Monday, April 29, 2013

Chili Cheese "TOT" Dog Casserole

HELP!  My husband has gone tater tot and casserole crazy.  WHAT have I started?!?!  Anyway get out your tums, Rolaids and Prilosec people.  This is the bomb, likely in more ways than one??

Seriously, my husband is all over this whole casserole thing now.  I have created a MONSTER.  The night I posted "Funeral Casserole", he emailed me with this casserole he thought up.  I mean, it sounded good, sounded like "man" food.  Maybe it even sounded like "kid" food.  Regardless, I know how this song and dance goes and if I don't listen to him, and attempt this, I will be sorry.  After all, HIS recipe is my most popular/most viewed recipe on the blog.  He loves it.  (insert Jr. high style eye roll).  Really, though I tease, I am grateful for his support, I have learned many women do not have their spouses support with their blogging and cooking and I find it just heart wrenching.  How does the person who loves you more than anything not want to see you happy?!  I am a blessed woman to not only have a husband who supports anything I do, but is my bestie.  He is always firing ideas my way to challenge and help me.  I love that!

This is definitely a C word that probably is going to just be for fun occasions at our house.  This recipe is being deemed, "awesome for game days", some cold beer and a bowl of this would be perfect game day food and drink!

You can use homemade chili for this or you can buy it in a can.  If you use homemade, I suggest draining a little liquid off if your chili is pretty thin.  This is a perfect recipe for that chili you had leftover that you threw in the freezer!  Beans or no beans, that is your call, we roll with NO beans for sure. Hot dogs are another option.  I use all beef, it is all I ever use.  You can use lips and ....oh never mind, you can use any hot dogs you want.  Organic, plain, kosher, I mean, obviously your options are limitless.  I made this in my moms OLD 9x13 from my childhood, which I swear makes it taste even better!

This is so easy, I think it would freeze pretty well, and definitely can be made ahead!  Here is what you will need:

2- 15oz cans of chili (with or without beans) or 4 cups homemade chili
3-4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1 standard pkg of hot dogs
1 cup finely minced onions (optional)  I did NOT use them
1 bag of frozen tater tots
2 tsp chili powder

You will bake this according to the baking directions on your tater tots.  I set my oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray.  Spread/pour chili in first.  Next, cut your hot dogs into bite size pieces and evenly distribute them in the chili.  If you are adding onions, add them at this point too.

Now using 1 1/2 cups of your cheese, sprinkle evenly over the top of the hot dog and chili layers!

Now top with your tater tots.  Just line them up, you know, perfect order people!  Covering the entire top of the casserole.

Now using the rest of the cheese, cover the top liberally with it!!  Then sprinkle your chili powder over the top.

My tot package said to bake for 25 minutes.  Use whatever time yours has on it!!  When you remove it, let it sit 5 minutes before serving, it will be incredibly hot.  The chili will be bubbling up the sides.  Glorious, indulgent, delicious eats!!

Your "no beans, no onions" chefwannabe

Friday, April 26, 2013

Chicken Ala King

An oldie but a goodie.  Get on your aprons and your best pearls ladies.  Touch up your makeup and make sure you look your best while you are at the stove preparing this dish.  After all, June Cleaver would have looked pristine and perfect.  Right?

When I think of Chicken Ala King, I think of June Cleaver.  Why?  I don't know.  Maybe because I always wanted to be June Cleaver.  I think of supper clubs and boilin' bags.  Yea, I said it.  When I was little my mom didn't make this homemade.  She would sometimes buy the boilin' bags with it and we would have it on toast. 

Did you eat it on toast? Noodles?  Rice?  Biscuits?

I loved it and I knew, OBVIOUSLY it was going to be better homemade.  I needed some inspiration so I did my own private brainstorm session.  Things I ate as a kid.  Was interesting as I thought about it, some of the dishes I had forgotten about.  I wonder if mine is better than June's? 

I hope that you enjoy this easy, and OMGOSH delicious dish.  I had forgotten how much I loved it and to be honest, this is one of my favorite recipes to date.  I was hesitant as I knew it would be hard to photograph, to share, but fahgetaboutit........  It is crazy good and I hope you fall in love or fall in love AGAIN with this retro classic!!

You can really use more or less of the pepper and mushrooms, it is kind of just up to what you like. 

2 tbsp butter
1 bell pepper, cut into strips (I used red, use any color)
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup flour
2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 cups chicken, cooked and cubed or shredded
1 tsp dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a large, high sided skillet, add in butter, peppers, and mushrooms. Stir constantly.  Saute for 3 minutes.   Add in flour and stir until the veggies are coated. 

Add in half and half, stock and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to combine and add in chicken, again stir.  Now let it your mixture simmer for 5-7 minutes.  It will thicken up and become creamy!  The smell will make you go out of your mind!

 Sprinkle over your parsley.  Serve over, egg noodles, rice, biscuits or toast!

Your "pearls the perfect apron accessory" chefwannabe

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Oh boy.  Do I have alot to talk about today. 

Seriously, I haven't botched in the kitchen this bad since my blackened yeast rolls.  I even shared a photo of those with you on Facebook, but today, was completely horrendous.  Tragic really.   I thought I was going to be defeated by this recipe.  I have made it a million times, BUT, I haven't made it for probably, 6 or 7 years now.  I thought my touch was gone.  In fact as I poured the first seized batch down the disposal, I kept my composure, brushed it off and started again.  As I dumped the second seized batch down the disposal, I considered everything I might have done wrong, and though I felt defeated, as my husband would say, I "picked myself up and brushed myself off".  I beckoned the aide of a few fellow foodie blogger friends.  I got some good tips, a little "insurance" and decided to give it another shot.  I mean, heck, I had already pitched a good 7.00 in ingredients, what was a few more if it didn't turn out?  (You will see why 7.00 is a considerable amount considering the ingredients)

I assure you, you can NOT mess this recipe up.  I used both forms of "insurance" offered, there was no way I was going down, not THIS time.  I did it.  And I know, this is so easy, but it is SO easy to ruin too.

You are going to need a few dance tunes for this one.  You have to spend a considerable amount of time watching the pot.  Literally.  I had some old jams, "Beautiful Life" Oh oh oh oh.......  Some Fugees, "Killing me Softly", those kind of old jams.  I danced like nobody was watching...OK I THOUGHT nobody was watching.   Anyway you know how I roll with shakin' and bakin'.  You need music.  DO NOT, leave the stove.  Especially if this is the first time you have made this.

You CAN do this without use the "insurance policies" but as the daughter of an insurance man, I wouldn't be without it.  ONE bit of crystallized sugar falling back into the mix can ruin it all.  Please, USE INSURANCE!!

Here is what you need:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp Caro syrup (insurance police 1)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (insurance policy 2)
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup of WARMED heavy whipping cream (Yes, it MUST be heavy whipping cream and I warmed in the microwave.  Heat 2 minutes if you are doing it before you start, 1 min if you do it just before it is added)

In a medium nonstick pot.  Add in sugar, water, syrup, and cream of tarter.  On medium-high  heat, allow the the sugar to dissolve.  There is NO NEED to stir.  Just let it do its thing.  Got me?  When you see the sugar is dissolved, turn down to medium and here is where you dance your future ice cream sundae off.   This will feel as though it takes forever.  You are going to let it slowly begin to boil, it will look something like this.

Now you dance and you wait.  This could take 10-15 minutes.  Maybe more.  Just keep watching and dancing, watching and dancing.  Eventually, after 8-12 minutes it will look more like this.

Then, as soon as it hits this stage, it seems to go fast.  DO NOT leave the stove.  About 3-5 minutes later, you will have this beautiful amber color.

Now, turn off the heat, add in the cream.  It will bubble up, so be ready!  Keep whisking or stirring!!  When you have it combined, add in the butter and vanilla.  Stir and let it sit to cool.  This is SOOOOOOOOO extremely hot.  PLEASE be careful.  Let it cool before putting it in a mason jar or other container. 

This should last up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator.  Just reheat as you want to use it!!

Your "3rd time is DEFINITELY a charm"chefwannabe

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cheese & Apple Cups

Happy Monday friends!  This blog post is SO special to me and especially to my husband.

I had told all of you on my Facebook page about my late mother-in-law's recipes.  She used to love to cook and bake for her family and she wrote down all of her recipes.  Those recipes have gone, somewhere, somehow and we have never had any, not a single recipe of hers, especially nothing written down.  I have spent so much time trying to perfect recipes she used to make for my husband, just to see if I could and make him smile.  I got the coleslaw down and the Blueberry Duff, so far, that is it!   We were going through some boxes over Easter.  My husband was looking for something in particular and the first box he opened,  resulted in "OMGOSH CHRIS COME HERE"!!  He opened the box and sitting as crisp and unwrinkled, looking like they were purposely placed there, were 3 pieces of paper.  Three handwritten recipes of his moms!  One of them has a little budget written on one side, a shopping list on another.  It was SO fun to see what she was shopping for back in the day, and I could learn some of her fashion taste, and how she loved her home to be decorated and what she was buying my husband for school clothes.  How do you measure the preciousness of finding something like this?!?!  To learn more about the woman who sadly passed away a year before Geo and I met!  Priceless, absolutely priceless.

I will remind you, we both, to our core, KNOW we never have had these in our possession.  My husband and his mother were VERY close, we would have known if we had these.  You can come to your own conclusion, I have certainly come to mine. 

The recipes written were difficult to put together.  There were actually 4 recipes but we figured out that 2 of them went together and that is what you are getting today.  This is a dessert/snack/appetizer unlike anything I have ever made, tasted or seen.  It is so unique in its flavor and texture.  I think if you are looking for something unusual and delicious, you better get on this one right away!  It isn't overly sweet, or overly savory.  It is a bit of an equal partnership of both!  A very old school recipe as my husband put it.  I was nervous about the combination of flavors, but indeed it works pretty darn well. 

You WILL have leftover filling.  I thought about cutting it down, but decided I was honoring Donna by posting it exactly as she had written it.  Trust me when I tell you the leftovers will make a great little apple crisp OR ice cream topping!

Let me get to what she simply had labeled as "Cheese & Apple Cups".

Thank you Donna........*wink wink*

Let's get started! (all ingredients will be in RED)

5-6 apples, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups pineapple juice or use a can of chunks, tidbits, or slices and food process
3 tbps cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a medium pot, add pineapple juice, cornstarch and sugar.  Whisk until completely combined.  It must not be heated, has to be cold, or the cornstarch will lump.  Next stir in apples and butter, and turn on the heat.  Stirring this OFTEN let it come to a boil and boil it for 2 minutes.  It will begin to thicken.  When 2 minutes has passed, turn off the heat and add in vanilla and salt, stir and set aside. 

1 med/lg bag of Cheese Puffs (any brand or shape will do)

Prepare Cheese Puff crumbs.  In a food processor or in a large ziploc, make cheese puffs into dust.  You will need about 2 1/4 cups of cheesy puffy dust!  Put into a bowl and set aside.

1/2 cup of butter

Melt in a bowl and set aside as well.

Refrigerator Biscuits.  (12)

In my store these come 10 to a package, just the cheapest, plain old biscuits is what you need here!!  I obviously had to use 2 cans, and just baked the rest off for dinner or you could make these ALL since you will have leftover filling.

1/3 sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon

Combine in a small bowl for topping

Preheat your oven to 375 F.  Get out your muffin pan, place your cheesy crumbs and melted butter bowls near you.  Take out your biscuits...  Now take 1 biscuit,  and flatten it, now, dip it in the melted butter, then dip it in the crumbs, flip it and dip the other side in crumbs and then place it in the muffin pan, press bottom down and press the sides until they come up to the top.  Repeat this with as many biscuits you want to use but at least 12.  ( I would guess you could get another 8-12 out of the filling you have left)  Now fill each cup up with your apple filling!  When you are done, sprinkle some cheesy dust on top, then sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar.  Do this to each cup and then bake for 20 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes, you may need to run a knife around the edges before lifting them out.  Best we can tell they are delicious warm OR cold!! 

Enjoy this special treat, that was such a surprise blessing!!

Your "love from Heaven" Chefwannabe

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wonderful Wannabe Wellingtons.

Hey guys, my husband is at it again.  He wanted a budget friendly beef wellington-esque sort of meal.  So we plotted and planned how we would replace traditional wellington ingredients with more budget friendly,  more readily available ingredients. 

I am not exactly happy with how this photographed but you must just trust me when I tell you it was awesome.  The flavor was full, the pastry was the perfect amount of crispy, and the beef was moist and done to perfection, not overcooked or dry.  We decided to make the addition of a little beef gravy on the side and it was even better.  I know the photo might not LOOK like it tasted awesome, but it did, and I am so thankful he thought of this and we went ahead to create it. 

The ingredients are easy and shouldn't cause a single bit of problem to buy.  You can use fresh mushrooms, but as I was working toward a dish on a budget I chose canned.  Tomato, tomahto.  Do what you like.  We would have of course preferred fresh. I used almost no fat ground beef as well and just standard frozen puff pastry from the grocery store frozen food section.  (near the pie shells)

This is fairly simple and quick, so I hope you enjoy it!  My husband would love it if this a kitchen "hit", as HIS last idea is now my number 1 viewed recipe!!  Here we go!

For 4 portions you will need:
1 sheet puff pastry
2 eggs (1 beaten for egg wash)
1 lb lean ground beef
3/4 cup bread crumbs (we used fresh)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
2- 7oz. cans of mushrooms
1 tbsp butter

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a bowl prepare your meat mixture.  Combine, ground beef, 1 egg, bread crumbs, salt, Dijon, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper.  Mix until all ingredients are combined.  Form into 4 equal size patties  and set aside.
In a skillet, melt butter and add in mushrooms.  Saute them for 2-3 minutes in a very hot pan, stirring the entire time.  Remove into a bowl and then brown hamburger patties in 1 tbsp oil.  Fry for 2 minutes on each side, until browned and cooked only slightly through.  They will finish cooking in the oven!
Take out 1 sheet of puff pastry.  Using a rolling pin, lay it on a floured surface and roll over it a couple of times in each direction.  Cut into 4 pieces.   Lay out one square, add in 1/4 of the mushroom mixture to the middle, add a hamburger patty on top. 
Pull opposite corners together and then pinch the seams between.  Carefully flip it over and place on baking sheet.  Repeat with the other 3.  Work quickly so your puff pastry stays as cold as possible.  Keep it refrigerated as long as possible.

When you are done brush the tops and sides with your beaten egg.  It will help it brown beautifully!!
Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.  I served with some brown gravy.  I think we threw tradition out the window and it tasted great!
Your "hubs is always right" chefwannabe

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Funeral Casserole. Dead Man's Pie. Tater Tot Casserole

Yea, I used the word, but ONLY because I love the name my family has for this dish.

So, you know how in cities people have funerals and then a meal at a resturant or at their home right?  Well it is different in small town USA.  Growing up in a small town, when someone passes away, after the funeral they have a luncheon.  This luncheon is often a main dish such as ham and a side dish, like scalloped potatoes, prepared by the church women.  In my church it was the Altar Society!  I still get a little pit in my stomach when I think of some of those ladies.  Scary.  I thought you had to have gray or silver hair to be in that "club", turns out, you don't!   Anyway everyone else is to bring potluck type dishes.   Many times the whole town pitches in and this is how funeral lunches go in small town USA, ok Nebraska USA.

My mom would ALWAYS made this for funerals, so it was dubbed many years ago "Funeral Casserole" in my family.  Thanks to the wit of my sister Sue, it later became "Dead Man's Pie".  After deciding it was to traumatizing to her children she went back to the old standby name. LOL  Anyway, this casserole is a staple or was a staple in many households through the years.  My mom made it plain, hamburger, green beans, mushroom soup and tater tots.  Oh yea, the tater tots.  I swear, my mom used to measure the casserole dish, divide it by the size of the tots and how many she had to make sure she had PERFECT lines, and not a single spot left uncovered by the tot!  

One time, I just threw the tots on top.  She hasn't been the same since.  See what I mean?

I have added cheese on top of mine, you don't have to.  I also added some seasoned salt to the hamburger because honestly, it feels a little bland if you don't.  Cheese is my new staple on this dish, should I decide to purposely make it again at some point in my life!

This recipe makes 1, 8x8 or 9x9 pan.  Simply double the ingredients for a 9x13!

1 lb ground beef
2 cans of cut green beans (or use fresh, that you have cooked, 2 cups)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 ounces of tater tots, frozen  (you might have a few leftover)
1 tsp seasoned salt (I used Northwoods by Penzeys)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (optional) I used Colby

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Place hamburger in the bottom of your baking dish.  Using your hand or a spoon, spread it evenly to cover the entire bottom.  Salt and pepper, (if you choose) and sprinkle your seasoned salt of choice over.  I like the ground beef to have some flavor instead of...."blah, ground beef, woohoo".  You know what I mean?  OK, good.

Next, in a bowl combine green beans and mushroom soup.  My mom never did this, but I do, I find it aggravating to try and spread the soup on the green beans.  Cut out the madness friends, just mix them together!  Now, spread that mixture on top of the ground beef.

Now, according to Marlene (my mother) at this point, you arrange the tater tots in a near obsessive compulsive manner.  You line up the tots, evenly and those lines BETTER be straight.  Got it?  (just kidding ma, kinda).  You could add a little salt and pepper and seasoned salt or one or the other, or nothing at all to the top.  I don't do bland, so I like adding a little flavor to every layer. 

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, then add cheese to the top and bake another 10-15 minutes

Enjoy this easy, great for making ahead or freezing C-word! HA!

Your "Marlene is watching your tater tot lines" Chefwannabe

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pizzaiolo Pasta Bake

Hello my friends!  I am so glad to be back.  I have been so busy, I apologize for no new post on Wednesday, it just wasn't going to happen.  I am happy you are still with me and hoping this recipe was worth the wait!

Most of you know I have a hard time with umm.....casseroles.  I won't say it again.  I refuse to use the word.  Casseroles to me imply a pot or pan of something that looks like a dogs dinner and I KNOW that is not always the case but when I was growing up, it seemed like it was!  I will go to every extreme to never name a dish using that "C" word.  I have a few friends who tease me about when I use the word "Bake" or something else.  I get this, "So basically it is a C word".  NO, it is a "bake". ROFL  This, my a BAKE.  Got it?

This recipe was born out of my sister telling me she wanted pizza mixed with pasta.  That you can always get one or the other at a restaurant but you can't get them together.  I decided to see what I could do to make her happy.  I am sure she could go to the Internet and look up 5 dozen different recipes but come on, you know she wanted me write a recipe for it.  After I was done I thought of the possibilities.  So where I added Italian sausage and pepperoni you can add any pizza meat topping you like or just add one or the other.  The are NO RULES kids!!  Make it how you love your pizza.  I dislike certain things so I made what I liked, but you can add whatever you want.  The more veggies the better, right? 

I call this "Pizzaiolo Pasta Bake" because I think a pizzaiolo would tend to make a dish like this with leftover pizza toppings.  Little of this and little of that.  Go for it, make it your own, and warm your families from the inside out with this wonderful meal!

Here is what you need:
16 ounces of short cut pasta of your choice (prepared according to pkg direction minus 1 minute of cook time)
1 lb Italian sausage
1 small onion minced (or approx 3/4 to 1 cup)
1 small bell pepper chopped (I used multiple colors since I freeze BP's for cooking)
8-10 ounces sliced pepperoni
1 tsp oregano
2-3 cups pizza sauce (I like tons of sauce because I don't like dry dishes, and the pasta soaks a lot up)
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (add more if you like)

Add 1/2 cup of any other topping you like, mushrooms, olives, anchovies, pineapple, etc.  I would recommend picking just a couple, or the mixture simply won't fit into your baking dish! HA!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.  Prepare pasta as directed above and drain.  In the same pot add in Italian sausage, bell peppers, onions, garlic powder, and oregano.  Cook until sausage is cooked through and peppers and onions are softened. 

When you are done, drain off any grease and  add back to your pot, adding in half of your pepperoni.  If you have large slices, cut them in quarters otherwise put them in whole.  Mix in pasta, sauce and tomatoes, and combine.  Add in 1/2 cup of mozz cheese to the pasta mixture.  Pour into prepared 9x13 pan, and smooth over the top.  Add remaining grated cheese and then lay the rest of the pepperoni on top.  I had large slices so it covered the top, yours may or may not.  It makes ZERO difference either way!

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 20-30 minutes.  The pepperoni on top will get a little crisp. 

There you have it.   I found that I needed ZERO salt and pepper, you have so much flavor from the sauce and sausage and veggies, there was no need for it. This can be made ahead, it can be divided into two dinners and one can be frozen.  It is a substantial.....(insert word I refuse to use) and add a salad and it is dinner!  Quick and easy, for all of you working parents/grandparents or anyone!

Your "pizza pleasin'" Chefwannabe

Monday, April 8, 2013

Butterscotch Love...

Hey guys!  It is Monday! Just thought I would announce the obvious.  The weekend was busy. It was hectic.  I spent time with my mom which is always risky, but she did nothing to embarrass me.  Here is how we clothes shop for my mom.  She has a hard time getting around with a bad knee so...  I sit her in a chair in the middle of the store and I start bringing her clothes that I tease her and tell her I would "authorize" and she "yeah or nays" them and off we go.  For some reason people always know when the 3 of us are in a store together.  The store was packed  and her chair was right by the registers. I waited until there were like 5 people in line on both registers, I go to the BACK of the store and yell up to my mom, "Hey MOM, do you want the matching THONG for that purple push up bra?"  She was mortified, I was laughing so hard I almost had an accident and my sister just shook her head.  I told her when she wears her new denim capri's to make sure and pull the back of her thong high enough to be seen.  I mean how will she ever learn the proper life of a pirate hooker if nobody schools her?  She may wear sneakers with 3 inch thick soles with everything, but she works that ish people.....she WORKS it!  Anyway, we went for mani's, we had lunch, we laughed our butts off.  (ok she MIGHT have cried but I was to busy laughing to notice).  Anyone want to volunteer their mothers to shop with me?  I am the queen of personal shopping.  Good times....

That was my weekend.  My OLDEST sister who was the appointed driver,  has been promising to make me this dessert forever.  It is my absolute favorite dessert and it only tastes good when SHE makes it.  I say this over and over, so many things, only taste good when certain people make them.  So she has been stringing me along for awhile on this.  Always an excuse.  Well, obviously she didn't make for me this weekend either.  I swear, she promised if I didn't purposely run her heals over with a shopping cart or let mom chase her down in a Target jazzy, she would make it for me, but alas, I had to take matters into my own hands.

You have probably eaten this dessert at every church function or potluck you have ever been too.  I can't help that, and it is NOTHING to complain about.  This is the perfect amount of sweet.  The perfect amount of creamy and the perfect little crunch from the walnuts.  I love it for summer especially because it is so light.  I can't even stand it.  I just need a piece.  I have heard it called a bazillion things.  Many people have a little part they tweak here or there.  So I am just using the recipe my sister knows by heart, and I call it "Butterscotch Love"  I hope you enjoy this light, refreshing, and oh so simple dessert!

Butterscotch Love
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup cold or frozen butter (cubed)
1- 8oz package cream cheese (softened)
1 cup powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar, icing sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
8 ounces cool whip (use fresh if you like)
2 small boxes instant butterscotch pudding
2 1/2 cups milk
8 MORE ounces of cool whip (whipped cream)
1/2 cup walnuts for garnish (keep them whole or whack them into submission to be sprinkled on top)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan and set aside.  I do the crust in my food processor.  You can use a pastry cutter if you like. 

Pastry Cutter Method- Chop walnuts and set aside.  Cut butter into cubes, add into a bowl with the flour and cut the butter in, until it is an even crumble, fine crumbs.  Add in walnuts and combine.
Food Processor- Add all ingredients, flour, cubed butter, and walnuts into the food processor and pulse until it is in small crumbs.

Add to greased 9x13 pan and press into the bottom.  Make sure it is fairly even.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove and cool completely.

When the crust is cooled, start on the 2nd layer.  In a bowl add in cream cheese, vanilla, powdered sugar and cool whip.  Using a hand mixer, mix until completely combined.  It should be smooth and creamy!  Dot it all over the crust and carefully spread it evenly on top. 

Time for the 3rd layer!  In a bowl (I use the same bowl I used for the cream cheese mixture) add in both boxes of pudding and milk.  Again use a hand mixer or whisk and mix until combined completely!  Pour over the top of the cream cheese layer and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 

Last but not least add the rest of the whipped cream to the top.  Spread evenly, sprinkle on the last 1/2 cup of walnuts and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. 

I don't have a lot to say at this point.  I mean, obviously this is amazing, it is probably tied for my all time favorite dessert and quite frankly, there is an entire pan, calling my name.  I must answer.......I am going into the light!

Your "can't get my lips on it fast enough" chefwannabe

Friday, April 5, 2013

Crispy Baked Breakfast Burritos

You know those breakfast burrito's you get at your fast food restaurant of choice, the one on the way to work or school, you try to pass it by, but it is to convenient and quick, the kids are hungry, you are starving.....yeah, THOSE.  Well here is your make ahead answer!

You can bet these are a hit at my house.  We used to make these by the dozens and pop them in the freezer for mornings just like those I described!  Pop them in the microwave and off ya go!  But now, we like to take them up a notch.  In my quest to fry less, I baked these and they came out fantastic.  My husband was skeptical about making a "crispy" version but, he happily informed me, this is one of his favorite things I have ever made.  I must be doing something right, eh?   Perhaps he is so UNused to getting breakfast, he was speaking from a place of disbelief?  

Well they really are great, and they are baked not fried, I know that some of you will be overjoyed with that.  I am sure you get chest pains when you see I have fried something!  I can't help it, some things must be fried, end of story!

Here is what you will need to get started.  This makes 8 good size burritos!

1 lb ground pork sausage
6 eggs
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup salsa (your favorite kind and heat level)
8 flour tortillas
1/4 cup oil (your choice, I used peanut)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  In a skillet brown your sausage, cook until completely done and push to one side of your skillet.  In a bowl crack 6 eggs and whisk, add into the side of the skillet you cleared and cook until scrambled.  It makes no difference if they mix with the sausage, it just makes it easier to get them done faster.  Combine all of the eggs and sausage together, add in salsa and mix until completely combined. 

Turn off the heat and let it cool down a bit.  Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper and then brushing the parchment paper with oil, this will help the bottoms of the burrito's crisp up.  Now lay out your tortillas and divide the mixture between all 8.  Add cheese to the top of the mixture.  Roll like a traditional burrito and place seam side down on your prepared cookie sheet.  When all are rolled, brush the entire burrito with oil so it will crisp nicely in the oven! 

Bake for 13-15 minutes.  You can flip these halfway through or just leave them as is.  If you flip them they will be crispy on both side instead of soft on the top.  It is your choice.  I left mine and did not flip them. 

Serve with some fresh slices of avocado, side of salsa, or just plain!!

Your "tex mex breakfast lovin" chefwannabe

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Peanut Butter Blondies

Oh my gosh you guys.  I hit the jackpot.  First off, I met a wonderful woman, Heather, who has become a dear friend, AND I hit the jackpot with this recipe of hers I am going to share with you!

Foodies just find each other.  I have met so many wonderful people in the last 1.5 years through blogging.  I am so blessed, really I am.  These women and men have become great friends and I hope one day we will all meet "in the flesh".  Until then I will cherish and nurture our friendships over the computer!!   I started watching Heather's YouTube channel a long time ago, I had left her a few comments here and there and when I found out she had a Facebook page, I was thrilled.  Heather is my kinda lady, just an everyday mom, and wife, who loves her family, lives her life as best she can, and has a heart of gold.  We became fast friends and I couldn't be happier!! 

I have been scopin' out her goods, rather, and came across these Peanut Butter Blondies.  Now blondies are my husbands favorite!!  So, I gathered my ingredients, I baked these beauties, and guess what.  The dog ate them.  I swear, with God as my witness, I almost DIED!!  So, then I learned I was going to be receiving the Pampered Chef Brownie Pan.  WELL, I HAD to wait to get that to remake them!  I got it, I got it, I GOT IT!  I LOVE this thing unlike I have ever loved any other inanimate object!  I followed the recipe exact last time, but this time I chose to omit ONE item.  I will tell you when we get there. 

So if you would like to watch Heather and (infamous) Toby, her hubby who is her camera man and taste tester extraordinaire, you can find her videos here at Heatherzblueyez1974.  You can find her at her blog MishMawsh And Other Things.  You can LIKE her on Facebook Heatherrzblueyez1975 OR Twitter at HeatherzKitchen.  You will find her easy to relate to and easy to hang out with.  Her recipes are delicious, great everyday food, for families, things kids will eat and adults too!! 

Here is what you will need for her recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies!
6 tbsps melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup caramel chips
1 cup chocolate chips (I omitted these because I wanted to taste the blondie without overpowering it with chocolate but add if you like, as I said the original recipe calls for them)

DO NOT skip adding the caramel chips.  They add the most incredible chewy texture and flavor.  LAWDY I love these!

OK, anyway, preheat your oven to 350.   Now, I used my PC Brownie Pan but you can also use an 8x8 or 9x9 pan.  Get them sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Cream, butter, sugar and peanut butter together.  Add in your egg, vanilla, baking soda, and baking powder.  Mix in your flour and then fold in your chips.  This will make 12 brownies in the brownie pan or a regular square pan of brownies as mentioned above. 

Bake for 20-30 minutes if baking a regular pan.  Bake 22-25 minutes if making them in the brownie pan.  A toothpick inserted might come out a little moist but no batter, they are DONE at at that point.  As they cool and carry over cook, they become chewy perfection!

Did I mention NOT skipping the caramel chips?!  OK, good. Let cool COMPLETELY before cutting and serving!

I mixed mine a bit different because I am an impatient woman who wants to throw everything in a bowl at once and have it turn out perfectly! Here is a link to the original post... Peanut Butter Blondies.

Enjoy these babies, we sure did!! 
Your  "yes that missing bite in the photo was ME, OK?" Chefwannabe

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chicken and 3 Cheese Manicotti

I think SPRING is finally here!  I mean as it stands the snow is nearly ALL gone, and our pattern here in Nebraska, is when it is gone, it is time for more.  Please, mother nature I beg you, NO MORE SNOW!  Hoping you had a wonderful Easter and the Easter Bunny was good to you! 

I am on a use up streak.  How do all these things get pushed to the back, the corners, the bottom of the fridge, cupboards and pantry, freezer??  I keep thinking how spoiled and blessed we are to be able to buy food, we forget we bought.  So this recipe was born out of using up what I have on hand, and it sure stretches a buck, using 1 lb of ground chicken to feed 4-5 people.  Before you ask....Yes, you can use ground pork or ground beef.  I prefer chicken, and always try to use ground chicken breast when I can.  I only buy it when it is on sale or in the "used meat" section.  HA.  That is what my dad always called marked down meat when we were kids.  It stuck I guess. I figure if I am going to go home and use it the same day or the next day or pop it in the freezer, it is fine, and I am taking advantage of the mark downs.  I urge you to do the same.   I also find ground chicken breast a healthier option although with all this cheese, I am not sure it matters!!  Yes it does, it is real food, made at home, and that alone makes it 10 steps ahead of anything store bought!

On the cheese, use what you like.  I did use whole ricotta but change it to skim if you like.  I had bought ricotta for something else that didn't pan out, so to speak.  The grated cheeses, the same, if you want to change it up or you only have Colby or muenster or parm, use it!  This as always is my recipe, my method, when you choose to make it, it is your recipe, just use my method, because you know it is the best. (ok stop laughing), anything is possible once it gets into your hands, so be creative or make it word for word, either way you won't be disappointed!

Chicken and 3 Cheese Manicotti
1lb ground chicken
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
2-3 cups crushed tomatoes or your favorite marinara
1 box Manicotti Shells (14 shells)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a skillet, place ground chicken, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Brown until chicken is completely cooked through.  Set it aside and let it cool. 

While that is happening, bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil, add in plenty of salt to the water and a drizzle of oil.  Place shells in and cook according to package directions.  When they are done, slowly pour out the hot water while running cold water into the pot.  When they are cool enough to handle, completely drain, set aside.

In a large bowl mix chicken, all cheeses (1 cup of mozzarella here) and egg together.  Mix until completely combined. 

Using a small spoon or piping bag with no rip, fill the shells.  There should be exactly enough filling and you can be generous with it in each shell!  Fill and place into a pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Line them up however you need to, in order to get them to fit.  I actually used a small pan and a large pan as I was making it for 2 separate meals. 

When you have them all lined up, pour over half of your crushed tomatoes or marinara.  I like to pour it down the center, and spread it a bit, leaving the ends uncovered because it looks prettier!  (you will notice I went further than just the center this time!) Do it however you want.  Now sprinkle your remaining mozzarella cheese over the top, then add the rest of your tomato product on top. 

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and hot all the way through!

Make sure to serve this with a good hunk a' crusty bread!!

Your "maniGOT = manicotti" Chefwannabe