, just get it hot!  Now for the hard part......layer it on the muffin however you like and enjoy!

I actually also made soup the same night, here is that recipe.  The Soup With No Name.

Easy as can be, but sometimes the simplest things we just don't think of.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!!

We figured the cost of these 12 sandwiches was around 6.00!

Your "don't tick me off"chefwannabe

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Banana Bread. Simple. Delicious.

Fall is a comin'!!  Yes it is!  The end of this summer has been SO hot, I welcome fall!  I love the turning of the leaves, and the crisp morning air.  Halloween and Thanksgiving, I mean, what is not to love about fall?!?

In the house, it means new smells for candles.  Apples, Cinnamon, sugar cookie candles, the list goes on!  And in the kitchen it means soups, breads, and all things that warm you from the inside out!  Warm breads with butter dripping off.............YUM!

This recipe is a very simple recipe. It makes the perfect little loaf of bread and it freezes fabulously.  I am not a huge fruit fan, of any kind.  But.....banana bread, well, banana bread is a whole different ballgame folks.  I did not put nuts in this loaf since it was for my sister who hates them.  Normally I would definitely add in nuts and maybe even some choc chips!  Shhhh......don't tell anyone!  And for the record, I don't even smash the bananas first, it all goes head first into my stand mixer and POOF.  Magic.

So, in order to properly greet the new season, make this bread, and have a warm piece with a great cup of coffee on a Saturday morning!  AND.....have you ever made french toast from banana bread?  Uh-huh....put that idea in your back pocket my friends!

You will need:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened but NOT melted
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 large bananas
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup nuts (optional)
2 tbsp melted butter and 2 tbsp brown sugar for the top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl combine all ingredients except flour.  Mix until completely combined.  Add in flour and mix just until it is mixed in.   If you are adding nuts, fold them in at this time as well.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes. 

This bread is so good.  And could it be simpler?  When you take it out, while it is still hot, you can drizzle a little melted butter over the top and then sprinkle on some brown sugar and let it melt!
Your "autumn is in the air" chefwannabe

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

By spousal request - Franco American Mac and Cheese Copycat Recipe

So the easiest way to tell you how this all came about and went down is to tell you in a conversational format.  We are pretty random people and sometimes I don't know where thoughts in my husbands head come from.  However, I will just accept that he thinks of weird things at weird times and love the guy anyway.  After all.......he is so dang adorable.  So here we go

George: I have an idea!

Me:  Oh no, what is it?

George: (always has a story) When I was little my mom used to buy Franco American Macaroni and Cheese.  But it was like fat spaghetti noodles, you know like big worms.  She could buy it really cheap at the commissary for like 19 cents a can.  When she didn't feel like cooking she would make it for me.  I think "we" should try and copy it!

Me: I remember eating it a couple of times. 

George: You do?  I think you are to young to remember it.

Me: I am young, and gorgeous but that is beside the point.  I have eaten it.

George: It looked almost like turkey gravy, it was this gross color of greenish orange, but it was SO good.

Me: I could use bocatini pasta, to cover the fat spaghetti noodle part, I wonder what we should use for the rest. 

George:  I don't know but I can taste and tell you if it is right.  Ok?

Well, isn't it odd how he doesn't know how we could do it but he is sure willing to taste every single one of my efforts.  Unlucky for him I got it on the first try.  Mwaaahahahhahaha! 

Anyway, I had bought a can of cheddar cheese soup earlier in the week to make a "kid friendly, halloweenish" recipe.  I decided I would use the same thing because it seemed the flavor was really close to be right on.  By the way, leave me alone about the canned cheddar cheese soup.  I know some of you are having heart palpitations right now over it.  Relax.  2 times in like 10 years......that is my frequency of usage. 

I actually wasn't even going to blog this because it is so easy.  But I decided, with George's urging to just do it.  He is so excited, I had to oblige.  It is almost embarassing to post this as a "recipe".  But here goes nothin'....

Ok, you will need:

1/2 lb bucatini pasta (fat spaghetti with a hole down the center)
1 can cheddar cheese soup
3/4 cup milk (any that you choose)
2 tbsp melted butter

Boil your pasta, and I suggest for the authentic really soft pasta feel, to cook it on the high end of the recommended range.  Perhaps even 1 minute longer.  While it is cooking in a bowl mix the soup, milk and cooled melted butter in a bowl.  Mix until completely combined.  Drain pasta and put back in the hot pot, immediately add the cheese mix and let simmer for a minute or 2 on low heat. 

Me:  George, I think it is done!  I even got the color right!

George: It looks good, looks like the right color, kind of pastey and colorless.  (sounds appetizing right?)

George: (takes a bit) OMG honey, it is right on!  Just need to add a little pepper. 

So here you have it.  By request of my husband, a recreation as best as we can tell of Franco American Macaroni and Cheese!

Your "canned food made homemade"chefwannabe

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Soup With No Name!

Funny how this happened.  I have never speed blogged before, but I wanted it written down so I thought I might as well just do it!  For those of you who do not follow on Facebook, this is how this happened.

I posted a photo of my cup of soup I was having for lunch.  People kindly said it looked good and then, they got ugly.  They started DEMANDING a recipe!  (jk jk jk)  They asked nicely for a recipe and it actually never occured to me anyone would want it.  I never really wrote it down. 

So, since I am typing up this random, completely hurried blog post, I need something in return.  I need a name for this soup!  I love it, and it is so easy, I will make it forever!  So leave a comment below, and tell me what YOU would call this soup!

For BROTH you will need:
5 cups stock  (I do half beef and half chicken but feel free to do all chicken)
1 large carrot or 2 medium
3 ribs of celery
1 onion (sm or med)
Parlsey (dried or fresh for some color and flavor, however much you like!)

In a large pot, add in stock and finely chop all vegetables.  Let simmer covered for 15-20 minutes.

1 lb ground turkey or chicken
1/4 cup breadcrumbs  (fresh or dried, seasoned or not)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp milk
1 tbsp grated onion (yes grated!)
1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ALL ingredients and roll into mini meatballs.  Bite size is best!  Bring broth to a boil and drop them one by one carefully into your soup! After they are all in the soup, cover and let simmer another 10-15 minutes.

I make my pasta seperate these days.  Especially if I have a huge pot of soup, I don't want the pasta to bloat or get mushy.  Gross!   I made ditalini because it is my favorite soup pasta. 

(On a side note, this is another soup that freezes gorgeously.  Freeze just the broth and meatballs, add pasta when serving!)


Your "fastest typer alive"chefwannabe

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baked Ziti

I recently became painfully aware that not everyone knows what baked ziti is.   Things that make you go, hmmmmm...

My son and daughter in law wanted this at their little wedding.  The ladies making the food had no idea what it was.  I was shocked, and curious.  I understand food being regional but, it just seemed the whole world knew what ziti was.  Anyway, I won't mention how this last minute detail turned into me making 2 huge turkey roaster size pans 3 hours before their wedding!  Oh the things we do for our kids!  Good times, good times!

This is one of those dishes that can be changed up SO many different ways.  It seems every family has their own version, their own variation.  Some serve it meatless, and others do not.

The only thing I really vary on this recipe is the meat.  If I am in a huge hurry and have meatballs I have made in the freezer, I sometimes just put whole meatballs in it.  I have used Italian sausage as well.  Plain old hamburger just doesn't have enough flavor for me on this one.  What I normally use is diced sopressata and pepperoni.  You can use Genoa salami, or any Italian meat for this.  Just look for a "chub" or small roll of the meat, otherwise you have to buy it sliced thin which give it no bite in your dish. 

As for the cheese, I just go to the deli counter and ask for about a 1 inch chunk of provolone.  I always buy balls of mozzarella for my ziti, though I do use shredded on top if necessary.  NONE of the measurements accept sauce and pasta are set in stone.  If you like more cheese, use more, more meat, use more meat, less of either, use less!  I usually add hard boiled eggs into mine as well but this was serving more people who I knew wouldn't groove on boiled eggs in the ziti!

This is easy and you can make a pan as big as your house to feed a lot of people.  I serve it with a huge salad, bread and sometimes soup for a starter.  Regardless, many memories, laughs, and stories have been shared over a pan of this for Sunday supper!  I hope you make it and love it as much as we do!

You will need:
1 lb ziti pasta (any short pasta that is a tube shape will work)
4-5 cups of marinara
16 ozs. ricotta cheese
1 8oz mozzarella ball (diced)
1/2 lb provolone (diced or chunked)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup diced sopressata
1 cup diced pepperoni
4 hard boiled eggs, diced (optional)

Boil your pasta in a large pot of well salted water.  Pasta needs ALOT of room to cook!  Under cook your pasta but 1-2 minutes.  Drain and put back into the pot.  Add in ALL ingredients, cheeses (NOT shredded), meats, sauce and eggs if you are using them!  Mix to combine and pour into large baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray or greased with butter or oil.  Top with the 2 cups of shredded mozz and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. 

The smell of this in the oven is enough to even make your pets drool with anticipation.  It is so good and such a great food memory for me!  For the record these freezes fabulously!

Enjoy and let me know if you had no idea what ziti was before this.  It just never occurred to me that anyone wouldn't know. 

Your "Pasta is a Sunday Supper Tradition" Chefwannabe

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Homemade Beer Battered Onion Rings

Ok, so I knew eventually I would have to make these.  My relationship with onions is a freaky one for sure.  I hate onions.  I love French Onion Soup.  I enjoy onions in things if they are unrecognizable.  I don't know, it is all to much to think about, so I just go with the flow.  Sometimes I am a yes and sometimes I am a HECK no!

I decided with football season and lots of burgers and fries nights, game parties and gatherings, that onion rings would be a nice addition to the menu.  You can dip them in anything and they involve beer.  I mean, really, how much more important is THAT in a game day party?

I had brought home some delicious sweet vidalia onions from our trip to Georgia and I wanted to get them used up.  I only did 1 medium onion with this recipe, but sadly, and regretfully I only used half of the batter.   So I will say this will do at least 2 medium onions, if not more.  Here is a tip, if you are nearing the end and still have onions to dip, add a little extra beer, it will be a bit thinner but it will be equally as delicious and you won't have any naked onion rings!  Heck you might like your batter a bit thinner than mine anyway, so regardless, just do what makes your insides tingle!  Now get slicing those onions, however you like, thick or thin.  Which do you prefer?

I soaked my onions after I sliced them, in a beer.  This tenderizes them a bit while still keeping their shape.  You can do this with buttermilk if you choose as well.  Just make sure to soak at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.  Do not soak them any longer or you will have limp, weasley looking onions nobody will recognize as rings.  FAIL.

It is so easy, make sure to fry in deep enough oil, maybe 3-4 inches of oil is what I used.  Get it to 350 degrees. 

You will need:
2 large onions
1 1/2 cups flour + 1 cup for dusting
2 tbsp of your favorite all purpose seasoning, I used NorthWoods by Penzeys
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups of beer 
1 extra beer or buttermilk for soaking (enough to cover your onions)

Get your oil heating up.  Drain ALL of the liquid that your onions have been soaking in and then return them to the same bowl.  Using 1 cup of flour, dump it in with your onions and toss them around, it will soak up any leftover liquid and give the batter something to stick too.  Put them aside. 

In another bowl mix the 1 1/2 cups flour, seasoning, salt, baking powder, and 2 cups of beer.  Using a whisk get it as smooth as possible.  A few lumps won't hurt a thing. 

Batter on the left and flour covered rings on the right!
When the oil is heated up, take your flour coated rings and dip them in batter, let the excess drip off and put into your oil.  They will take 2-3 minutes per side.  Or, you can let them go until they are a color you think they should be and flip them over!  Repeat.  Drain on paper towels or a cooking rack as I did.  We like our onion rings a little bit dark in color!

Give them a light sprinkle of salt if you like and serve!

Happy Football Season!!!

Your "FLY EAGLES FLY" Chefwannabe

PS.  I feel like I would like some hot sauce in my batter or cayenne but was making these for someone who is not able to eat spicy food.  Just FYI...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cheesy Alien Spaghetti and Hot Dogs for Kids!

Is it wrong to admit I loved this?  Heaven knows I am no kid but seriously, it was completely fun.

Now, I realize this may look as unappetizing as a pile of mud to some people.  Guess what?  I don't care!  Your kids will LOVE it!  Your grand kids, nieces, nephews, friends kids, whoever!  You can omit the cheese sauce and use a tomato sauce, or just eat them plain maybe with ketchup, ohhhhhhh bloody aliens!  I have Halloween on the brain.  I love Halloween and we used to eat meatballs and brains for dinner when Cody was little! 

I think this is a great meal to get your kids in the kitchen with you.  There is no reason they can't help you poke the hot dogs with spaghetti noodles, they will love eating something they helped make.  That is my experience anyway. 

When I finished this dish I asked my husband to try it.  He looked at me.....rolled his eyes and said, "OK but MINE are killer octopus monsters, NOT aliens".  He rocks.  He sat at the table, looked at it, and dove in.  He ate a bite and then another and then asked if I could make this again.  HAHA!  Grown up little boys like it too!

You can make this as easily for a lot as for a few.  Here are the amounts I used....

1 pkg of hot dogs (any you like, I only eat all beef)
1 pkg spaghetti
1 can of cheddar cheese soup
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/8 tsp yellow mustard

Cut your hot dogs into whatever size chunks you want.  I cut each into 4 I think.  Or I tried.  I used 4 pieces of spaghetti for each chunk.  Poke the hard spaghetti noodles all the way through the piece of hot dog.  Do this for all pieces.  They will look like this....

In a large pot of boiling water, place the hot dogs into the water and cook per the spaghetti pkg directions. I would add an extra minute as the pasta in the middle of the hot dog needs that extra minute or so. 

While the aliens are cooking, in a bowl, combine the cheese soup, cheese, milk, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. 

After draining the aliens, put them back in the hot pot, add in the cheese sauce and toss with tongs!

Your kids will thank you.  I don't see any reason you can't use Italian sausage, bratwurst, kielbasa, polish sausage, whatever you choose! 

You may say, "ewwwww" but your kids will say "coooooooollll"!!!

Your "aliens for dinner"chefwannabe

Monday, September 10, 2012

Easy Challah Bread

I have been planning on making this delicious bread for SO long. Why has it taken me so long?

For some reason, I think I will never be successful making bread. It always turns out but this one had me a little intimidated. I mean, braiding, I can do that, mix and knead dough, I can do that too. So what is to be afraid of? Ask my kitchen aid pro, that OVERHEATED kneading a double batch of this dough. Poor Aretha (her name).

Anyway, the real reason I have wanted to make Challah bread was because I had french toast made from it a long time ago and NEEDED to have it again. There I admitted it. Oh I bet it would make excellent bread pudding too! Great, I foresee making 2 more loaves in the very near future.

In case you didn't know, Challah bread is a Jewish bread. It traditionally has no meat or dairy in it, however I used butter instead of egg to brush the top. You can choose egg if you want a harder crust, it is your choice. I love the sweetness and texture of this bread. I hope you enjoy it and make it yourself!

I just looked up a basic recipe. I don't mess with bread recipes, I am feeble enough in my baking efforts I don't need to go trying to rewrite or make new bread recipes. This one I got from It is easy, literally only 6 ingredients and I dare to say, you likely have every single one in your pantry and fridge!


1 (.25) pkg dry active yeast
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
3 1/2 cups flour (more if you will be kneading by hand, I used my dough hook)
1 egg yolk for brushing over bread before baking, or 2 tbsp butter melted

In a large bowl, mix together your yeast and the water.  Let the mixture stand until it looks kind of, cloudy and scummy.  Yea, I know, real technical term.  It should take about 10 minutes.  At this time you will need to stir in the honey and salt, until it is all dissolved and add the beaten eggs..  Mix in the flour a little bit at a time, until the dough becomes sticky.  Sprinkle flour on the dough and knead it until it is smooth, about 5 minutes.  I did all of this in my stand mixer.  I let it rip with the dough hook attachment for about 3-4 minutes.  Perfection.

Now, for the dough into a ball, and place in a bowl that has been sprayed with nonstick spray or brushed with oil.  Let it rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size.  It will take 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Punch the dough down and cut it into 3 equal pieces.  On a floured surface roll the small pieces into ropes about the thickness of...hmm...a cigar and about 12 inches long.  The ropes should be a little fatter in the center than the edges.  Now, let's be real, mine were far from perfect, they were fatter than they should have been but as you can see, it turned out perfectly fine.  Pinch the ends together and flip them under. 
Place the beautifully braided loaf onto a baking sheet lines with parchment paper.  Brush the top with beaten egg yolk and also brush where the bread touches in the braid so it holds together when you s slice it.  You can also used melted butter.
Bake the challah in a preheated oven until the top turns a beautiful rich brown color and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap on it.  It should take 30-35 minutes.  Place it on a wire rack to cool when it is done!

Eat this as is, make it into French toast, bread pudding........the options are endless!!

Your "master Challah bread maker in her own mind" chefwannabe

PS.  I admittedly can't help saying.."Holllaaaaaaaa" every time I refer to this bread.  Forgive me.  Holllaaaaaa!!!!!  (oops)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

French Macarons


You know you are nervous about this one, aren't you?  What if I beat the egg whites to much, or not enough.  What if I over mix or undermix.  Overbake or underbake.  OH the stress of it all!!!

Don't worry!  I was equally as worried.  First grab a glass of wine, I mean, HELLO, they are French, it requires wine!  Then, I found a recipe I wanted to try, compliments of  This was not a recipe I was about to tweak and twist or "fix" for my own taste and opinions.  This was my first French Macaron rodeo and I was not about to get bucked of this bronco right out of the shoot!

Let me tell you how this went down.  I could not find almond flour.  So I ground my own in my food processor.  I was concerned it wouldn't grind it down enough, but it worked beautifully so keep that in mind if you can't find almond flour.  I just bought slivered almonds in a bag and used those.

I was also concerned about the overmixing, undermixing part.  Pfftt....just mix it until it is all incorporated and you are golden.  When you put some on a spoon and it slowly runs off and folds over itself, it is perfect. 

Truth be told, I never had eaten these and I never had some "OMG" moment when I knew I had to learn to make them.  I have seen them on a couple of videos lately and frankly, I was up for the challenge!  I came, I saw and I conquered.  Now my is YOUR turn! 

Here is what you will need

3 egg whites (room temp)
5 tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
food coloring (optional)
buttercream and/or nutella

Equipment you MUST have:
2 large cookie sheets
parchment paper
Piping bag or ziploc bag

First, put your almond flour and powdered sugar through a sifter or fine mesh sieve.  Sift into a bowl.   Set aside and work on eggs.  Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat your eggs, adding your granulated sugar 1 tbsp at a time. Also while beating add in vanilla and food color if you choose.    Beat until you have stiff peaks.  (CONFESSION, mine wasn't fine enough to go through the sifter, and the still turned out) SHOCK!

Now combine half of the almond and powdered sugar mixture to the eggs. FOLDING them together gently, when almost combined, add in the rest and continue to fold until it is all incorporated. 


Line both baking sheets with parchment paper.  This is a MUST!  Fill your pastry bag with your mixture and pipe 1-2 inch dots.  Pipe them 2 inches apart!  I made mine a wee bit big but it makes no difference really.  If they have a little peak on top, dip your finger in water and push it down.  When your cookie sheets are full (this should make 36 at least) firmly rap the cookie trays on your counter, to release any air bubbles, this is VERY important.  It will also spread them evenly on the cookie sheet.   

Now, preheat your oven to 280 degrees and place your oven racks at the very top or very bottom of the oven.   Let your cookies sit for 15-20 minutes or until they become firm.  You should be able to touch the tops without it leaving an mark or dent.  At that time, put them in the oven.  After 2 minutes, open the oven door to let out any humidity.  Close the oven and bake for 7 more minutes and then switch the pans positions AND turn them around.  This will ensure even baking.  Bake 6-7 more minutes until they are firm and easily come away from the parchment paper.  Let cool.  Fill with filling of your choice, buttercream or nutella (I used both) and sandwich them together.  They are DELICIOUS!!

Now don't be frightened...........just do it!  They are SOOOO worth it!

Bon Appetit!

Your "mademoiselle"chefwannabe

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Operation Care Packages!!

Hello friends...

I am a little more excited than normal for this post *and slightly teary*.  I love sharing information with others who want to support the morale and needs of our soldiers.  As most of you know I am a PROUD Army mom and support all U.S. soldiers.  I am grateful for their service, their sacrifices and I understand and am thankful for the sacrifices of their families as well.  It doesn't matter how old your children are, when they make their living in harms way for the safety of all other Americans it swells your heart with a pride I have never known.  It also fills you with a worry you have never known. (hopefully).  You pray for their safety, the safety of those they are in combat with, and you pray your soldier is never the one who "gave all".  It is the reality of parents, spouses, children and siblings of a soldier. 

My son, on his graduation day from BCT.  Ft. Jackson, SC
Let me introduce you to my son Spec. George Simmerman III (aka Cody).  He has served 3 years so far, and so far, has no plans of leaving.  When Cody was in 5th grade, his teacher called me and told me I would never believe what he had said in front of his class.  You mean not a, "what did my kid do now call"??  WOOHOO!   During a discussion about our country and military in his class, the teacher asked if anyone thought they wanted to be a soldier.  None of the children raised their hands.  Cody, who seemed rather annoyed she said, stood up, threw his hands in the air and said, "If NOBODY wants to be soldier, WHO is going to keep us free?   We don't just GET to be free ya' know, it is DUMB that none of you want to help our country".  Sounds just like him.  He then told his teacher he was going to be a soldier, and he would never change his mind.  His dad was in the USAF, both of his grandfathers were in the USAF. 

When we got word of his pending deployment, I went through so many emotions.  After all, this was my first time dealing with deployment.  And it was my son.  I will never forget the last words he said to us before he boarded the last plane out of the US.  "Mom and Dad, if something happens to me, don't let it ruin your lives.  Know that I was proudly serving the country I love, and that I did it with honor and pride and the wellbeing of my fellow Americans in my heart".   I will never forget those words.  Ever.  So that is my story as an Army mom.  After I put the worry in the back of my mind, I kicked into, "how can I help get him through this knowing he hasn't left our hearts of minds for a second" mode. 

Hooaah! A few months after his return from Iraq

Cody was deployed for 12 months. We sent care packages to him at least once a month, sometimes twice.  It would take 2 weeks for a package to arrive.  A couple of times it took 10 days and a couple of times it took closer to 3 weeks but on the average allow 2 weeks.  The post office has a flat rate box specifically dubbed a "military care pkg" size.  You will receive a special, lesser shipping rate as well.  Make sure to stop by the post office and get some customs forms.  You will need to fill them out for every package you send.  Get 3 or 4 if you are going to be sending them regularly, it is much easier to fill them out at home and have it done when you get to the post office to mail the package.  Tape your package WELL.  Pack it WELL.  It will get shaken up, thrown about and tossed around during its trip overseas! 

Here are some things Cody suggested and things I sent.  I am sure this isn't everything but a list of the things he really appreciated getting at least.

Rice Krispy Treats  (bought or homemade, I wrapped them individually in saran wrap)
Cookies  (ship in empty pringles cans, you can individually wrap them as well for extra freshness)
Chex Snack Mixes
Flavor packets for water, koolaid, propel, hawaiian punch, flavored tea, lemonade (this is a HUGE one for him and I made him share!)
Foot Powder
Athletes Foot Cream
Energy Drinks (not sure about the technicality of this but he loved getting them and so did his buddies, long duties and no sleep, these were a hit)
Baby Wipes (antibacterial or regular)
Phone Cards 

I also sent toothpaste, new toothbrushes,  Ziploc bags to store things or it would be full of sand.  Some of the things I sent, he could get, but it saved him a little money and gave me piece of mind he had what he needed or usually used.  Deodorant, he couldn't get his favorite kind, so I sent a ton!!  Leave it to my kid, to be in battle and be concerned he was stinkin'!   After awhile I was completely stumped for new things to send.  I came across a website of which I no longer remember and it suggested themed care packages.  It gave no ideas persay but just was a suggestion.  I took that idea and went crazy with it! 

I wish I had photos of all of these, but Cody was able to help me remember some of things I sent, so he must have really liked them to remember it year or longer later!

Movie Night
2 movies (favorites or new ones)
bags of popcorn
popcorn bags (I went to a movie theatre explained what I was doing and they gave me a ton of popcorn bags and boxes
an adapter for 2-4 headphones to be plugged in.  If he wanted to watch with a couple of buddies he could plug the adapter into his computer and there were 4 plugs having off of it for others to plug in headsets or earbuds.
Flavored water packets
M & M's  (yes, wrap anything chocolate in a couple layers of newspaper, his got there UNmelted)

The first photo I saw of him in Iraq.  He is the one kneeling on top and I only knew it was him by his tattoo! (because he and his dad have matching ones)

Comic Books
Superhero movie
Any candy with superheros on them! I had Spiderman Taffy, Xmen lollipops, Superman gum, etc..
More flavored packet drinks some may have  superheros on them!
Box of cereal that had Superman on it

Pizza Party Package
Prepackaged pizza crusts.  (I got mine at the Dollar Tree and Cody said they were awesome)
PLASTIC squeeze bottle of pizza sauce
Prepackaged, non refrigerated pepperoni and genoa salami
Packets of parm cheese and red pepper flakes (Went to Pizza Hut and again they gave me all I wanted and said to come back anytime when I explained what i was doing)
Pizza Candy (shaped)
Root Beer Flavored drink packets
Paper plates
(they did not have microwave access so they made the pizza's and put them out on the retaining wall to heat up and melt the cheese, he said they were awesome, maybe he was exaggerating but none the less he was thrilled to have what he said was more REAL of a pizza than what they could get)

My Favorite Things (at least Codys favorite things)
Favorite personal hygiene items.
beef jerky
rice crispy treats
tea bags and a plastic pitcher with a lid,  and sweet and lo  (he made sun tea)
Sunflower seeds (all flavors)
CD of his favorite songs

Christmas Cheer Package
First, I wrapped every single thing in this box in Christmas wrapping paper.  Who cares what it is, it is presents to open!!
Flat cardboard Christmas tree decoration for him to hang
Santa hat(s)
Stocking full of odds and ends
Christmas candy
Photo of his daughter with Santa
I asked my family and friends to send me a Christmas card for Cody, inside another envelope, and I included them all, I think I had 30-40 Christmas cards from friends and family that I sent him.
I sent him a copy of my Christmas letter so he would feel more apart of the holiday.
A flat snowflake decoration, it has special meaning in our family. 

Sports Package
Sports Illustrated
Any other sports magazines
Sports sections from a handful of different newspapers
Hot dog shaped candy
Fruit snacks shaped like footballs, basketballs and baseballs
sunflower seeds
big league chew gum

He turned 21 while in Iraq.  I do have a photo of this package I sent!  You may not be able to see it all so I will list what was in there.

I was able to purchase from the Dollar Tree prepackaged pound cake and angel food cake.  I included 2 or 3 kinds of icing.
Plastic knives and forks
Birthday hats, napkins, plates, blow horn things, clown sugar decorations.
I sent silly putty, whoopee cushions, and the paddles with a bouncy ball attached. 
I also did the same thing as with Christmas and collected birthday cards for him from family and friends.  It was fun for him to share with his buddies and he said they all reverted back to age 10 with the whoopie cushions and silly putty!!

With any holiday, as long as you plan ahead you can get them holiday goodies on time.  Like I said, I got chocolate there without it melting by wrapping it in a few layers of newspaper. 

We wrote letters every week.  Cody wrote, and we would occassionally get to Skype, but their internet connection was terrible and it was usually long enough to share "I love yous", but sometimes we got lucky and it would be longer.  As long as I could SEE he was doing ok, I was ok!

In one of his first boxes, after spending a month of not being able to eat I included some condiments he loved.  I went to Taco Bell and got tons of fire sauce.  He loves hot sauce and their condiment choices were slim, so I figured if I sent hot sauce he could down anything!  I also sent cup of soup mixes by the case I think. 

When we spoke on the phone, the first thing he reminded me off was the tea bags and flavor packets for water.  He was never a big soda drinker so instead of always water, he enjoyed those a ton. 

I hope this gives you some ideas, a few suggestions and some inspiration to send a care package to a soldier.  Nobody knows a soldier like their parents or spouse.  Letters from home, colored pictures from their children or younger siblings, family photos, these are what makes home a little closer.  Just send things you know your soldier enjoys!!!!  If you are sending a care package to a soldier you do not know, they will love whatever you send! I also don't know a single soldier who wouldn't appreciate your prayers.   I certainly don't have all the how-tos but I am sure there are many websites to find more information if you would like.  I just wanted to share my themed packages, and how I did things. 

Let me know if you would like to adopt a soldier.  I am hesitant to promote any organization because I haven't checked any out personally, but I can assure you I will find you a soldier if you want to send a package!

Let me know if you have any questions.  You can email me @ or message me on my Facebook Fan Page.  I will always do anything I can to get you information you need!!!

God Bless OUR soldiers!  And GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Your "PROUD mom of one courageous soldier ok AND adorable"chefwannabe

Excuse the fingers....they belong to my daughter in law!

PS.  If you have items to add, please leave it in the comments below.  Any things I may have left out to send or additional information.  I certainly don't know everything so your input is appreciated!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sweet Cream Gnocchi

Yes, I said it in the same sentence, "sweet" and "gnocchi".   Yes, yes, it is usually a savory dish and before you shrug this notion off, contemplate for one second just how scrumptuous something has turned out before that you never thought would work. 

Thinking back, just on a side note, my mom uses mashed potatoes in her cinnamon roll dough.  Ironic, don't you think? 

When I was trying to think of a great name for this dessert dish my husband had many ideas.  Some of which I cannot repeat.  Men.  Some days I can't even begin to understand anything about them.  He wanted me to call it French Toast Gnocchi.  He says it tastes just like my french toast and when I figure out if that is a good thing or a bad thing I will let you know.  Wait, it must be good because he loves my french toast. 

Anyway, this is such a simple dessert.  It is easy to put the sauce together before dinner, and have a pot of water ready to boil after dinner.  Please just make sure to serve it hot/warm.  When it gets cold it isn't so amazing.  (In my opinion).  My husband insisted he wanted his over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I will let you make that choice! 

I hope you try it, no matter how much you might not "get" it!!

You will need:
1 pkg of potato gnocchi (between 16 and 18 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar to add to aproximately 6 cups of boiling water

2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp heavy cream
Cinnamon (garnish)

Get a pot full of water and add 1/2 cup sugar and let it come to a boil.  While waiting for it to boil, make your sauce.  In a high sided skillet add all ingredients.  On medium, continue to whisk until all ingredients are dissolved and it comes to a slow bubble.  Turn to low to keep warm.

Your water should be boiling, add in all gnocchi, when it returns to a boil the gnocchi will float to the top.  Once they do that, they are ready.  Take them out using a spider or slotted spoon as they reach the top, let the water drip off and drop into the pan of sauce.  When all gnocchi are done, toss in the sweet cream sauce and serve in small dessert bowls.  Sprinkle the top with cinnamon. 

Enjoy this dessert.  It will make whoever you serve it to feel warm and cozy inside.  It will make them go, hmmmmmmmmmm......

Your "my husband is already begging for this again"chefwannabe